According to Greek Mythology, Aphrodite had a wayward eye and a loyal son. When Eros gave Harpocrates a rose to keep quiet about his mother’s little indiscretions, the rose became a symbol for secrecy. This is a story Jay Ryan has never heard — until his hand is nailed to a table and a red rose tattooed onto his wrist.
If you're reading THE INTERROGATOR and you happen to have noticed that the author, JJ Cooper, has a bio that mentions he spent 17 years in the Australian Army, specialising in Human Intelligence including interrogation (as a practitioner and an instructor), you really cannot help but consider the possibilities of truth in fiction. Clinging to the belief that the truth was used when describing the techniques and technicalities, and it didn't quite leak into the actual activities described in the book, kept me sleeping at night.
THE INTERROGATOR builds a frightening reality - one which frequently seems all too plausible, at other times displaying all the elements of the classic military thriller - a lot of blood, gore, mysterious and nefarious goings on, action aplenty, a bit of romance and intrigue, some family background and ultimately - a battle royal between the good guys and the bad.
Jay is an interesting sort of a central character for a thriller. He has a high reputation in his field, he's taught a lot of other people about the techniques and tricks used in interrogation, and whilst he's fully aware of what his tormentors are doing to him when he's placed in the position of victim, he can control some of the outcomes but not all of them. A threat to his own father is nearly enough to make him give up the fight, but then his father's no slouch in the intelligence and covert game and between them, they make a formidable team.
THE INTERROGATOR is a thriller - there are elements in this book that just go with that territory. The ability of the central character to absorb limitless physical pummelling and just get up and get on with it is a given. A big conspiracy - a huge conspiracy is required to make the stakes high - proving that the biggest enemy is often a lot closer than you realise. A touch of romantic and sexual tension. The one man against the entire conspiracy concept gives you your lone wolf, the one man to save the world scenario that you need to keep the action moving and the tension ramped up nice and high. Nothing at all wrong with all of those elements, provided they are executed with some aplomb, which is achieved in THE INTERROGATOR. This book does twist the circumstances a lot more though, and perhaps that's the only minor quibble - there's a lot of twists and turns and the reader will have to be on their game to keep up with what's going on.
I do like a good military thriller. I like a big conspiracy and the one man (or woman) who will save us all from a fate worse than death. I like a bit of super-human action and I like a bit of derring doing and impossible feating. I can even like the touches of sentimentality that arise as the action calms and everyone involved dusts themselves off and gets ready for the next encounter! I sometimes just like a good old fashioned entertaining rush around in an over the top, world's in peril scenario. THE INTERROGATOR filled these elements for me nicely, it kept me wondering until the end, it certainly made me want to cling to my theory of fictional activities way after I'd finished reading the book.
THE PARIS ENIGMA - Pablo De Santis
A legendary group of sleuths, the Twelve Detectives, come together for the first time at the 1889 World Fair in Paris. But the occasion provokes their greatest challenge when one of them, Louis Dabon, is found murdered at the base of the Fair's second most famous exhibit, the newly built 'Eiffel Tower'.
The Twelve Detectives are a famous group of crime solving individuals - spread throughout the world. In the 1880's their exploits are well known - the magazine The Key to Crime regularly publishes the story of their investigations. Sigmundo Salvatrio works in his father's shoe repair shop, but he doesn't dream of being a cobbler - his dream is to join the ranks of the acolytes of the world famous investigators. It seems a pipe dream as Renato Craig, the only one of the detectives who lives in Buenos Aires has always opposed recruitment of his own acolyte. Sigmundo is therefore astounded when Craig advertises for a group of young people to become his students - to learn all he knows about investigation techniques. He promptly applies and becomes one of Craig's enthusiastic students.
Eventually Sigmundo finds himself at the 1889 Paris World Fair a year later, as Craig's representative. Events since the formation of the school have meant that Craig is unable to attend one of the few gatherings of the entire group of Twelve Detectives. But the pleasure (and trepidation) that Sigmundo feels at having this honour bestowed on him is soon lessened when another of the great Detectives - Louis Dabon - is found at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Craig pairs up with the other Paris based member of the Twelve, the Polish Viktor Arzaky, to search for the truth.
