Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Review of the Day: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

(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.


The Blue Bookcase
The Scarlet Letter
Man of la Book

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


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


  1. Hey, we've reviewed this at The Blue Bookcase.

    It would be awesome if you could link to us!

  2. I've reviewed this book at

    I really enjoyed your review. I don't think I read enough mysteries to know how this is atypical, but you gave me some insights.

  3. Wonderful review, I agree that the book is complex. I reviewed it here

    I found the other two books a bit more cartoonish - can't wait to read what you thought.

  4. I agree, Lisbeth is such an intriguing character. More than the stories themselves, she is what kept me reading and wanting to know more.

  5. I am constantly singing the praises of this series!

  6. I found this book compulsively good reading--same with the second in the series. Here's my link:

    Thanks for offering to link!

  7. Well, at least this one's part of a finite list! :-)

    Unless they ghostwrite some . . .

  8. I enjoyed this book, too. I don't read many books in this genre, and now I'm not sure why I picked it up. Like you, I'm glad I did.


  9. I don't know why I am resisting reading this book, as everyone I know who has read it has loved it.

    Like you before you read it, I don't think it sounds like my kind of book but I should probably give it a go.

  10. Man of la Books: Yours is a great review! I had it in mind when I read the book, so I laughed at all the coffee scenes.

    Charley: She is definitely interesting. I want to read the other books just to learn more.

    reviewsbylola: I can't say I'll be singing the praises. It entertained me and I'll read the others, but I'm not as enthusiastic as many fans.

    bibliophiliac: Thanks for leaving the link to your really excellent and comprehensive review. I added it here.

    JG: You know I can't resist a list! But you are right, with a brand this popular, he might "write" some from the grave. His family is fighting over an unfinished manuscript for a fourth book.

    SS: I like a good mystery, so I am glad I read this. Also, I've been fascinated by Swedish crime fiction ever since I watched the first season of Wallander.

    Sam: Don't expect to "love" it if you dislike books with sexual violence in them. I can't give a wholehearted recommendation because of the subject matter. All I can say is that I got through the gross bits without being permanently scarred and, overall, enjoyed the book.

  11. Great review! Thanks for stopping by today and commenting on mine. Here's the link:

    I usually stick with cozy murders so reading this book was a departure for me. As a Norwegian I liked the Swedish setting and have book 2 on my shelf to read.

  12. i loved the movie but couldn't get into the book since i already knew what happened!


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