Length: 554 pages
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Harriet Vanger disappeared without a trace forty years ago. Her uncle Henrik Vanger was the head of the Vanger Corporation, one of the largest and wealthiest business families of Sweden. Now retired and aged, he is still obsessed with Harriet’s disappearance and is convinced that one of his own family members is responsible for her murder.
Mikael Blomkvist is convicted in a libel case for the publication of an article in his magazine Millenium against Swedish business bigwig Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. His unproven article destroys his reputation and brings his career to a standstill.
Lisbeth Salander is a private investigator, one of the best of Milton Security. Unbeknownst to her own boss, she is an exceptional hacker. But she is also young, dangerous, and keeps to herself. Behind her silent demeanor, she hides scars of a traumatic life. She trusts no one, least of all the police. Those who commit injustice against her are answerable to her, and her alone.
The paths of these three individuals cross when Henrik Vanger hires Mikael to find Harriet’s murderer in exchange for proof that will reinstate his good name in the field of financial journalism. Lisbeth finds herself aiding him in the investigation, and the most unlikely of bonds is formed. As the investigation continues, Mikael and Lisbeth find new evidence in the case after more than forty years. But someone does not want the case solved. And, as Mikael and Lisbeth learn, he will go to any lengths to ensure that old secrets remain buried forever.
The English translation of the original Swedish name of this book is ‘Men who hate women’. That should tell you exactly what to expect if and when you decide to read it.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is primarily based on the misogyny in Sweden – in the form of sexism, rape, murder, and any other heinous act you can think of. This central theme is supported by financial crime and journalism and a simple murder mystery. The story follows multiple avenues that come together in quite a neat little bow.
It has decent elements of suspense and a good thriller vibe. It’s even got some abnormal psychology tossed in. All in all, as a story, it’s quite good and hard hitting, as expected from a book of the genre.
But there are a lot of things that could have been altered to make for a better reading experience.
Larsson’s writing style, at least when translated into English, is very in-the-moment. He tells you every activity of every character, however irrelevant. I suppose it’s a scene setting tactic, but avoiding it could have saved on about 75 pages of unnecessary reading. It also leads to some very dry storytelling of potentially edge-of-your-seat thriller material.
One of the main things is that approximately 25% of the book is done before the girl with the dragon tattoo actually comes into the limelight. Until then, she remains in the background, with the story occasionally covering her life, like a secondary character who you think will have an impact in some small way. But the fact remains that she has a massive role to play in the unfolding of the story and so, her delayed appearance does seem a bit odd.
The most difficult part of the book to digest, though, was the abrupt transition. True to its theme, the book describes the most horrifying rapes and atrocities you could imagine in the disturbing contrast of vivid, yet almost mundane, detail. Then, it shifts to scenes of consensual and casual sex as experienced by another character altogether. Frankly, after reading the former, I could’ve done without reading about the latter for a good three days. A double line spacing was not enough of a break!
At the end of it though, without your even realizing it, you’ll really like Lisbeth Salander. You will feel for her. And even though there are many things that turned me off about the book, I want to read the remaining two parts of the Millenium Trilogy – only to know what happens to Lisbeth. It’s weird that way – even with the many avenues the book took, it came through on its (English) name. It really is about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo… and she’s worth reading about.
- fans of thrillers, crime fiction, and psychological thrillers
- those who have a strong stomach (because you need to digest a lot of graphic violence)
- patient readers who can push through around 200 pages of random stuff before the main story begins (it can be very annoying at some points until then)
Let me know what you thought about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and/or this review – drop a comment below!
P.S.: Mikael Blomkvist is equal parts annoying as hell, and likable.
P.P.S.: Do the characters in this book do anything other than work, have sex, eat the occasional sandwich, and drink hundreds of cups of coffee? I mean, c’mon, eat real food now and then!