on June 28, 2015
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is the first book of Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” trilogy. The title, which literally translates to ‘Men who hate women’, permeates through to this story of Mikael Blomkvist - investigative journalist, Lisbeth Salander - researcher and computer hacker, and their attempts to resolve a 36-year old mystery.
With Blomkvist’s moving to the Vanger estate on Hedeby Island, the story moves to a remote place, involving a large number of people, and covering a wide canvas where nothing is as it appears. This was a wonderful narrative, involving mysterious people and their dark secrets, and the unearthing and interpretation of strange clues.
I also thought that the characters were drawn very well. Of course, the most fascinating character was Lisbeth Salander. Short and skinny to the point of looking anorexic, tattooed and pierced, socially awkward yet outspoken to the point of rudeness, and a genius computer hacker, this character certainly made an impression!
My great disappointment with this story was how the case was eventually resolved. The last third of the book wraps up the mystery and it really felt like a hastily created conclusion. While the final reveal was undoubtedly shocking, there was absolutely nothing leading up to the person, and the perpetrator may as well have been substituted by any of the other characters. It was an inadequate ending to a story that had, up to that point, been told with such care.
I didn't know what to expect from this book, my only experience of Swedish crime thrillers being the turgid BBC Wallander adaptation - bleak and, frankly, rather dull and introspective. There were plenty of rave reviews on Amazon, but I'm naturally suspicious of gushing praise.
Unfortunately, the first third of the book confirmed my preconceptions as it seemed to be nothing more than a rather long-winded introduction to the main characters with little going on and definitely no thrills (in fact my wife gave up at this point). However, a little persistence was well rewarded. The investigations into the mysterious disappearance of Harriet were twisty and complex and the book was hard to put down until the climax of the investigation about one hundred pages before the end of the book. I expected thereafter a dreary and uneventful finish to the book but I'm glad to say that I was wrong - there was a very satisfying conclusion of some unfinished and, at the time, seeming irrelevant business.
All-in-all, a fairly enjoyable read and, although it lacked the pace and glamour of American crime fiction, it made up for it with a complex plot populated by characters with depth bound together with a masterly touch. However, it wouldn't have suffered if some of the early `padding' and the pointless tech references were removed.
on June 10, 2014
This book remains as one of my very favourite ones of all time. It is so intelligently written that it challenges other writers to match the style, character development, and plot. I read once that Larsson wrote this series for his own entertainment. I think I half-believe this statement, since he did go and drop off his manuscripts for publication, after all; but I can understand his motivation. There are simply very few books that can reach his transcendent style of writing. There are multiple layers of stories. There is the mystery of who Lisbeth Salander is and why she is so different from many other people. Then there is the layer of financial journalism, embodied in the persona of Mikael Blomkvist, which seeks to criticize the way in which major businesses and corporations mercilessly strip money out of every consumer for the sake of their own profiteering. Larsson was a passionate proponent of investigative journalism into dubious financial activities of several major corporations, and insisted that more responsible reporting be carried out to shed light on the activities of flagged organizations. His passion is eloquently expressed throughout these series and forms a plea to all humanity to see the reality of organizational behavior.
I read these books almost 5 years ago and still remember much about them. They will be one of the few that I will certainly read again in my life. Highly recommended.
on August 29, 2013
This is a little like what used to be called a Police Procedural, but it is a hybrid because the primary investigator is a journalist not a policeman. That said, he operates along side the police for Volumes 2 and 3, i.e. The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which becomes a courtroom drama at the end. The three together are very satisfying, but the sense of what might have been had the remaining 7 hoped-for volumes is quite painful.
The first volume The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the journalists inquiry into the disappearance of a member of formerly prominent idustrialist's family. It is painstaking and clearly reveals just how difficult doing good research is, particularly long after the disappearance. It needs some patience though it resolves very well.
It introduces the glories of Lisbeth Salander, the very guarded, introverted computer researcher who appears also to have an eidetic (photographic) memory and to be exceptionally bright, and utterly fascinating as a character. Mikael Blomkvist is the journalist and is also a fascinating character, with a strict moral code, as has Salander, even if their codes aren't particularly congruent codes
After reading so many positive reviews about this book and being attracted to it because it was written by a Swedish author, I decided to see for myself if it was all it was hyped up to be. It was. By the end of the second chapter I was hooked and read through the book in just a couple of days. I read this book on my Kindle and immediately downloaded Stieg Larsson's second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire (Vintage). The book had all the features that I like in a novel, good character development, twists and turns in the plot, and a character who is a computer hacker. (What can I say, I like characters who can get information through devious means.) Lisbeth Salander, the hacker, was my favorite character in the book because she was such a different and fascinating person who we only find out bits and pieces about at a time.
After reading this book, I just had to see the movie. It was nice to see what the producers thought the characters would look like but there were so many details of the book that were missing that it was kind of disappointing. The one thing I did like about the movie was that it showed the country and scenes where the story was to have taken place. It's nice, while reading the second book, to have an idea of what the characters could look like.