THE PARIS ENIGMA is translated from its original Spanish, set in the late 1880's. This combination could provide some explanation for the stylings used, as well as the general pace of the entire story, but it doesn't quite cover why the book seems to wander around a lot. The blurb does seem to indicate that this should be a story about the group The Twelve Detectives, but it is told totally from Sigmundo's point of view, and thus is mostly him, his reactions to the events surrounding him, and his understanding of the investigation into Dabon's death. Whilst he does collaborate to a certain extent with Arzaky - really all the other members of the Detectives - and their acolytes - are bit players at most.
The book also seems to lack a feeling of place - the setting in 1889 World Fair Paris seems to be glossed over - there is some discussion of the Eiffel Tower, in terms of its location for the murder of Dabon, and there are passing references to hotels and furnishings, but really the book could have taken place in any location. The timeframe is interesting because it does provide an opportunity for the investigation elements to be stripped down to the bare essentials - this is obviously a tale that hails from before modern investigative techniques, communications options and procedures. It is probably that sense of time that is best served by the style of story-telling and language that is used.
THE PARIS ENIGMA is not an unpleasant or difficult book to read - it is quite entertaining in some places. The Twelve Detectives hold the cerebral nature of their technique in high regard. They are fond of story-telling, and throughout the book there are sprinklings of tales of many of their famous cases. There are sprinklings of extraneous little puzzles, there's a bit of romance and intrigue, and then there is the reason for their presence at the World Fair - their own exhibition. But most of this is skimmed over, or seems somewhat "stuck" into the middle of the narrative frequently, it seemed, because of the attractiveness of the small vignette. At one point I felt compelled to do a little online research to try to work out if the book had originally been a series of short stories that had been interconnected with a narrative.
Amusing, but definitely not deep, THE PARIS ENIGMA is probably not the book for people who like a beginning, a middle, an end and a firm sense of purpose. If you're looking for a wander around in an 1880's style labyrinth with very little reason for being, it could very well appeal.
BAIT - Nick Brownlee
As a boy, George Malewe had gutted thousands of fish for the white men who came to catch game off the coast of Mombasa.
But as he plunged the blade of his favourite teak-handled filleting knife into the soft underbelly and eased it upwards through the stomach wall with a smooth, practised sawing movement, it struck him that he had never before gutted a white man.
The latest "it" in crime fiction can be pretty common. Sometimes it's a plot elements, sometimes it's locations for books, sometimes it's the home location of the author themselves. The "it" thing I'm coming across a lot at the moment is books set in Africa. Not that you could possibly complain if the books are the standard of BAIT.
BAIT is set in Kenya, and whilst the setting is used to good effect - the scenery, the animals, the weather, what is really used well is the society (emerging / building / dealing with the after-affects of civil unrest) and the people themselves. There is also an almost matter-of-fact approach to violence. It's actually quite interesting the way that the story will suddenly burst into extreme violence - with an almost dismissive regard for human life and quickly step away. The reader may quickly find themselves in a bar, on a boat or deep in the musings of a good and decent policeman's mind. It is this contrast that is one of the things that I really enjoyed about BAIT. It enhanced the feeling of a society very much on the edge - where the rules are slightly different than they are in more settled or peaceful locations.
BAIT is set around two main characters - Jouma the Kenyan policeman, a man with very firm personal boundaries, somewhat buttoned up and stiff on occasions, a good man in a world where it is very easy not to be. Jake is an Englishman - an ex-London copper, he's your classic fringe dweller. He came to Kenya to move away from his past - but he's not a stereotypical tortured soul, he's aware of his past but he's not "running" - he's gone somewhere where he feels comfortable to start again and in the process he's found himself on the fringe of English expectations and well within the norm in a wilder world.
The investigation at the centre of this book starts off as a series of small events - the explosion of a charter fishing boat and the death of its skipper, the discovery of the remains of a young black man, the arrival of the dead skipper's daughter. As a number of smaller investigations start to converge Jouma is trying to work out the significance of the young man's death and Jake is trying to work out who wants to kill him. They team up more by accident of circumstance than any particular plan to get to the bottom of a very messy story of human greed and violence.
The book is in someways a police procedural, although the nature of those "procedures" are controlled very much by the levels of corruption in the official classes, combined with a general feeling of a chaotic society. What we might class as lax procedures, seems highly evolved and very sophisticated in light of what's going on around the police. There is also the unofficial sidekick element - Jake isn't operating as a policeman and he's definitely not using any form of procedures when he gets involved in the action. It's also very dark in places - but not consistently throughout the book. There are moments of extreme violence, there are moments of funny. There's even some romancing going on (only a little for those who hate that sort of thing in their crime fiction). There's a lot of pace, and there's a quite a bit of tension and there are just a few plot elements that you won't see coming, alongside a few that you will. It's also a debut book, which shows real potential - Jake and Jouma are just made for a series and Kenya is a perfect setting for them both.
