The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is Swedish noir at its best. But the very elements that fascinate some readers may shake up the more squeamish, especially in a couple of scenes of sadistic brutality, as necessary as they are to the integrity of the novel and to the understanding of the psychological complexity of twenty-four-year-old loner and world class computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander. That being said, neither Salander nor her forty-three–year-old partner, investigative financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, will be easily forgotten as they research the forty-year-old unaccounted for disappearance of now eighty-year-old Swedish businessman Henrik Vanger's then sixteen-year-old niece, Harriet. Nor will several bone-chilling, tension-filled episodes in the book be quickly laid to rest.
There is both breadth and depth to Larsson's novel with its slyly embedded references to crime writers Val McDermid, Elizabeth George and Sue Grafton. The breadth comes from the sweep of the story that encompasses a wildly dysfunctional Vanger family and the missing Harriet, side trips with Salander, the computer whiz and decidedly eccentric private sleuth - as hardened and as sharp as Swedish steel - and Blomkvists's forays as he rebounds from losing a libel suit to investigate Harriet's disappearance while rattling every skeleton in the Vanger family closet, satisfying his sexual appetites, and avenging the loss of his reputation and the near ruin of his Stockholm-based weekly newsmagazine, Millennium. At any one time there are several balls in the air, including a cruel annual reminder to Henrik of Harriet's disappearance and a number of detailed exposes of worldwide securities frauds, but all masterfully juggled by Larsson, with not a bad bounce in the bunch.
The depth in the novel comes from its characters. Salander, with her tattoos and surly attitudes, is not the girl to bring home to mother, but with her tolerance for pain, her lightning-quick brain and her physical agility she's definitely the one to guard your back. With Larsson she becomes a case study for a model noir heroine, especially when she manipulates multiple stock frauds of her own. Although Blomkvist is a sympathetic protagonist, North American readers may find his habit of bedding his female married business partner at Millennium with the knowledge and consent of her artist husband to be a bit of cultural shock and awe. A couple of other women become his bed mates as well, but never as more than passing fancies, albeit momentary passionate ones. The entire Vanger clan - from the patriarchal Henrik, with his self-imposed guilt over Harriet, on down to the distant family cousins - make Salander seem like a saint and provide any number of possible suspects for Harriet's disappearance before the bittersweet conclusion to the novel and its implied promise of more harrowing adventures to come for Salander and Blomkvist.
Originally published in Sweden, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, received the 2006 Nordic Glass Key Award, sadly, a posthumous acknowledgment for Larsson who died suddenly of a heart attack at age fifty in 2004. The next two titles in his series, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and Castles in the Sky (working title) have already been acclaimed in Europe and are due for future North American release.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (firstname.lastname@example.org) for contributing his review of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Acknowledgment: Random House provided a copy of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Knopf (Hardcover), May 2010
ISBN-13: 9780307269997; ISBN-10: 030726999X
Location(s) referenced in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: Sweden
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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson — The Millennium Trilogy
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $24.95