Every family has that son or daughter who is seen as the future of the family, the hope for everyone else. In the shadows, there is always someone who does not like that assertion by the family and sees the “family favourite” as a living threat to his or her own ambitions. Besides, in every family draped by class and communal respect lie skeletons that even the most despised in the society would hesitate before being involved in.

On his 82nd birthday, Henrik Vanger received the 44th birthday flower from a person whose name he did not know and whose address he could not master. Mikael Bromkvist was convicted days before for defaming a famous businessman and given a prison sentence for Libel. Through his lawyer, Frode, Vanger hires an intelligence company to dig up what they could about Bromkvist. Lisbeth Salander, a thin girl with no much of femininity on her does the digging and her last suspicion is the catalyst for what would be a long search into a dark past that almost no one wanted to explore. He was clean, good at his job, critical, and a good investigator. Lisbeth notes that Bromkvist, the editor-in-chief of Millenium, might have been framed in the case that landed him a prison sentence. She is too shaggy, casual, and anti-social to believe. The only fascinating things about her are her intelligence and suspicious tattoos on her body. The 82 year-old birthday boy invites him to his home in the backyard of “beyond-nowhere” and hires him. His task?

Vanger: I was childless. My brother Gottfried and his wife Isabella moved here and they had two children, Martin and Harriet Vanger. Gottfried drowned in the lake while drunk and Isabella has never been much of a parent. Martin took over from me as CEO of the Vanger Corporation. Brilliant kid and a great negotiator.

Bromkvist: And Harriet?

Vanger: She was the apple of my eye. I thought she had the grit and intelligence to succeed me as CEO and I made no secret of it. I was protective of her, a lot.

Bromkvist: What are you driving at?

Vanger: She is the reason I want to hire you. I want you to find out who in the Vanger family killed Harriet, hid her body and has been driving me crazy for forty-four years. We never found her body even though I had all the money in the world to commission the greatest searching the history of Sweden. She was sixteen when she went missing.

The assignment is the start of a role Bromkvist never envisioned. He goes digging into the Vanger clan, treating everyone as a criminal. He uses notes from Henrik, police reports, photographs from the day she disappeared and her personal journal, which was left in her room. Bromkvist was out in the woods in a quiet small town of Hedeby trying to solve a mystery that had defied the professionalism of the entire Swedish police for 40 years.


As he searches, Bromkvist runs into suspicious writings in the journal that Harriet kept. He later stumbles on a theory that they are quotes from the Bible, talking about punishment by fire, stoning, sexual assault and the likes for women who committed various sexual sins. Besides each of the verse numbers was a name of a person. With the police reports, Bromkvist discovers one of the names belonged to a woman who had been sexually assaulted and her house set on fire although the fire was contained. The Bible verse next to her name was Leviticus 21: 9-‘If a priest’s daughter defiles herself by becoming a prostitute, she disgraces her father; she must be burned in the fire.’ This takes Bromkvist’s work in a new direction. He enlists the help of Lisbeth, a woman with a big dragon tattoo on her collar bone and who dug up his whole life and presented it to Frode. Together, they pin all the names in Harriet’s journal and a few others from police reports, from different parts of the country, all sexually assaulted and murdered. But why did Harriet have their names and how did she know them? They are on the hunt for a serial killer who probably killed Harriet and made her body disappear in thin air.

“We are onto something and whoever it is has panicked and is even trying to kill you. We have to tighten up and move fast. We are running out of time,” said Froken Salander the evening someone tried to shoot Bromkvist while he was on his evening run.

When Bromkvist goes through the archives again, he finds something suspicious. Something that even he could not stomach and had to confront the suspect and question him. Martin Vanger, Harriet’s brother, had something to do with his sister’s death. When he goes to Martin’s house, Martin holds him at gunpoint and leads him to a soundproof torture chamber in his basement. Photographs of women, video recordings, and torture weapons are all over the room. He wants to kill Bromkvist for coming after him. He almost succeeds but Salander saves Bromkvist, hitting Martin hard with a baseball bat. Martin, the CEO of Vanger Corporation, was sexually assaulting then killing women for over 40 years and unlike his father, Martin does not leave the bodies. He makes them disappear, forever. But there was one thing he did not do and did not know about. He did not kill Harriet and did not know what happened to her. So, who did? And who was sending the birthday flowers to Henrik Vanger? You will have to find out from the book.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo takes you through a wave of crime, sexual assault, journalism, love, family, business, and unpleasant realities in life. It is no surprise that years later, Stieg Larsson’s works are still regarded among the best crime novels ever written.

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