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Showing 1-10 of 395 reviews(2 star). See all 6,023 reviews
on July 20, 2009
My thoughts; "Eh."

I don't know, where does one start? I picked this book up after hearing how it was a best seller in Europe. A complex murder mystery that gripped the continent and if not for his unfortunate early demise would bring forth a novelist who would take the publishing world by storm.

After reading the five star reviews on Amazon and watching the QuickTime advertisement that provided stats that any author would envy, I sat back with a large cup of cocoa and prepared myself for a literary experience. I was excited.


The prologue didn't disappoint. I was immediately hooked. A tired elderly old man, Henrik Vagner, is ravaged by the disappearance of his niece and the gift he has received for his eighty-second birthday, a pressed framed flower. He has been receiving this same gift, mailed from different parts of the world, on the first day of November for the past forty-three years.

The book does a great job setting itself up. We go from the prologue to the main character Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist for the muckraker magazine, Millennium. The story opens with Mikael being disgraced in the courts for libel against the Wennerstrom corporation and sentenced to a few months prison. Before he is to go to prison, he is summoned to the Vangner residence where he is hired to perform one last investigation into the disappearance of Henrik's niece, Harriet Vagner.

We are also introduced to Lisbeth Salander, a physically and emotionally abused women who is under state controlled child custody at the age of twenty-four. In the Swedish court system, Salander has been uncooperative through her life's traumas and thus perceived as not fit to take care of herself. She finds herself going from one legal guardian to the next. Secretly though, she turns out to be a brilliant computer hacker and quite capable of handling herself.

It is after the set-up where the book strays from its strengths. The author attempts to bring to light the suffering and abuse of women in Sweden as well as the courts and law enforcements failure to keep them protected. The introduction of this story element almost feels like an afterthought and is too important of a topic to use for subtext.

There is a completely unnecessary rape scene that the author handles abhorrently. I am not one who believes that male author's are unable to accurately portray female characters in their story's, but Stieg Larsson is a shining example of why that perception exist.

To have one of the main characters suffer a rape and then handle it with a quick revenge sequence, followed by no real emotional impact to the character in question demonstrates a man's inability to understand just what impact rape has on women. The story didn't need this element and the credibility of the character was completely lost for me.

It was at this point where the excitement to read on, was replaced by the urge to close the book. Yet, I continued on.

Mikael can't seem to keep his "manhood" in his pants for very long and we find that he strolls into one sexual relationship after another. Again, there is no consequence for this behavior. Thus, there is no reason for it in the story other than to fulfill the author's sexual fantasies, unless of course it's perfectly normal in Sweden to go around screwing your neighbor, married or not.

The author sets up corporate corruption, but really it's never delved into and has absolutely nothing to do with main mystery of the story. As a matter of fact, most plot elements don't intertwine at all. The author has a lot he wants to tell, but he keeps all these elements separate. Again, he takes you out of one story and puts you into another. This left me frustrated as a reader.

It is while writing the mystery the Larsson is at his best. I found myself really captured by Mikael's quest to find out what happened to Harriet. It was fun going on the journey of discovery as he tracks down the clues that lead him to the conclusion. Unfortunately Mikael isn't the prime mover of the story and, as in many failed mysteries, the villain has to reveal himself to the protagonist in order to be discovered and taken down, which by the way is a very depraved plot line. Disturbing and odd in its truth, this plot line did not fit into the overall feel of the book. It was as if Hannibal Lecter took over for a couple of chapters. A sexually deviant Hannibal Lecter.

What is odd, is that the Antagonist (if you want to call him that) is taken down almost one hundred and fifty pages before the end of the novel. I found myself asking, is the mystery over? There is so much book left, what twist is going to come out of this? What curve ball is the author going to give that makes me say, "Of course, how didn't I see that coming?"

But that never happens. Instead the last hundred and fifty pages covers a caper plot that redeems Mikael against the Wennerstrom Corporation. A man we never really see and of whom we know nothing about. I found myself skimming through the last pages uninterested and just waiting for it to end.

If you like mysteries there are much better books out there. If you like stories about double cross, go read another.

Just skip this one.
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VINE VOICEon September 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Henrik Vanger, an elderly Swedish industrialist, has long been receiving the same anonymous gift on his birthday: a single framed flower. He is convinced the series of flowers has something to do with his great-niece Harriet who vanished decades ago in mysterious circumstances when she was just 16.

Vanger coerces a disgraced and prison-bound journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, to do some research into the disappearance. In exchange for information on his niece, Vanger promises Blomkvist enough dirt to take down the rich man who is sending him to jail.