MOVE TO STRIKE - Sydney Bauer
Doctor Jeffrey Logan, daytime TV's most loved psychologist, has a top-rating talk show seen around the world - his picture perfect life completed by his talented lawyer wife, Stephanie Tyler, their 16-year-old daughter, Chelsea, and 13-year-old son, J.T.
But this image of domestic bliss is shattered when Stephanie is killed instantly by a bullet from a big game rifle in the family's pristine Beacon Hill kitchen. The consequences of her death are catastrophic as Doctor Jeff confesses, despite all the evidence pointing directly towards his blood spattered son.
It is probably no coincidence that this book is likely to appeal to fans of TV shows like CSI and Law and Order as the author says she is very fond of those shows and the book has a structure, subject matter and delivery which seems somewhat reminiscent of that style of show (or at least what I glean from others about them) - I don't watch them, probably for the same reasons that MOVE TO STRIKE isn't really my sort of book.
Perfect Home. Perfect Family. Perfect Murder. That's what is printed at the top of the cover of the book and there is a lot of the "perfect" about the setting. A perfect family picture to the outside world, an idyllic lifestyle that is (unsurprisingly) covering up something more sinister. Perfect Murder is an interesting choice however and it was that line that intrigued this reader the most.
Cavanaugh is invited to an horrific crime scene - where an old friend has been the victim of a shooting. Her husband, a daytime TV psychologist, is the person who has confessed, but his story is inconsistent with the evidence and it's too fantastic to possibly be true. Besides that, it doesn't explain why so much evidence points at his own son. Cavanaugh knew the victim a long time before she married her husband and he had seen a marked change in her personality. But whilst her husband tries hard to project her as the problem in the marriage, it doesn't take too long for the truth to be revealed.
There is undoubtedly a skill in the prose and the story-telling in MOVE TO STRIKE. The action moves apace with only the very occasional bogging down in way too detailed descriptions of characters clothes and other irrelevancies. There are some dramatic plot twists and a number of viewpoints are covered within the investigation.
Undoubtedly a book for fans of the author's earlier books, or for readers who like those sort of big blockbuster legal / forensic stylings of books, MOVE TO STRIKE didn't appeal to me at all. Perhaps it was that feeling of one step from a TV script, perhaps it was that blockbuster feel, maybe it was the incidentals of Cavanaugh's life which, as I've never read any of the earlier books, passed me by or were neither interesting or particularly engaging. In fact, the whole story was surprisingly uninteresting. Partially it was because I struggled to engage with any of the characters and I found the twists and turns too "convenient" to hold my attention. Partially it's because I'm still not sure what "Perfect Home / Perfect Family / Perfect Murder" is supposed to mean.
PUNTER'S TURF - Peter Klein
John Punter, professional gambler and amateur private investigator, has seen his fair share of crime and shady dealings, both on the horse track and off it. So when the daughter of a bookmaker friend is abducted, following hot on the heels of a gruesome murder after an abduction-gone-wrong, Punter's offer of help is gladly accepted.
Peter Klein has spent a lifetime in the horse racing industry, working for some of Australia's top trainers such as TJ Smith and Bart Cummings. He was once a strapper of champion galloper Kingston Town. It's therefore not all that surprising that he has set PUNTER'S TURF firmly in the horse racing world, with a good balance between the horse racing and mystery elements. There is enough atmosphere to give the events a real sense of place, there's enough sprinkling of horse racing terminology to provide a sense of reality, but it's not overplayed or impossible for the average reader to follow. A reader with absolutely no interest in betting and horse racing in general isn't going to be bored witless by the details.
John Punter comes from a horse racing dynasty in his own right, but he has left his father's stables and set up as a professional punter - somebody who makes their living betting on horse races. So he knows a lot about the people and the workings of the industry - he spends most of his days studying horse form - and therefore the stables, the trainers and the people who work in the industry. He knows a lot of the personalities around the tracks - the bookies, track detectives, petty criminals, other punters, the Salvos. It's a perfect cover for somebody who needs to poke around in an industry that is the connection for the kidnappings and the murders.
