Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo is an international phenomenon. I have to believe everyone in the literate world has heard about this book in the past six months. My mom has read the series, my husband has read the series, friends have read the series. I finally decided I would bite the bullet and read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Too many recommendations tend to leave me cold; I find overwhelming praise often means I am disappointed in a book so I started reading with considerable trepidation.

Happily I can report I liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as much as alluded to by other readers. Larsson writes a compelling book. His characters are not archetypes and yet he describes them well enough to make them believable. All things considered, Larsson does not lack for descriptive detail. Reading the second book in the series I find that he overwhelms with detail, but more on that later.

For anyone left who has neither heard of the book nor seen the movie, the plot revolves around a 30-year old mystery surrounding a teenage girl who disappeared from an island without a trace. Mikael Blomkvist, a veteran journalist suffering from professional problems, is brought in to reanalyze the facts and try one last time to discover what happened. Eventually he needs a researcher to help with his search and brings in Lisbeth Salander, the infamous girl with the tattoo. Lisbeth’s back story ultimately becomes the plot of the Larsson trilogy. In this book Blomkvit and Salander solve the immediate mystery. But Larsson sets up the conundrum for the next two books.

So many people have commented on this story that I don’t feel it necessary to once again rehash the merits of Larsson’s story or writing ability. Let me just reiterate a thought I had when I read Camera: the Swedes are a DARK people. The literature that I have read involves sex and brutality in concrete, detailed terms. I have no idea if this is a fair assessment of the population or merely the books which have been translated to English as having a cross-cultural interest. But either way, it is not a book to be read by the faint of heart. Sexual deviance is an assumed narrative in Larsson’s storylines.

As I write, I am halfway through The Girl who Played with Fire. So far, I like the first book better. But I’ve been told I have to finish all three before I can make any conclusive statements.

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