So begins "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," a blockbuster best-seller in Europe. As Blomkvist moves closer to the truth, he teams up with the titular character, a tattooed detective named Lisbeth Salander who's the real star of the show. Together they uncover things that stun even Blomkvist, a crusading financial reporter who thought he knew all there was to know about the rot of corruption, the myriad abuses of power and the darkest sides of ourselves.

The novel is long and sometimes feels even longer; it takes its time threading out the dense plot. There's a lot going on here. This is the kind of book that provides you with a family-tree chart upfront; by midpoint you may be wishing there were even more aids offered by the author to keep track of things.

There is a series of horrible crimes at the heart of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," but I hesitate to call this work a thriller. It's a crime novel, yes, but it has more on its mind than generic conventions. The author, the late Stieg Larsson, was a journo in the muckraking tradition, like his character Blomkvist. The book serves up a heapin' helpful of essay that tastes like story but isn't. And while the mystery element is shockingly compelling in spots, it's also surprisingly unsurprising in others.

A million Europeans can't be wrong, and I'd be dishonest to say there's nothing worthwhile about this novel that is so popular across the pond. Despite its stop-and-go pace and tortuous (and sometimes tortured) construction, there is a serious emotional undertone to the book that is undeniable.

If you're not yet bored with stories that present villains you've seen a hundred times before -- e.g., reactionaries, racists and capitalists -- you might just enjoy this. Me, I really wanted to like this book and I did, but just barely. It's a lesser "Smilla's Sense of Snow," and for many that's obviously enough.
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VINE VOICEon December 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I keep trying to figure out *how* this Swedish crime novel became an international bestseller. Yes, the decades-old case of the missing niece prodded me to reach the final page, though not with bated breath. Yes, Lisbeth Salander (young, tattooed, socially challenged, incompetent-per-the-State hacker) makes a readable heroine; too bad she's given fewer pages than the alleged hero. But other than the mystery subplot and Salander herself, almost every element of this work falls short, astonishingly so given the multitude of five-star reviews.

Within these too numerous (465) pages, you'll find flat, artless prose; rampant description (rooms, every article of furniture therein, multiple walk-throughs of characters' daily routines); and clinical interior monologue. You'll be treated to graphic scenes of sexual assault (realism in fiction is one thing; gratuitous detail is another). You'll meet a main character (Mikael Blomkvist) defined by extreme passivity, unfettered libido, and frequent cluelessness. You'll wade through endless exposition on the Vanger family history. You'll probably find yourself interested in one or more of the plot threads, yet continually frustrated at their fragmented presentation.

I agree with other reviewers that the book should have retained its Swedish title (MEN WHO HATE WOMEN). This better fits the social commentary Larsson clearly intended; it better warns of the disturbing sexual themes; and it doesn't falsely promise us much page time with Salander, the only sympathetic character in the book. However, even with a more accurate title, this novel's runaway success would confound me. I guess it was brilliantly marketed.
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on July 6, 2010
I"m giving this book two stars. It was a huge disappointment to me, as it was recommended by a couple of people who I generally consider reliable in matters of taste.

As has been correctly observed already by many reviewers, the book suffers from poor writing. I suspect that this is mainly due to bad translation, but I don't read speak/read Swedish, and even if I did, I wouldn't put myself through this story again just to see if it's better in the native language.

Some of my big criticisms are;

1 - Boring main character. Mikael Blomkvist is terribly dull. Yes, he's the main character, not the girl of the title. She's maybe slightly more interesting, but only maybe, and only slightly.

2 - Too many sub-plots. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that there are a number of sub-plots that literally have nothing to do with the main mystery.

3 - Takes forever to get to the point. The first 200 or so pages don't deal with the main mystery in any way. That's a third of the book that doesn't have any bearing on the main theme.

Beyond those main criticisms, the book is filled with cliches and awkward writing. The editor and translator should be made to read this book 50 times over as punishment.

Back to the main character, Blomkvist. The more I think about him, the less I like him, and that's a really bad thing for the protagonist. He doesn't DO anything in this book. Things happen TO him, but he is reactive only. Yes, he starts to piece together a decades old mystery, but it's so drawn out, and ultimately uninteresting, that I didn't care.

Blomkvist is a poor father, a poor husband, a poor journalist, and a poor detective. Only through an embarrassingly coincidental and fortuitous meeting with his daughter does he receive the key to the mystery. If she hadn't miraculously popped in to make her comment, he'd have never figured it out. So he's literally a failure in all facets of his life. Why should I like him?

