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Stieg Larsson, who lived in Sweden, was the editor in chief of the magazine Expo and a leading expert on antidemocratic right-wing extremist and Nazi organizations. He died in 2004, shortly after delivering the manuscripts for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.
A 24-year-old computer hacker sporting an assortment of tattoos and body piercings and afflicted with Asperger Syndrome or something of the like has been under state guardianship in her native Sweden since she was thirteen. She supports herself by doing deep background investigations for Dragan Armansky, who, in turn, worries the anorexic-looking Lisbeth Salander is "the perfect victim for anyone who wished her ill." Salander may look fourteen and stubbornly shun social norms, but she possesses the inner strength of a determined survivor. She sees more than her word processor page in black and white and despises the users and abusers of this world. She won't hesitate to exact her own unique brand of retribution against small-potatoes bullies, sick predators, and corrupt magnates alike.
Financial journalist Carl Mikael Blomkvist has just been convicted of libeling a financier and is facing a fine and three months in jail. Blomkvist, after a Salander-completed background check, is summoned to a meeting with semi-retired industrialist Henrik Vanger whose far-flung but shrinking corporate empire is wholly family owned. Vanger has brooded for 36 years about the fate of his great niece, Harriet. Blomkvist is expected to live for a year on the island where many Vanger family members still reside and where Harriet was last seen. Under the cover story that he is writing a family history, Blomkvist is to investigate which family member might have done away with the teenager.
So, the stage is set. The reader easily guesses early that somehow Blomkvist and Salander will pool their talents to probe the Vanger mystery. However,Swede Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is no humdrum, formulaic whodunit. It is fascinating and very difficult to put down.Read more ›
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a masterwork of fine craftsmanhip. When I reached the final page I was disappointed that there was no more to read. I did not want the story to end. The characters are too intriguing for this to be the end. Apparently this was the first novel in a trilogy by the brillant writer, Stieg Larsson, who unfortunately died in 2004: the book contains a tribute to him and his career. I cannot wait to read the sequels scheduled for release in the USA in 2009.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an international best seller and is set in Sweden. It takes a little effort to get accustomed to all the Swedish names and places but then the story moves with lightening speed. There are two key plots happening simultaneously. In one, a Swedish financial investigative journalist publishes a libelous attack about a powerful industrialist and is sentenced to jail, fined a ruinous sum, and has his career torn to shreds. Another industrialist, Vanger, hires the journalist to investigate the 36 year old disappearnace of his then 14 year old grand niece. There has been no trace of her in all these years and she is assumed dead. Yet, every year on his birthday, he receives a mysterious gift of a pressed flower, mimicking a gift his missing grandniece used to give him when she lived there. Vanger, an old man, is tormented by the flower gifts, and wants one more chance to find out what happened to her and who killed her. What the journalist uncovers about the Vanger family's hitherto unknown secrets and connections to the Nazis, will have you hanging on the edge of your seat.Read more ›
I admit it, I am out-of-step with current, popular taste, because I seem to be the one man on earth who thinks that the international bestseller THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is a lousy book. I'm not even sure why I finished reading it. Sonny Mehta, the book's U.S. publisher at Knopf, calls it "deeply ambitious, insightful and fiercely smart," and I am here to tell you it is none of those things.
The book is two-thirds exposition... we're talking hundreds and hundreds of pages of numbingly dull backstory that brackets the one third in the middle where something actually happens. Unfortunately, what happens isn't ambitious, insightful, fiercely smart or even mildly interesting. And it's all written with cliche-ridden prose that is so bad that it's distracting. (that may be the fault of the translator, Reg Keeland, and not the original, Swedish author, Stieg Larsson). Here are some examples:
"I think you are grasping at straws going to Hedestad."
"Ricky, that story is dead as a doornail."
"You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to see that these events were somehow related. There had to be a skeleton in one of their cupboards."
These are just three examples out of hundreds. And there are also a lot of clumsy descriptions, like this one:
"She looked like an ageing vampire -- still strikingly beautiful but venomous as a snake."
So is she a vampire or a snake? Are vampires venomous? And there are even clunkier sentences, like this one:
"Harald Vanger had gone back to his cave by the time Blomkvist came out. When he turned the corner, he found someone quite else sitting on the porch of the cottage."