There is a huge cast of characters and at times it was difficult to keep them all straight. I found myself referring back to the family tree that was included at the beginning. The book also mentioned a lot of cities and towns that were unfamiliar to me and it was a little difficult to keep track of them all because they were Swedish names. Looking some of them up on Google Earth helped to put them in context. One word of warning: the story is violent in many parts and people who find graphic details of that type of thing objectionable or upsetting would probably not find this book easy to read.
The writing was excellent and I was sorry to learn that Stieg Larsson died soon after signing a contract for this book and his two others. The world lost an amazing author.
on February 20, 2012
I have been waiting a long time to read this book. Unfortunately I expected to be able to just pick it up and read it fairly quickly. This was however, not what happened. I hit a very hard brick wall upon opening it and starting to read. It was a horrendous fight to read this book all the way through. The author was so detailed in his descriptions to set the scene and get the story under way that I and the ladies who were reading it along with me really had to fight hard to not give up on reading this book in its entirety. The detailed content in the first 200 pages give or take were the hardest to swallow. Once the story picked up at the point where Mikael is working for Vagner and really into into the police reports and interviewing the family, then it was a bit easier and more fluid to read through.
The first half though caused me to have to take numerous breaks from reading the book because the tedious and boring sort of writing style it was extremely difficult to swallow and read at any sort of a pace. Coming from someone who reads very quickly, this book took several days longer than it should have for it's size and topic.
That being said the story was very good, despite it's writing style and descriptive over kill problems. I do endeavour to read the other two books in the series. Unfortunately they are also written in this exhaustive and boring manner until the story pick up and zooms along in the later half of the books. I plan on approaching them with more time to read them in so I can take my time and take breaks and not feel rushed and forced to buckle down so hard to push through it. I recommend having other books on the go so you can interchange between them to help you be able to read them and not feel buried under mountains of verbal diarrhoea.
I am happy to finally be done this book, but I am happy that I read it as it's a great story.
For these reasons I score the book 3/5. The movie was great, but having read the book now, they missed out on SO much it's actually quite disappointing upon reflection. That being said I do still like the movie, while not as much as I did before knowing the complete story. Which I expect to be the case with the other two movies of the Swedish renditions.
on December 1, 2011
Prior to starting this series, I had heard so much positive reaction to it, particularly about the first book, that my expectations were perhaps a bit too high. I found the first 75 or so pages rather slow, and on a few occasions I was forced to pause and look up Swedish terms, newspapers, and financial information. But I continued reading, desperate to discover what had everyone raving so much. By page 100 I was immersed, and quite enjoying the character development, particularly that of the main characters Blomkvist and Salander. From there the plot developed quickly, enthralling the reader in the mystery to be solved. The ending is a bit of surprise; looking back, I admit, I should have seen it coming, but I'm glad I didn't.
Larsson's books have been referred to as classic crime fiction, and while I agree that the story is clever, the author's greatest achievement here is in the characters themselves. With the hero Salander, we meet a woman unlike any other fictional character. The petite tattooed super-hacker is genius and possesses a tough girl strength, but underneath is a childlike vulnerability that makes her uniquely human. Blomkvist, much more the typical male, is well developed and complements Salander perfectly, though at times I found myself wanting to reach into the book and yell at him to stop being such a putz.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery and has time to read a near-500 page thriller.
on October 28, 2011
I had vaguely heard about the success of these books, but didn't bother to pick up the first of the series until a relative forced her copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on me. I had to give up on the idea of work or sleep until I finished all three; I have never been so addicted to a series. The plot is thickly layered. The main characters are likeable because they're deeply flawed as all humans are. I love the healthy and really quite accurate depictions of "alternative" sexualities and relationships. I love the feminist agenda (and I'm a man!) although one in a while the message is a bit too on the nose. But hearing the author's history, I can see why he wrote it the way he did. The book's language has a simplicity that sometimes borders on awkwardness, but often stays close to charming. (I wonder what it would be like to read it in the original Swedish.) And sure there are all these "far-fetched one-in-a-million clue-findings"... but whoever said that this made a piece of crime fiction any less enjoyable? Screw what the critics say. Pick up this book.
on February 28, 2012
I cannot say enough good things about this book. The storyline is interesting, the characters are very well filled out, the suspense is crackling, what more do you need? I actually watched all three movies before I read the books, which is something I don't normally do. I don't like knowing the ending when I'm reading a suspense novel; however, a friend of mine recommended the books so highly and said they have so much more in them than the movie, I decided to read them anyway and I am so happy that I did.
Even if you've watched the Swedish movies or the one American version, read the book! It gives so much more background and detail than either of the movies. Once you've read this book, you'll want to go on to the other two in the trilogy, and they are also worth reading.
My biggest regret about these books is knowing that the author died and there are no other books written by him. What a shame for the reading community.
on February 26, 2011
I just can't jump on the bandwagon for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." I don't think that Stieg Larsson is much of a writer. His style is competent but undistinguished. I just didn't care about the characters and truth told, I didn't make it past the first hundred pages.