Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The inside of this book jacket (along with mention of it's eleven book awards with names like the Dagger) included a brief description of the contents as follows:

"A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue."

I've always loved the word amalgam. It's just fun to say. Amalgam. A mixture of equal parts. How you get that out of amalgam I have no idea. So I asked myself the question, is this popular book by Swedish author, Stieg Larsson, who unfortunately died of a heart attack right after delivering the manuscripts of the three books in this series, a fine-tuned mixture of mystery, saga, love, and intrigue?

It is, at its heart, a family saga with the main point being - What happened to 16-year old Harriet Vanger who vanished without a trace forty years ago? Her grandfather, Henrik Vanger, has hired a down on his luck journalist and magazine editor, Mikael Blomkvist, to dig up the skeletons in his family tree and find out what happened to her. But, Blomkvist has his own set of problems: his girlfriend is married to another man (must be a Swedish thing), he's been forced out of his current job and is therefore running out of money, and he's about to start a three month prison sentence after being convicted of slander against a dirty corporate industrialist that took him to court over a story he wrote. (Yes, pant, pant. Just like the book...)

Blomkvist takes the job for Vanger because he needs to get away, and, of course, the money won't hurt. For help, he recruits a computer hacker with a dragon tattoo on her neck, a girl named Lisbeth Salander, who is by far the most interesting character in this series of books. Think of a tinier, craftier Laura Croft with an even worse attitude and she's your gal.

Next then, mixed thoroughly throughout is plenty of mystery and intrigue, some of which is in the form of tons of backdrop on the world of finance (the first 100 pages or so bored me to tears), then throw in some magazine and journalist type lingo, some Nazi backstory, and lastly the occasional political statement that jolted me from the story when I started to doze off. There's also a whole lot of violence. Really terrible violence. I've heard the original title in Swedish was Men Who Hate Women. After reading this book, I believe that was entirely appropriate.

And love? I would never think of this as a love story. Not. At. All. For instance, our main character's girlfriend's husband has no problem that she and Blomkvist still "see" each other on a regular basis.


Really there's just a whole lot of sleeping around by pretty much everyone, married or no. It's like a magical, casual sex fairy land where condoms aren't even necessary and no one worried about diseases. Again, maybe that's a Swedish thing.

Aside from what I've just mentioned, when taken as a whole, I will admit this was an interesting book. It improved as it went along until, aside from bathroom breaks, I had a hard time putting it down. It was well-written and moved at a great pace. All the characters are well-defined, complex and super meaty. Larsson had no problem weaving together the story lines, and I didn't even have too hard a time keeping track of all the Swedish names, like Gregor, Gottfried, Gerda, we're talking umlaut central here. You just have to somehow get through all the violence against women and casual sex.

Good luck!

So now I feel all Swedishized! Meatballs recipe anyone?
3.5 stars.

Be sure to check out Cym Lowell's Kindle giveaway!!


terry said...

Kewl review, Lula! This one has been on my TBR shelf for too long.

BTW, if you like this style of crime mystery, you might try the "Martin Beck" detective series by the Swedish husband/wife team Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. Same genre and style, but written in the 60's, and only 200-250 pages long.

Anonymous said...

The violence and the casual sex were the two things that turned me off from this book - however, it was a page-turner. I had an issue with Blomvkist just getting a kiss and nothing worse than a strained neck while poor Lisbeth gets raped repeatedly.

As far as heroines go, I liked odd Lisbeth very much.

Is this a paperback cover by the way? I've never seen it before.

Nina said...

I always see this book at the bookstore and I always never pick it up. I think i'm going to try this soon!!

vvb32 reads said...

ikea has good swedish meatballs. i've gone thru the first third of the book and stopped as i was getting bogged down with the history. but people keeps saying it gets better. been meaning to read more soon.

Lula O said...

Sorry I've been on holiday hiatus..

Terry - Thanks! I'll try that series. Short, 60's, and cool names can be nothing but good right?
And hey, are you going to do 5-squared next year?

StephanieD - I totally agree and I liked Lisbeth mucho better in the second one. The third book doesn't come out here until May I guess. I'm betting her twin comes into play with some kind of Star Warsish sort of stand off, I'm hoping anyway.
I pulled this cover page off goodreads because I liked it better. A good pixish pic of Lisbeth.

Nina - Thanks! It is an entertaining read, but the second one is better.

vvb32 - The first is harder to get through, but it does get better, trust me! If just to know the back story for the second one, which is far superior I think, I would read this one.

TheBlackSheep said...

I think the original Swedish title for this was "Men who Hate Women" or something equally as violent. I'll agree that it was a very violent story with women taking then brunt of the abuse, but then, that just really reflects reality in my opinion. It ususally, but not always, is women who are subjected to power games, especially physical ones.

If you continue to read the series, it all begins to make sense as a whole and not just part of the story. For me it's actually a much more powerful statement about the way women can be used and mistreated by men than books that preach about it. The story itself becomes the condamnation of society without the necessity of the author telling you how wrong it all is directly through one of the characters. If you can hack the violence, read the rest of the series. It's just as good and will give you the rest of the story.

Lula O said...

I've read the second one. It was better. The third comes out here this summer I think.

Too bad the guy died. He writes an intriguing mystery.

Thanks for stopping by!