I’m having a bit of a reading crisis this year. I’ve been trying to go back and read all these classic children’s novels that I never read as a kid. But I’m remembering that there’s a reason I never read them: I find a lot of them painfully boring, and I did as a kid, too. So many of them were just not my thing growing up, so now when someone makes a reference to a Little House book or a sweeping story of historic significance I just blink and nod. My general rule of thumb as a kid was if a character wore a bonnet or lived on the plains/in the country, I was probably not going to love it. I’m finding more and more that this still holds true for children’s books (but oddly, I do love the classics of adult lit).

Anyway, this has nothing to do with Stieg Larsson’s thriller about corrupt financiers, investigative reporters, captains of Swedish industry, and a decades-old murder. But I love coming up for air from all the kids books I read to a slick, urban, international novel like this one. I love it for the same reasons I loved Olen Steinhauer’s The Tourist: global intrigue. I love the puzzle, I love the dazzling locations, the danger, the exposure to a completely different world than the one I occupy. There aren’t many locations in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but the descriptions of Swedish city/country life are so lush and elegant that I was transported right away. I live for that, more than I live for the plot. And this book happily has both, great atmosphere and a superbly written plot.

This is the story of Mikael Blomkvist, a recently disgraced financial reporter who accepts a job working for the retired head of one of Sweden’s biggest corporations. He is hired on the face of it to write the chronicle of the family behind this company, but the real reason he’s poking around this family’s history is to solve the mystery of Harriet Vanger’s disappearance. She was 16 in 1966, the last time she was seen alive, and no one knows what happened to her. He enlists the help of researcher Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. She’s a social misfit and a surprise to everyone who meets her.

I thought the story was fabulous. The first 2/3 of the book unfold with questions upon questions, and what happened to Harriet Vanger leads to revelations so bizarre, so gristly, so horrific that the end of the book almost plays out like a horror movie. But I never saw any of it coming, and I was engrossed in the progress of Mikael and Lisbeth’s investigation. It’s not a book for the faint-hearted, but I thought it was wonderful. I’ll be reading the whole trilogy.