Lisbeth Salander, the girl of the title, is also deeply flawed. She's a complete social misfit, yet late in the book we are asked to believe that all of a sudden she can pull off a series of complicated deceptions involving disguises. She's suddenly completely at ease with strangers, and not only competent in social interaction, but excels. This is too much to believe. I found her off-putting, cold, unlikeable and quite unsympathetic.

I got the feeling that Larsson wrote this novel as a means of glorifying his profession. Unfortunately, he may have been a decent journalist, but he was a poor novelist.
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on December 26, 2008
(Warning-Possible (very small) spoilers)

The writing is, overall, quite disjointed. The first thing that struck me was that I was 85% certain that I knew the identity of the villain as soon as the character was even SPOKEN about, much less introduced. Needless to say, I was 100% certain when the villain does something dumb that shows him to be the bad guy... and no one catches on. Not surprisingly, I had also been able to warrant a very good guess as to what happened with Harriet.

I found the character of Blomkvist kind of a drag. It's hard to pull for someone who is so BLAH. He ruined his marriage by continuing to sleep with Erica, but I'm never sure WHY. She's married, it is clearly NOT the great love of his life, and they have little to no real chemistry. The 'relationship' seems forced, and to be honest it skeeved me out that she would tell her husband when she was going to sleep with Blumkvist. Eww.

Blumkvist is totally dense and doesn't pick up HUGE clues about what happened with Harriet, even though it's pretty obvious who the bad guy was, and the answer to what happened to her (without the details of how) is there the entire time. The answer is so ridiculously in your face, you almost feel let down when it turns out to be what you always knew it was. I figured with the reviews here, the solving of the crime must pack quite a punch! I was wrong.

To top it all off, the writer makes sure to let us know that, on top of being a bad husband & an idiot, Blumkvist is also a crap parent. Woo woo, what a hero. He's an idiot who will (LITERALLY) sleep with anyone and has no emotional depth. WHY were we supposed to be rooting for him??

Salander was (obviously) the more interesting character here. But I feel like the author took a certain joy in having her treated like terribly. Seriously, what else ABSOLUTELY AWFUL could happen to this poor girl? The ending angered me to no end. She finally makes an enormous emotional leap, only to have her hopes smashed by the idiot with NO EMOTIONAL DEPTH!
And of course he remains oblivious to the carnage he has wrought with this ridiculous 'relationship' with Erica.

Seriously, I hated the character of Blumkvist & really feel he ruined the whole book. Lisabeth should have been the main character and the entirety of the book should have been told from her perspective. Of course, had that happened, the book would have been about 200 pages long... because Lisabeth would have figured it out PRONTO.

The writer used the dumber character to try and slow down the 'climax' of the (paper thin) story.
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VINE VOICEon August 31, 2009
I wanted to like this book. It has a cool title (not so much in Swedish, coincidentally). For the most part it has been well-received. The back says things like "Don't even think about putting it down" and "Brilliantly written and totally gripping." Were we reading the same book? I mean, really? Because if not for the mildly engaging middle third of the book, it was a total snoozefest. There was lots of sex! But I digress...

Something that bothered me a lot, and it's more style points than anything else, is that it really needed an American translation, not an "English" one. I know where Stockholm is, but I couldn't say where any of the other cities mentioned are at so I felt detached from the setting. I didn't like reading Herr instead of Mister because I'm out-of-touch and uncultured tyvm. There were half-page scenes that added nothing to the story, which made me wonder why they were even stuck in. Of course, I now realize they could've been hooks for future stories in what was supposed to be a 10-book series.

The protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, is about as boring as they come and as far as I can tell cut from the same mold as the author himself. Every woman wants to sex him up the moment they see him, and I had a hard time trying to understand why. Of course, the ensuing sex is so predictable it's almost farcical. I actually laughed out loud at one point. But that boring character goes hand-in-hand with his plotline, the who-done-it murder mystery that didn't get interesting until he started looking for clues. Prior to that, the reader is inundated with a family history that is painful to read.

Lisbeth (girl with the dragon tattoo) should've been the protagonist. She was the only character I gave half a damn about. It bothered me that she was a little too awesome though. I think a person could figured the same things out she did by being smart without needing a photographic memory...that she could be an ok hacker with hacker friends without being one of the best hackers in Sweden. Overpowered characters make me throw the BS flag. Sorry Lisbeth.