It is a kidnapping that first gets Punter involved in this case. Luckily the second victim is returned to her family alive, but the case seems to just keep getting more and more complicated as a trainer starts to have an inexplicable run of bad luck and a young jockey is killed by a horse.
Quintessentially Australian, John Punter lives in a world that revolves around horse racing, whilst also delving into some of the finer points of Melbourne life - the food and the social life. He's a nicely balanced character - somewhat rumpled, unlucky in love but still in there batting below average, he's pretty content with his lot. He's surrounded by some larger than life characters including bookmakers, trainers and jockeys who are exactly what you'd hope to find at a racecourse. Obligatory warning - there is animal cruelty which in one case provides an impetus for Punter to continue his involvement at one point, in another is part of the nature of the people that he's dealing with. Neither instance is particularly pleasant - but then neither are the people that Punter's searching for. Both instances however are not going to be pleasant for readers who really object to the use of that in their crime fiction, even though there does appear to be a reason (and consequences) for it. There are also some convenient happenings designed to keep the hero in the game (so to speak). These could have been slightly annoying events, but Punter's the sort of bloke that seems perfectly capable of the occasional brain freeze that can lead to some very messy consequences.
PUNTER'S TURF really is a very enjoyable read overall. It's part thriller and part amateur investigation, set in a world that's vaguely familiar, whilst sufficiently different from the normal humdrum to generate interest in its own right. John Punter's a good character - not foolhardy, but not timid, he seems like your normal average sort of a bloke. He will help a mate if called upon, he'll even risk life and limb, he'll have a go at doing the right thing and thinking through the consequences but when push comes to shove - he's not above the occasional daft moment.
DEADLY INTENT, Lynda La Plante
Alexander Fitzpatrick is one of the most wanted men in the Western world. Wealthy, handsome, charismatic and supremely dangerous, with numerous aliases, Fitzpatrick is a drug-trafficker who has eluded arrest for more than thirty years. For the past decade there has been no sightings of him.
DEADLY INTENT is the fourth book in the Anna Travis series, made up of ABOVE SUSPICION, THE RED DAHLIA and CLEAN CUT. It's been a series which I've really enjoyed... up until this book, which I have to say disappointed.
Anna is a dogged sort of a detective character, who has had a complicated personal life - having had a short-lived but dramatic affair with her previous boss - James Langton. She is still feeling the loss of that relationship and finding dealing with Langton on a daily basis very difficult. When he steps into overall control of the investigation of the death of Brandon, she's dealing firstly with a very complicated case with no apparent leads, and secondly with her fragile personal feelings. Langton is more shadowy than ever in DEADLY INTENT as well, which is going to make it difficult for any reader new to the series to understand, for a start, what Anna could possibly have seen in him, or in his defence, why he is like he is. There are hints throughout but they just didn't seem to help that much. For such a big, hefty book there are a number of underdone major characters throughout which is disappointing. DCI Cunningham has a touch of the wonderfully acerbic, grumpy female seniors about her, but she bounces in and out of the narrative so much it's hard to get a good look at her.
The case is quite clever - the connections that slowly have to be built up to explain why Brandon was in the drug squat, what would lead to his presence being so threatening that somebody would blindly shoot him through a closed door, how the other bodies turning up are connected and onwards is actually nicely baffling and quite interesting. But it drags on for too long. There are too many connections and "coincidences" which aren't - and they obviously aren't, and it all grinds to a halt in the personal lives of all and sundry too frequently.
Another major distraction is that whilst in the earlier books there is a lot of concentration on the relationship between Travis and Langton, it's rise and ultimate fall fitted into the storylines well, not distracting from the main aim of the books which was always to solve a baffling crime. Unfortunately in this book - with the definite end of the relationship the constant soul-searching of Travis just gets in the way - there were way too many times when the reader was told all about how conflicted she is having to work with Langton, how she still loves Langton, how a new relationship will be complicated by the pain she felt when Langton left her. And she does form a new relationship in this book - and it is a bit of a highlight in the storyline for a short while.
Ultimately the biggest problem with DEADLY INTENT is that there is a a good crime and investigation buried in the middle of 641 pages - but there's not 641 pages of it. The book meanders, there's too much fill-in, too many unbelievable red herrings, and, despite being a fan of unresolved loose ends, there are too many threads in this book which are left frustratingly, unjustifiably and inexplicably dangling. It all smacked just a tiny bit of... In The Next Episode.
