My review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Thu Mar 31, 2011

I’m a little late to the party, but I finished reading this Swedish crime thriller last night. It’s been on the best seller lists for a while and thought I would give it a go. The story centres on a downtrodden journalist, Mikael Blomkvist as he investigates the mysterious disappearance of a girl who went missing 40 years earlier. He gets some help from the gothic, autistic, troubled, grown up Pippi Longstocking character, Lisbeth Salander. She’s the one with the dragon tattoo by the way. The title doesn’t have anything to do with the story.

In fact, the original Swedish title is Men Who Hate Women, which is a far more accurate description of a story populated with sadists, rapists, serial killers, and a combination of those. But that all comes later. Most of the first three quarters of the book is filled with a languorous stroll through textual analysis of old documents, family trees, aging photographs, and red herring interviews punctuated by the anarchy and violence of Lisbeth’s story. There’s also a vendetta against a banker mafia thrown in there.

This translation is crisp and uses sparse, yet vivid English. There is no miring in waffling prose here - the author cuts straight to it but still gives us plenty of atmosphere and tension. The balance between character development and action was perfect for me, but I could see some action-junkie readers starting to drift off if they expect a car chase or shootout on every page (there is only one of each of these in the whole book). Overall, this was a great read and I’m looking forward to the next two books, which are part of the Millennium Trilogy.

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