Don Quixote has no plot. Event follows event but it all grows naturally out of character and conditions. The characters are immortal, independent of time and place.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is nothing but plot. It’s a good plot but none of the characters are interesting outside the confines of the story. They certainly have no sense of humor.
Cervantes takes 900 pages to allow his two principal characters to reveal themselves through their words and actions. Larsson just blurts everything out:
Erika was an organizer who could handle employees with warmth and trust but who at the same time wasn’t afraid of confrontation and could be very tough when necessary. She and Mikael often had differing views and could have healthy arguments, but they also had unwavering confidence in each other, and together they made an unbeatable team.
That’s the difference between a masterpiece and a potboiler. One difference, anyway.
It occurred to me that with his explanatory style, Larsson could have written Don Quixote in one short paragraph:
Don Quixote, in his dignity and generosity, his unselfish ideals, and his fearless devotion to them, was always heroic and beautiful. Sancho Panza was a fat little man who saw very clearly the advantages of staying alive with a whole skin. They often had differing views and could have healthy arguments, but they also had unwavering confidence in each other, and together they made an unbeatable team. THE END.