Monday, May 31, 2010

74. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I heard about this series of books, but ruled it out for some reason for that I can't recall. Colin checked out The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo from the library and hadn't started it yet (and I was avoiding the other books I had lined up), so one night I decided to start it to see if it was interesting.

Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into a complex and atmospheric novel. Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families, disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hired Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of iniquity and corruption.

Summary lifted from the book jacket.

The first couple of chapters, with Blomkvist's backstory about the libel trial, are kind of boring and hard to get into. After that, it draws you in pretty rapidly, but that beginning pays off -- you're given lots and lots of info and it all pays off in one way or another; in this book, take nothing for granted. The mystery was completely engrossing and I liked all of the subplots as well because they added to story rather than diluting or detracting from it. I didn't solve the mystery myself, I was as in the dark as the characters were and that was fine with me. But when Colin read it, he kept theorizing aloud to me and I had to keep the best poker face possible because he kept picking up on all the right clues! He was reading in the bedroom one night while I was watching The Real Housewives of New York (Team Bethenny!) in the living room, and he came out to tell me what he thought happened to Harriet and he was right, and I just had to freeze my face so as not to give anything away. I don't know how he did it. He's so savvy. 

The original Swedish title translates to "Men Who Hate Women" and that should give you an idea of what to expect. I didn't know going in that there would be such graphic scenes of violence against women, but it's necessary for the story that Larsson is telling and it's not gratuitous. These scenes are so well-written that I felt ill reading one. But Larsson is writing about things he is passionate about -- the devastating effects of such attitudes and violence (as well as integrity in journalism and the dangers of the right-wing Nazi movement). I read about Larsson on Wikipedia, and noted the many similarities between him and Blomkvist. I came away with a lot respect for him, and genuine sadness that his life ended so early. 

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