The books are set in Sweden, Mr. Larsen's homeland, and begin with a fairly well-known journalist being convicted of libel and in a professional pinch. At this point in time he is offered an unusual and profitable job by an aging head of a dwindling Swedish business empire. Henrik Vanger would like Mikael Blomkvist to write his biography, but more to the point to find who killed his niece in the 60s. It is an unusual offer and is surrounded by unusual circumstances, but as it is Mikael needs time to regroup before going back to work at the magazine he helped establish. There is a lot of material to go through for the biography and the assumed murder (a body was never found) and as he is doing the research, Mikael comes to realize that the Vanger family has many and diverse personalities; few of which mesh well.
As he gets closer to unlocking clues about Harriet Vanger's death, he comes to realize that he needs more help and that there are plenty of Vangers around who do not want him to keep looking. Mikael gets help from Lisbeth Salander. She happens to be the woman who did the (unknown) background check on him for Henrik Vanger. She is whip smart, introverted to the point anti-social, and commands a computer like it's an extension of her body. She also has a mean set of survival skills and a few problems of her own. She's not big on friendship but she and Mikael work well together. They know they're getting closer to the truth as more and more unpleasantness occurs around and to them.
I'm going to leave the plot points at that because it's a mystery, and me telling you what happens is like skipping to the end of the book. And that's against the rules. I will say that there are a lot of Swedish references which are foreign (duh) to those of us from the States. For the most part I pretended as if my pronunciations were correct and I made a few assumptions about life in Sweden, mostly this; judging from the number of times they're mentioned I gleaned that sandwiches are the Swedish national bird and sex crimes are the national currency. Those assumptions have also not been researched because they don't involve Brad Pitt or Daniel Craig. There are several parts of the book that are uncomfortable; I'm not kidding when I say that sex crimes are a very prevalent theme and there are plenty of male characters in the book with hateful views on women. But there are a couple of good mysteries and more than a couple interesting characters in the book as well. I liked it. I actually liked it a lot.
And now that I've finished my review I'm going to get the third book and make myself a sandwich. Who's with me?!