4 August 2008

REVIEW: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, Stieg Larsson

Quercus, 2008, 533 pages
ISBN 978-1-84724-253-2
Originally published in Sweden in 2005, translated into English by Reg Keeland.

This is not an easy book to review without giving too much away. It is a bit like a turducken. Don’t know what that is? Well it’s an extravagant dish consisting of a partially de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed with a small de-boned chicken.

The prologue begins with a mystery. A flower arrives to commemorate an old man’s eighty second birthday. Just as in the previous thirty five years it is a pressed flower, no card, no message. The recipient is Henrik Vanger whose granddaughter Harriet disappeared thirty six years before.

Journalist and magazine owner Mikael Blomkvist has just been convicted of aggravated libel and is about to spend three months in gaol. In fact he has been found guilty of 15 counts of libel, and it looks as if this will be the death knell for his magazine Millenium. Blomkvist is convinced he has been set up but there is no way he can prove it. He took on Hans-Erik Wennerstrom, a billionaire who is a top name among market speculators, and he lost.

Lisbeth Salander works for Milton Securities as an investigator. She is brilliant but a social misfit. Milton Securities is asked by Henrik Vanger’s lawyers to investigate whether there is any substance to the Wennerstrom libel case. Satisfied with the results of Salander’s report Vanger offers Blomkvist a job: to find out the truth of Harriet’s disappearance. Was she murdered by one of her own family?

Blomkvist penetrates further into this turducken than anybody has ever gone, bringing to the surface secrets that have lain hidden in the Vanger family for decades, even before Harriet’s disappearance.

This book will not please all. It’s very length will daunt some. The outer flesh of this turducken is a bit dry. It reminds me a bit of a John Grisham thriller. It takes a while to get going too. And then at the end, just when you think everything is resolved, you realise there are 100 pages to go, and a final denouement to come.

Does THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO deserve the accolades it has been getting? My short answer – yes. Larsson is a quirky writer, while Scandinavian in style and flavour, seemingly equally at home with modern developments in the genre. I loved his homage to contemporary crime fiction writers such as Elizabeth George, Sue Grafton, and Val McDermid.

Once you’ve read THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO you’ve read the first in the Millenium Trilogy, so there’s more to look forward to, but supposedly only two more. Steig Larsson died at the age of 50 in 2004, before his debut best seller was published. THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE is due to be published in English in January 2009.

My rating: 4.8

6 comments:

Uriah Robinson said...

Kerrie I was really daunted by the length and slowness of the first half of the book but came out a Larsson convert because I loved the character of Lisbeth.
But it is not as good as Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theoren my top read so far this year..

Kerrie said...

Took a while to get going didn't it? Did you like my turducken comparison?
I agree with you that Lisbeth is a fascinating character and I think she is the focal character of the next in the series, isn't she? I was less taken with Mikael Blomkvist

Uriah Robinson said...

Yes your turducken comparison was spot on.
One of our local big name TV chefs did a turducken with about 10 different deboned birds on a program last year.
I expect that the next in the series will be even better as Larssson seemed to be learning his craft as he wrote the book.

Sarah said...

I just bought this so am glad to hear it's good. The tarducken comparison is certainly vivid, although I must say tarducken looks repulsive to me!

Dorte H said...

Another aspect of the trilogy which may be less obvious to readers who did not grow up in Scandinavia:
Stieg Larsson never expected people to take Blomkvist and Salander quite seriously. "Kalle Blomkvist" is the main character of a detective series for children, written by Astrid Lindgren, and once you know that, it is obvious that Salander is really Pippi Longstocking.

Greetings from a crime fiction freak from Denmark.

Kerrie said...

Thanks for that information Dorte. i was vaguely aware of the connection but I can see that it would add extra meaning to Scandinavian readers.

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