Thursday, October 14, 2010

REVIEW: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

From Amazon: “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 hires 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 unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.”

I picked this one up because I had to see what all the hype was about and because I want to go see the movie when it comes out and I ALWAYS read the book first. I am glad I stuck with it past the first 150 pages or so because the book didn’t start off capturing my interest at all. Those first 150 pages introduced us to Mikael Blomkvist and how he was sued for libel by a Swedish finance bigwig when he broke a story alleging corruption but couldn’t back it up. It also went into detail about the Swedish finance industry and the publishing industry, details that weren’t all that interesting.

The story picks up when Blomkvist is contacted by former industrialist Henrik Vanger who is impressed with Blomkvist’s work and wants to hire him to delve into the disappearance of his niece Harriet Vanger. The disappearance of Harriet has remained unsolved for 40 years and Henrik wants a journalist to go through all the mountains of evidence he has obsessively collected to see if there might be anything that would shed a new light on the cold case. To give legitimacy to why Mikael is poking around in family business Henrik hires him under the guise of writing the Vanger family history. Also introduced in Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed and pierced anti-social girl who makes her living doing investigations of people. Apparently early on she had some social and mental issues that the government deemed were serious enough to place her under guardianship. Lisbeth is hired to do an investigation on Mikael and when Mikael makes a break in the Harriet Vanger case involving Bible verses, Lisbeth is brought in to run them down.

What a bunch of eccentrics the Vanger clan turned out to be. You have old Henrik, his brother Harald who was a former Nazi sympathizer, Harriet’s vain mother Isabella, cougar Cecilia Vanger, current head of the empire Martin Vanger and a whole host of other quirky family members. I like Lisbeth despite her being so stand offish in the book. The book vaguely describes her circumstances growing up which have lead her to be this way. The mystery is by far the best part of the book. What looks in the beginning like it will be a run of the mill perusing of files for Mikael turns into a discovery of several grisly murders that may be all connected. The closer Mikael and Lisbeth get to the truth the more dangerous it becomes.

Two things that I would like to mention here: The murders detailed in the book are grotesque and there is quite a bit of sexual violence towards women. If you can’t stomach reading about either of these things, skip this book. As I said, the beginning was just eh, but once the mystery got going I could not put this book down. Only one thing bugged me. One of the main characters suffers a pretty horrid sexual assault and has little to no emotional response afterward. I don’t see any woman being totally emotionally devoid after suffering something like that and I think that part could have been a little better. Other than that it was full of suspense and kept me guessing. I loved it and plan on finishing the trilogy very soon.

This book is from my own personal library


  1. I have read all three of these books now, and would have to say that there are times in all three where you have to work through the Swedish political history/background.

    In relation to your comment at the end, reading more I think that this fits in with Lisbeth as we get to find out more about her background and history.

    Hopefully you will be able to keep reading the series, and see the movie, which is a little bit different but still very compelling!

  2. Thanks so much for the review! I almost picked this one up earlier today but was not sure. Your review has helped immensely :)