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Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

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Since The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo recently came out in the theaters, I thought I would review the book for those who haven’t read this entertaining novel. The story starts when Mikael Blomkvist, the editor of an investigative financial magazine called Millennium is found guilty of libel by a Swedish court for the article he published about a shady financier. The dense back story on Blomkvist’s predicament unfortunately slowed down the narrative to the point that I began to wonder whether the book may have been overhyped. But twenty pages into the novel when the intriguing Lisbeth Salander is introduced, the story takes off like a rocket.

Disgraced and derided by the Swedish press (they dubbed him Kalle Blomkvist, after a fictional amateur boy sleuth in Astrid Lingren’s novels), Blomkvist takes a temporary leave of absence from Millennium. Out of work, he is hired (enticed actually) by Eric Vanger of the venerable Vanger Corp to investigate a cold case that happened thirty years before: the disappearance of sixteen-year-old Harriet Vanger, the likely heir to the Vanger fortune. Blomkvist accepts the job and searches for an assistant to help him with his research.

Enter punk-haired and severely underdeveloped Lisbeth Salander (yes, the girl with the dragon tattoo, among her other body art), a mistrustful, anti-social, and oft-violent twenty-five-year-old woman who has been declared mentally incompetent by the state and placed under guardianship of a state-appointed lawyer. What the government doesn’t know is that Salander is a highly intelligent protégé, a kind of wonder girl, who secretly works as an investigative researcher for the biggest security firm in Sweden. Through his unthreatening wiles, Blomkvist is able to earn Salander’s trust and the two of them embark on an investigative journey that uncovers a sinister Vanger family history that eventually endangers both their lives.

This book is fast-paced with extremely well-drawn characters, especially Salander whose flawed but endearing personality readers can’t help but root for. The relationship between Blomkvist and Salander is touching but tense, which adds to the sexual intrigue. Though the descriptions are sometimes overwritten, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the best reads I’ve had in a long time.

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  • Chelsie

    it’s henrik vanger, not erik :)

  • MT

    I think reviews of the book should mention that there is graphic and disturbing violence against women in several parts. Not to dissuade readers, but if you are uncomfortable with that kind of thing, it may not be for you.

  • Zoltaire

    Chelsie, you’re right about the name. MT,the movie had extremely violent scenes, but I don’t think the book version has graphic violence that is on stage, except for Lisbeth’s rape, which is important to the character and plot development. I’ve read worse in most suspense and thriller books.

  • Zeze

    Having seen the movie, I felt curious to read the book. The movie follows the book reasonably closely, although the book had more depth, as one would expect. The bottom line is I felt disappointed by the book. The strong point in my view is the main plot, focusing on the disappearance of Harriet and the surprising and well thought mystery resolution. The most disappointing subject is the character development: Michael gets laid too many times with no apparent motivation – in my world women don’t just want to get in a middle age man’s pants with so much eagerness! The hacker girl was too much cliche’d to my taste… But…worst still, was the never ending last pages or so – quite an ordeal to read these 100 pages – about the – quite forgettable!!! – revenge against the finance bad guy. It’s 2012, now, and we have seen lots worse and more shocking in these last 3 years, I suppose!

    • gus

      I agree, I found the characters cartoon-ish. So every woman Blomkvist meets he sleeps with – but in such a contrived set of circumstances he still comes off without looking like a sleaze or being unfaithful to the previous? Really? They are all so black and white – not like real people at all. Every character in the book is at the top of their game (whether good or bad) – superheroes almost.

  • Wolfie

    Utterly disappointed with this book. Don’t me wrong, Blomkvist and Salander are both very well written characters, and the storyline is fantastically original. However, firstly I cannot understand why this book has been deemed a thriller. There was little excitement, virtually no suspense, I may even go as far as considering it predictable up to a point. Secondly, the main plot of the book seemed at first to be mainly related to the Vangers and the disapperance of Harriett, while the shady business man seemed more to do with setting up the story and allowing the book to progress. It seems to me unfortunately that far more thought was put into this parts rather that the ‘mystery’ itself. It lacked depth and the after the truth finally came out the response by almost all characters, particularly Martin Vanger seemed forced and rushed, as though Larsson had had enough and wanted to further the Wennerstrom storyline instead. Overall, very unimpressed. For perhaps the first time I find myself wanting to watch the film despite the mainstream hype, and my expectation is that it will be far more enjoyable.

  • Lucas

    I am 175 pages in and I have put the novel down due to long annoying back story and overly descriptive writing. I don’t want a writer to tell me everything; I want them to show me. Big disappointment. Please, talk me into finishing this thing because I hate wasting money on books I don’t finish.

  • Denise

    I’m with Lucas. The book is too drawn out. He goes into way too much detail about everything and nothing. I finished it… barely

  • Jacob

    The book was well-written, but i think the American movie was amazing!!!

  • Igor

    I enjoyed the Swedish movie, with subtitles.