The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo


Stieg Larsson


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

June 8, 2011

am not sure why it took me so long to finally read this book - given the massive amount of buzz that this book generated, I should have picked up sooner. I was expecting a real knockout of a book, perhaps a thriller like Day of the Jackal or Mystic River, both of which I greatly enjoyed. But when I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I felt a let down. It's an okay book, but frankly I am baffled as to why it isn't seen as just another routine mystery/suspense novel. What was so unique about it?

There are two main characters in the novel, and I found both of them a little bit incredible. Lisbeth Salander is a young woman (she's an orphan in her early twenties, but despite being an adult, for some reason the Swedish government has appointed her a guardian who controls all her assets???) with a loner personality, a bunch of tattoos, and a photographic memory. Photographic memory? I am tired of that plot device, it is as worn out as the evil twin or the convenient amnesia. Lisbeth is also a computer hacking genius - she is capable of breaking into any data base and making connections out of small bits of information. As you might have imagined, this super-power turns out to be convenient when trying to solve a mystery.

The other protagonist is a financial journalist named Mikael Blomkvist. When we meet Blomkvist, he has just lost a case in which he accused a corporate executive of corruption. I got the impression the Blomkvist was an idealised personification of Larsson himself. Blomkvist, like Larsson, is a journalist who exposes the corruption of the people in power. Blomkvist is wise, sentimental, incorruptible, and clever. But most incredibly, every woman who meets Blomkvist wants to sleep with him.

Blomkvist and Salander pool their talents to solve the case of Harriet Vanger. Harriet was a favored niece of Henrik Vanger. Thirty plus years ago, she disappeared from a family outing on a private island, but no body was ever found, nor has anyone every uncovered a possible motive for her disappearance. But Henrik is convinced that foul play was involved; for one thing, some sends him a flower every year to remind him of Harriet's disappearance.

I am guessing that the enthusiasm for this book stems for the nature of the clues. Once the investigators find a coded list, there is a "Da Vinci Code" style bout of puzzle solving - though thankfully the code in this book is more plausible than the ridiculous nonsense in Dan Brown's novel.

The book contains a good deal of graphic violence.

When the case is finally solved, the book goes off on a long unnecessary tangent - I felt that the last episode where Lisbeth uses her talents to extract some revenge was completely implausible and I assume that it will be chopped from any movie treatment.

Overall, it was just an okay novel. I may read the next book, but I might not. Or would I be better off reading The Snowman by Nesbo (also a mystery writer from Scandinavia)?