I've finished the first two books in the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire (check out those Wikipedia pages for more information). Larsson, a Swedish writer, wrote these two novels and a third (to be released on May 25th in the US) before his sudden death in 2004. He had completed outlines for more books in the series but I read today that his father says that only the first three will be published.
The English translation of the Swedish title of book one is "Men Who Hate Women" - and that is indeed the theme of these two books. It's not subtle. The female protagonist is bisexual and has plenty of reason to hate men who hate women. The male protagonist is divorced and is the lover of a married woman whose husband accepts the relationship. The bad guys (and, no, there are no bad girls) are all sadistic abusers of women. Wait ... I just thought of one bad female character and her great sin is ignoring her husband's abuse of women. So, yeah, it's pretty clear what point Larsson is trying to make.
It does not, however, interfere with the story. Not that I would mind if Larsson did get preachy. It's a serious problem that merits unequivocal condemnation. These are nevertheless thrilling stories. Given the subject matter (and the fact that they're both murder mysteries) you should expect a bit of gruesomeness if you decide to read them.
Lisbeth Salander (the "girl" of the titles) is a fantastic character. One Amazon reviewer said, "Don't mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo" and if you read the books you'll know what they mean. She devises very effective methods of dealing with men who hate women - and you can't help but cheer her on.
My only complaint is that Larsson occasionally tested my suspension of disbelief. One villain in particular - the "blonde giant" - seems to have entered the story straight out of a James Bond movie. But these are murder mysteries so that is to be expected.
I almost didn't read the second book. "Dragon Tattoo" was good but it felt like a traditional murder mystery, a genre that's never interested me. "Fire" was far more engrossing. I'll definitely be in a bookstore on May 25th when "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" is released.
One final note: I "read" these in audiobook format. I am guessing that I would have had a difficult time keeping track of the proper nouns if I hadn't first heard them pronounced. I'd recommend listening to at least the first book if you don't grasp Swedish pronunciation. On the other hand I just did a Google search and there is plenty of help online if you read a print copy.