A disgraced journalist gets talked into taking something of a sabbatical in order to investigate an old missing person case by General Sternwood, er, the head of the Vanger company and patriarch of the Vanger clan, which is chockful of ancient Nazi sympathizers, drunks, and other abrasive personalities. Intertwined with the journalist's story is that of Lisbeth Salander, a sort of autistic/Aspie investigator/hacker. Eventually, they are brought together and solve the mystery. Then, there is an overlong denouement as the journalist erases his disgrace. It's hard to say much more than that without spoilers. The plot rolls along smoothly, with some interesting bits and sleuthing here and there, leading to a climax and satisfying conclusion some 80 pages short of the end of the book.
Perhaps the thing that bothered me most about the book was the importance of sexual violence against women. Not so much that it was there, but that in the world of the novel, it is not only true that all sexual violence against women is committed by bad men, but that all bad men commit sexual violence against women (uh-oh, maybe that's a spoiler). And then it is just a bit creepy that our journalist hero is the nice-guy-who-would-never-threaten-a-woma
And the ten-page free taste of the second novel that is attached at the end is plenty long enough for Larsson to get deep into sexual violence against women.
I didn't know much about the author or the book, apart from its popularity. But having looked into the author, now I know how his preoccupation came about. "When Larsson was 14 years old he witnessed his friends gang rape a girl, which led to his lifelong abhorrence toward violence and abuse against women. The author never forgave himself for failing to help the girl, whose name was Lisbeth - like the young heroine of his books, who is also a rape victim. This inspired the themes of sexual violence against women in his books."
I note also that the original Swedish title, Män som hatar kvinnor -- "Men Who Hate Women" -- makes a lot more sense, and provides a better label of the contents within.