Antagonists? They're so easily dispatched by Lisbeth that the plot was trivialized.

I thought the whole mystery was decent with a bit of random shock value thrown in to make the story worthwhile reading. But all of that ends with 50 pages left to go, taking the poor reader back to the dull financial journalist drama that the book began with. I'm not sure how anyone could make that sort of stuff interesting. Seems fresh and original enough, but damn...needs more SOMETHING. Like action? Please?

Also too much irrelevant life narration: "He put on a pot of coffee and made himself two sandwiches. He had not eaten a proper meal all day, but he was strangely uninterested in food. He offered the cat a piece of sausage and some liverwurst. After drinking the coffee, he took the cigarettes out of his jacket pocket and opened the pack." Mmm, k. Bored now. Not so bad if it's occasional but it's not.

Larsson also had a lot of passages that tell instead of show. Case in point: "Blomkvist leaned back and pretended to be insulted, but he frowned when Berger made some cryptic remarks that might allude to his failings as a journalist but might also have applied to sexual prowess. Vanger tilted his head back and roared with laughter." Could he not think of a suitable joke to share with the reader? Because I really wanted to read it! He also needed to do a little POV work because he mixed it up in a few places -- me being picky, I know, but an editor should've caught that.

The last scene was really good. And there were a few with Lisbeth that stood out too, mainly her introduction and a few of the action scenes. But I felt like the main characters were too detached from the main plot and at any time they could just say "screw it, I'm done." Book over.

Two stars. Boring but easy to read. Better than Twilight.
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on August 31, 2010
This entire review may be full of spoilers, so if you're not interested in learning certain components of the plot that would spoil the story for you, read no further. Needless to say, I found this book (and the whole series of "Dragon Tattoo" books) overrated, verbose, and so detail-oriented and in needing of an editor who could cut them down in half their size, as to be hard to justify investing your time in them.

Let's start with the plot, since any good story relies on a good plot. Especially a story that's centered on a mystery -- what happened to the girl?

Now, I'm not sure what the statistics are in Sweden, but in America, a normal investigator might turn his or her eye to the idea that an unhappy teenager might be more likely to run away because of deep, dark family secrets, than to be murdered. And if you're running away from your family, isn't it likely you'd want nothing to do with any of them ever again?

It's a plot hole you can drive a truck through. And one I recognized immediately after the so-called mystery began. Of course she's not dead -- she just ran away. Why? Well, gee, bad family. Mystery solved (I wanted you about those spoilers).

One would think a supposed good journalist, such as the hero of the story, would immediately recognize this as a realistic possibility, and work hard to pursue this as a missing persons case, rather than a murder. I suspect he would've gotten a lot further, more quickly, had he done so.

Instead, we're subjected to dozens of pages of theories about the supposed murder, so many ridiculous details that add nothing to painting a picture of a specific character or setting a scene. Indeed, the details -- the numerous mention of specific brand names, of specifically how something is done, of politics that have little to do with the actual plot, etc. ad nauseum -- seem to want to hide the fact that the author just isn't a very good storyteller. (He would make an excellent travel writer, however, were he still alive today.)

I wanted to love this book -- all three books, in fact. But I found the fact that it just took so darn long to get to the point and the plot that it was hardly worth it. And then to find the "mystery" was as simple as a kid running away from home to get away from some evil family members... well, heck, how many stories have we already read that traversed that familiar ground?

I suppose the only thing that makes this book redeemable is that the "Girl" in the title is a lithe elite hacker woman who likely has Asperger's. This resonates with perhaps the targeted audience -- teen and young adult males. Who, sadly, probably wouldn't recognize good literature if it attacked them through their SSH connection.
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on August 7, 2010
I'm sorry but I gotta go with the negative reviewers on this one. This is a real mess of a book. It's greatest failing isn't that it's central, most interesting character, Lisbeth Salander, is relegated to a supporting role next to Mikael Blomkvist, the world's most boring sleuth since Jack Webb in the old Dragnet series. No, its worst failing is that it is over two thirds of the way through. It often happens that authors begin stories they have no idea how to finish. So they end up tacking on a conclusion that more times than not fails all that precedes it.

Here, the mystery is solved, the murderer identified (He's is a real snoozer too by the way) only to be discarded along with the entire murder mystery plot of the first two thirds of the book just so the author can bring forward the Blomkvist vindication subplot with its attendant back-story baggage which had been dragging the story down from the beginning. By that time I'd had it with the annoying little milksop and didn't much care if he got vindicated or not.

