Which is honestly why I read it. Because everyone else was. I had no idea what the books were about. Reading reviews, I got the vague idea that they took place in Sweden and were supposed to be about corporate crimes and such. These are usually not the type of books that I read. But like I said, they were everywhere. So I read them.
I wish that I had written my thoughts about the books right after I actually read them. It's been several months and the details about the plot are getting a little fuzzy and the books have all run together. I'm not completely sure if I could differentiate things that happened in the first book from things that happened in the second book.
A basic overview from what I remember: In The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist has fallen in the public eye. Accused of libel and sentenced to serve time in jail, he is given the chance to clear his name by an elderly business man. The condition is that he needs to solve the disappearance of the elderly man's niece, who has been missing for nearly 40 years.
In The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Mikael Blomkvist is reinstated at his magazine and delves into exposing Sweden's sex trafficking business. However, the research runs deeper and involves more people than could be imagined. After the murder of the primary investigation, the story turns from interesting to personal.
And where is the girl in all this? Lisbeth Salander: tatooed, skinny, computer hacking, socially awkward misfit. Through bizarre circumstances, she ends up assisting Mikael Blomkvist with his research. Initially, her story feels separate from everything else. Her fight with social services, her difficulty with self identity and relationships, and ultimately her abuse, both by individual people and by the system. However, as the story progresses through the three novels, I found myself realizing that her experiences had everything to do with the story. The circumstances that lead to the disappearance of niece in the first novel, the culture around sex trafficking: it all pointed to how such terrible things could happen to Lisbeth Salander.
I'm not sure I could actually recommend these books. They are graphic and disturbing. Actually my biggest complaint with the books is much more trivial. I kept feeling that the novels were in desperate need of a good editing. There were so many details that felt completely trivial: e-mail addresses, descriptions of computers, explanations of RAM and bytes. There was also a abundance of Swedish locations, that may make the book more familiar to, well, Swedes, was just nearly oppressive for non-Swedes. The books were published after the author, Stiegg Larsson, passed away. With a post-humous publication, it doesn't feel appropriate to make alterations to the author's work. But it doesn't change my mind that it's what the books need.
These books were completely out of my comfort level. They were disturbing. They were occasionally too much to actually enjoy. But in the end, it was hard to put the books down and impossible to not cheer for the heroine.