If you've not tried the Anna Travis series, then don't let my thoughts on DEADLY INTENT put you off the first three books - they were terrific. Perhaps don't start with this one though as there's a lot of the personal things that may not make sense, and the book could give you a slightly skewed view of Anna, who is really a very good central character.
A DARKER DOMAIN - Val McDermid
It seemed like an unsolvable mystery at the time: a wealthy heiress and son kidnapped in Fife, then a botched payoff, leaving her dead with no trace of the child.
So when, over twenty-five years later, a possible clue is discovered by a journalist in Tuscany, cold-case expert DI Karen Pirie doesn't hold much hope of unraveling the infamous enigma.
Val McDermid has tackled some social history that is obviously very dear to her own heart in A DARKER DOMAIN, and it has to be said, she's done it with considerable style. Not only does this book give you a fascinating glimpse into the social chaos and personal pain caused by the Miner's Strikes in early 1980's Britain, it carries the story of three unfathomable disappearances.
Cold Case squad detectives DI Karen Pirie and DS Phil Parhatka are initially looking into the disappearance of Mick Prentice - reported missing 22 years after he supposedly broke ranks and joined the scabs in the devastating miners' strike of 1984. There's also the baffling disappearance of Mick's mate Andy about the same time. Unfortunately Karen's boss thinks that new evidence in the case of the dead heiress and missing son (and grandson) of a wealthy and powerful man is more important. Karen isn't all that fazed by pressure from on high though, and she's able to dance a fine line between both investigations.
The action in this book does take a couple of overseas trips to Tuscany, but mostly it stays within the small mining community of East Wemyss (a place that Val spent time with her grandparents as a child), and the way that the setting is portrayed in this book is wonderful. Not just the look and layout of the place, but the psyche of the place. The damage that the miners' strike caused, within families, throughout the community, the fractured lives demonstrated was really moving in some places, but at no stage did it become sentimental or overblown. There's also romantic element to this book which is also well done and quite funny. In fact that is something about this book which you wouldn't expect - there is a sense of humour amidst the sadness that lifts the story beautifully.
DI Karen Pirie is a tremendous character, with (hopefully), real possibilities for an ongoing series. An archetypal maverick police officer maybe - she's just not afraid to manipulate, defy and flat out be as devious as she needs, to do what she thinks is the right thing. Phil as her offsider is perfect, less emotional, equally as determined, they are a really good team.
An extremely solid and nicely twisting plot; a couple of very engaging central characters; an interfering and weak boss; a powerful man who wants to know where his grandson is; a daughter who needs to find her father; a wife who cannot forgive; and a sister who is grief stricken 22 years after the unexplained; there's an enormous amount in A DARKER DOMAIN. But at the base of it is a community that was destroyed - to the point where the abnormal was accepted as the normal, and there's no sign of recovery. Beautifully done, A DARKER DOMAIN is simply and utterly a wow of a book.
ENGLISH TOSS ON PLANET ANDONG - Dave Franklin
'Don't you realise you can get by without other people? They're the ones who make you sad. They're the ones who let you down, who disappoint you. And a troubled heart's such a chore.'
Every year, thousands of people travel to faraway lands to teach English as a foreign language. The fools. One such expat is Paul Taylor, a heartbroken Aussie looking for a fresh start in a South Korean classroom.
I really hope Dave feels better after writing this book. I'm guessing that there's a somewhat autobiographical element to the events that happen in this book - it's too starkly drawn surely for just imagination (mind you, if I'm wrong, well it's some imagination this man has!)
Paul Taylor has taken a job - along with a lot of other people trying to escape from something - in Andong, South Korea. Teaching English to young Korean children. The fascinating thing is that horrible kids are basically horrible kids - no matter what country they come from, and teaching English to kids who could care less is obviously a very soul destroying occupation. Why you'd put yourself through the social isolation, the social deprivation and the dislocation from all you know - just because of a broken heart, well I'm not too sure that you'll know why at the end of this book.
But you'll surely know what to look out for if you're thinking of taking one of these jobs. And it absolutely has to either put you off, or if you're more masochistic than others, than maybe you'll be chaffing at the bit to get out there and make it work.