Where is Lisbeth, I kept asking? Well, the pathologically introverted though brilliant sociopath - never comfortable with unfamiliar places or unfamiliar people - suddenly turns super con woman and hatches an elaborate bank fraud scam that has her jetting across Europe in designer clothes, speaking perfect Oxford English. Yeah, she's really smart and all. I get it. But come on. This isn't an ending. It's an underdeveloped hacker short story loosely stapled to the end of an unfinished mystery novel. Hackneyed is not too strong a word for this. Neither is anticlimactic, incongruous, or hamfisted.

If you are interested in this book, take my advice. Skip it and rent the movie - the Swedish one. Yes, the movie shares many of the book's shortcomings, pig's ears being what they are and all. But Noomi Rapace makes an absolutely great Lisbeth. It's in Swedish but that doesn't matter because, trust me, reading English subtitles is less painful than reading Stieg Larrson's prose.
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on July 25, 2010
I respect the author's decision to draw light on cases of unreported acts of violence against women. This was one of the selling parts of this book, and that is one of the reasons I chose to read it. I question, however, how much this author actually understands women.

As I read through the novel, there were several female characters the author spoke highly of that I simply could not relate to: Lisabeth (an anorexic who eats junkfood and is masculine in her hobbies and feminine in physique) and Erika (a lascivious woman, who is married though she is open with her husband about having a male lover). Both of these women appear to be emotionally detached (mentally handicapped?) which is far from the norm of female behavior. (They were like men with breasts!) I found them both to be extremely frustrating.

On the other hand, there was one character I had high hopes for, but she was shot down as soon as she criticized polygamy. When Cecilia "gets attached" to Blomkvist, her moody behavior is seen as irrational and petty. Blomkvist seems to imply, "it's not my problem that you aren't open minded enough to have open relationships," and the readers are supposed to agree with him. Cecilia was supposed to be seen as "old fashioned," however in MY era - the era of poor early childhood education, childhood obesity, and futile economic opportunity - the notion of free love is extremely old fashioned and unrealistic (without high doses of LSD).

Writing female characters is often problematic for male writers, just as it is often problematic for female writers to write about male characters (Twilight, to list an extreme example). The irony is that while the author is attacking crimes against women in a broader sense through his book, Larsson is simultaneously unconsciously imposing his image of the ideal woman... who just happens to lack any feminine qualities other than appearance (Thin and a picky eater OR fat and eats junk food? - CHOOSE!). Women ARE NOT like men, and feminism is not about making men out of women, but protecting equal rights under the law. (-which would include a woman's right to have free sex, as well as a man's right to wear a dress.)

Nonetheless, I learned a lot about the author's sexual preferences reading this book, and if you are planning on seducing Larsson at any time in the future, I would definitely recommend this book.
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on September 8, 2016
he walked to the door. He reached out his hand using the muscles in his upper arms. He put his fingers around the doorknob and pulled. The door opened. He lifted his left leg, then his right leg, and took a step using his thigh muscles. On his legs he wore brown trousers. On his torso he wore a yellow sweater. his shoes were black. He wore glasses. They cost $102 on sale. They were two years old. Soon he would need a new pair, he thought. His legs continued moving back and forth until he had taken 38 steps down the hall. The hall was four feet wide and 12 feel long. It had a wood floor. On the far end were stairs. At the end of the hall was a room. The room had a door like the door in the room he had just left. Inside the room was a table. On the table lay a book titled Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. It took him 48 minutes and 37 seconds to get from the room he had been in to the table. He picked up the book and read a page. He turned the page and read another page. He did this 87 times. The pages were white with black writing. The book cover was yellow with black writing. It was all glued together to make one volume. He realized he was bored by with all the white pages covered with black writing. The volume had been printed on a print machine made in 1967 in Lewiston, Kentucky, four miles from the state border... the man did not care about the avalanches of extraneous detail in the book that would have a pamphlet were it not for the long-winded and inconsequential detail that padded out the volume to make it the length of a book. He shuffled back down the hall and returned to the other room, turned the knob on the doorhandle that was attached to the door on the right side four and three quarters feet from the ground. He fell upon the bed. He had purchases the bed seven years earlier at a fashionable furniture store on Broadway Street where it crossed Central Street. The shop had been owned by a woman named Mary Clark who died of cancer two years later and she left the store to her son, who was a drinker named Thomas. Once on the bed he took a knife from the front pocket of his trousers and slashed his wrists. Next to the bed there was a table. On the table was a lamp. The lamp was six inches hogh with a small white shade.
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