Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review of the Day: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo



MODERATE SPOILER ALERT
(No details, but don't read if you want to avoid even a general description of the type of crime involved.)

Because I have a general rule about avoiding books about serial killers or that involve sex crimes, I probably would never have read Stieg Larsson's blockbuster The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  But my book club picked it, so I gave it a go.

And I am glad I did.  There was plenty of sexual violence, but it was not as graphic as I had feared. And the serial killer part was all in the past, or at least the past tense.  There were no grisly scenes of murders being committed right then and there.  That is the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night. I've read more vivid details about murders in newspaper stories.

The story was much more complex than I had expected from the book's popularity.  Carl Mikael Blomkvist, a magazine writer and publisher in disgrace after being found guilty of criminal libel, accepts a job from an aged industrialist to solve the mystery of the disappearance of his grand niece Harriet years earlier.  Blomkvist eventually teams up with Lisbeth Salander, an ace investigator willing to bend the rules to get her answers.  The two discover that Harriet's disappearance is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the odd and evil Vanger family.  Meanwhile, Salander has her own problems to deal with and Blomkvist wants to redeem his reputation and learn the truth of his nemesis's financial and political shenanigans.  Whew!  That's a lot.  No wonder the book is almost 600 pages long.

The story has a lot in it that makes it even more interesting than a typical, well-written mystery with a complex plot and good pacing.  For one thing, it's Swedish.  Just the novelty of a Swedish book makes it compelling.  And then there's the whole thing that Larrson died after delivering the manuscripts for the three books in the series.  Rest in peace and all that, but I admit that the finite set appeals to the completist in me.

More substantively, Lisbeth Salander may be the most interesting detective in forever.  She's brilliant, amoral, physically tiny, socially inept, and tough as nails.  She's got the sexual morals of an alley cat, but then they all do.  Maybe it's a Swedish thing.  She has a tragic childhood history that was hinted at but not explained, leaving the backstory for the sequels.  I'm willing to risk the nasty crimes to learn more about her.

I'm glad I read it.  I will read the next two, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet's Nest.  The audio books are supposed to be terrific, but I think I will stick with the paper books because I can read them faster than I can listen to them.  That way, I can move quickly through the creepy parts.

OTHER REVIEWS

The Blue Bookcase
The Scarlet Letter
Man of la Book
Bibliophiliac

(If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)

NOTES

At 590 pages, this counts as one of my books for the Chunkster Challenge.



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