I bought The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson on the strength of the marketing, the fact that I saw everyone reading it and loads of people said it was good. Normally, I ignore that sort of mass trend but something about this book made me buy it despite its popularity.
It was good, although perhaps not as good as I'd been told. In fairness, it is a thriller and is very much better than much of the genre - but I don't think a novel should be judged only by the relative standards of its genre. The story is of a journalist hired to investigate a forty year old unsolved murder and in doing so uncovers a serial killer going quietly about his business.
The elements of writing were largely well handled; characterisation and dialogue were definitely a cut above the norm of the genre although I doubt they would stand out in broader comparisons. Plotting was also good. The sense of place was strong and all senses were brought to bear in creating the novel's world. Sweden seems more real to me now.
Where it fell down a bit was in pacing. This is not a roller-coaster ride filled with thrills and spills. For the first half of the book, which is over 500 pages so that's for a good 250 pages, I was waiting for it to get going. There was a lot of exposition in the first half, delivered to the reader in short but frequent info-dumps. The authorial voice interfered a little at the start as well making the info-dumps read in a slightly different tone.
Once past the mid-way hump, the pace picks up, there's a lot more action and it builds up into an excellent ending. This is the first of a trilogy and I will happily pick up the second and third books.