But what I do know is that Paul has a certain way of dealing with all of this and that is to partially disconnect, partially whinge (a lot), partially fight back in weird, devious and frequently petty ways - all of which combine to keep him as close to sane as this bloke's ever going to be.
Now ENGLISH TOSS ON PLANET ANDONG is not strictly crime fiction (although sharing a flat with some of those people could be called a crime), but how to define it is quite a question. It's a journey novel, it might even be looked upon as a cathartic novel for the writer - it could be called a rant novel, but it is very funny in places, and at other times it's gross and offputting, but it's also touching and revealing in others.
I bet it's not the sort of book that readers of this blog will pick up on a regular basis, but if you're looking for something that is startlingly different (or if you're contemplating a stint as an overseas teacher of English) - ENGLISH TOSS ON PLANET ANDONG is just the ticket.
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE - Stieg Larsson
Famous journalist sentenced to prison. Mikael Blomkvist, editor of Millennium magazine, is found guilty of slandering billionaire financier Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Henrik Vanger, C.E.O. of the powerful Vanger Corporation, revives hunt for solution to niece's disappearance Harriet Vanger vanished 40 years ago from secluded Hedeby Island. Lisbeth Salander declared legally incompetent Computer hacker Lisbeth (code-named "wasp") loses control of her own affairs.
Crime fiction fans are frequently a talkative lot, and news of a phenomenally good book spreads very very quickly. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO has been "the" book on quite a lot of people's lips for what is actually a startlingly short time since it was released - particularly released in English. Needless to say, the publicity has been pretty well universally positive. So reading the much vaunted book was an interesting experience. Often when a book is talked about so much, you can subconsciously approach it with just a little reservation - could it possibly live up to the hype?
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO undoubtedly lived up to the hype. But why? On the face of it, it's an interesting idea for a mystery. A 16 year old girl disappears - completely - from a "locked island". No trace of her is ever found - no body / no sign. Her uncle, Henrik Vanger, 40 years later, is haunted by her disappearance. He believes she was murdered but how, by who, and where she ended up - he can't explain.
Mikael Blomkvist is an unlikely murder investigator. A financial journalist, he has his own problems with a massive fine and a jail sentence for the libel of Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. It's a guilty verdict that he believes is wrong, but he can't prove his side of the case. It doesn't hurt that Vanger is a life-long enemy of Wennerstrom and he may hold a key to proving Wennerstrom is corrupt. But before he will hand over that key, Blomkvist is contracted to seemingly write the story of the Vanger family. He moves to the same closed little island that is the family's base and whilst investigating the family story, he is really trying to work out what happened to Harriet.
Add to that the enigmatic and, well, flat out a bit weird character of Lisbeth Salander, computer hacker, declared mental incompetent, genius investigator, who is originally contracted to investigate Blomkvist's background for Vanger, she has issues of her own that she has to deal with. Her guardianship situation is complicated when her mentor falls ill, her physical and mental wellbeing is abused and threatened by the new guardian. But anybody who thinks that Salander really is mentally incompetent hasn't bothered to look long and hard at her. When Blomkvist and Salander team up, the truth, hidden by a few for a long number of years, is finally revealed.
On the face of it, the plot alone is enough to make THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO interesting, but there's a lot more to the book than just a well executed and nicely complicated plot (as well as some seriously clever ways of getting to the bottom of the story). The book also builds a set of characters - both the main characters and the bit-part players - and the details about their lives that encourages the reader to be involved with them. You care about them. You have a glimpse into their lives that engages you totally. Interestingly enough, they are all well-drawn. Even bit players aren't easily forgotten, even in the complication of the plot - they stand out. There are some elements to those lives that seem quintessentially "Scandinavian" - a rather laid back approach to sex and marriage being the most obvious of those, but there is also a vulnerability to those characters that really makes you care about them. And all the way through the book, you worry, just ever so slightly - or at least this reader did - worried almost constantly about Salander. Would you / could she survive and thrive? As the end of the book draws closer and all of the threads conclude, there is frequently a feeling that somebody - one of them - a character that you've grown to like - may not make it. And at the very end of the book, when you know everything, you're left waiting impatiently for the next book in the series (due in 2009) because you still just have this sneaking feeling.....
It's undoubtedly an amazing book. How lucky we are that there are 3 of these books. How sad that there will be no more than 3.
Stieg Larsson died suddenly after delivering them to his publisher - he did not know about the phenomena he created.