Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson


The inside of this book jacket (along with mention of it's eleven book awards with names like the Dagger) included a brief description of the contents as follows:

"A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue."

I've always loved the word amalgam. It's just fun to say. Amalgam. A mixture of equal parts. How you get that out of amalgam I have no idea. So I asked myself the question, is this popular book by Swedish author, Stieg Larsson, who unfortunately died of a heart attack right after delivering the manuscripts of the three books in this series, a fine-tuned mixture of mystery, saga, love, and intrigue?

It is, at its heart, a family saga with the main point being - What happened to 16-year old Harriet Vanger who vanished without a trace forty years ago? Her grandfather, Henrik Vanger, has hired a down on his luck journalist and magazine editor, Mikael Blomkvist, to dig up the skeletons in his family tree and find out what happened to her. But, Blomkvist has his own set of problems: his girlfriend is married to another man (must be a Swedish thing), he's been forced out of his current job and is therefore running out of money, and he's about to start a three month prison sentence after being convicted of slander against a dirty corporate industrialist that took him to court over a story he wrote. (And yes, that last sentence leaves you panting. Just like the book did..)

Blomkvist takes the job for Vanger because he needs to get away, and, of course, the money won't hurt. For help, he recruits a computer hacker with a dragon tattoo on her neck, a girl named Lisbeth Salander, who is by far the most interesting character in this series of books. Think of a tinier, craftier Laura Croft with an even worse attitude and she's your gal.

Next then, mixed in is plenty of mystery and intrigue, some of which is in the form of tons of backdrop on the world of finance (the first 100 pages or so bored me to tears), then throw in some magazine and journalist type lingo, some Nazi backstory, and lastly the occasional political statement that jolted me from the story when I started to doze off. There's also a whole lot of violence. Really terrible violence. I've heard the original title in Swedish was Men Who Hate Women. After reading this book, I believe that was entirely appropriate.

And love? I would never think of this as a love story. Not. At. All. For instance, our main character's girlfriend's husband has no problem that she and Blomkvist still "see" each other on a regular basis.

Hmm...
Right.

Really there's just a whole lot of sleeping around by pretty much everyone, married or no. It's like a magical, casual sex fairy land where condoms aren't even necessary and no one worried about diseases. Again, maybe that's a Swedish thing.

Aside from what I've just mentioned, when taken as a whole, I will admit this was an interesting book. It improved as it went along until, aside from bathroom breaks, I had a hard time putting it down. It was well-written and moved at a great pace. All the characters are well-defined, complex and super meaty. Larsson had no problem weaving together the story lines, and I didn't even have too hard a time keeping track of all the Swedish names, like Gregor, Gottfried, Gerda, we're talking umlaut central here. You just have to somehow get through all the violence against women and casual sex.

Good luck!

So now I feel all Swedishized! Meatballs recipe anyone?
3.5 stars.

Another point ot view: Trixie

CymLowell

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6 comments:

Amanda said...

Woah. After reading this review, I think I'm taking this book off my TbR list.

Julie said...

I'm also thinking that these books perhaps aren't my type of thing. I appreciate your honest review.

Lula O said...

Yes Amanda, I can't see you liking this book. Some terribly gruesome violence towards women. Incest. Murder. You name it. I just read the second one in the series. It's not as bad and is a better mystery too.

Julie - same for you. There's so much hype regarding this series. I'm surprised more people aren't turned off by the content.

Trixie said...

Nice review, Lula. I agree completely. Amanda and Julie, I do not think you would like the series.
It was a fast-paced plot-driven read, and I did enjoy it even though there was too much violence. I am looking forward to the second one as I believe it explains the motivation for some of the characters' behavior. A bit of explanation does feel necessary after the first one.

Lula O said...

I added your review Trixie, for some reason I'd thought you'd read the second book. It's pretty good by the way - the second one. Lisbeth is a major character in that one, and she's fantastic!

Trixie said...

Thanks, Lula! I'm waiting to read the 2nd book on Kindle.