The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson  
Paperback, 608 pages
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
June 23, 2009

Financial reporter Mikael Blomkvist might have just made the biggest mistake of his career.   After running a story in Millennium magazine, of which he is part owner and chief editor, exposing the shady business practices of corporate tycoon Hans-Erik Wennerström, he’s hauled into court and slapped with a libel conviction and a prison sentence.  Now advertisers have started pulling out and in order to protect the magazine from going under, Mikael knows he has to step down as editor and take a temporary leave of absence.  His business partner and sometimes lover, Erika Berger, isn’t happy about it but trusts that he knows what he’s doing and reluctantly agrees to play along. 

Before Mikael even has a chance to figure out his next move he receives a strange phone call from a lawyer who represents a man with an even stranger proposition.  He travels to Hedeby Island to meet with the elderly Henrik Vanger, of the once highly powerful empire of the Vanger Corporation, where he learns that Vanger wants to hire him to spend a year on the island gathering information to write a family history.  But that will just be the cover story.  What Vanger really wants him to do is attempt to solve the mystery of the disappearance of his young niece who vanished from the island without a trace thirty years ago.  Though her body was never discovered, Vanger is certain that she was murdered and he suspects that one of the family members is behind it.  Mikael is hesitant to accept the job at first, despite the large sum of money Vanger is offering as compensation, but finally agrees when Henrik sweetens the deal with the promise to divulge damaging information about Wennerström when the year is over and Mikael’s contract is finished.  

Never imagining that he would crack the case, Mikael immerses himself in researching the rich history of the Vanger family and gets to know the relatives still living on the island.  To his surprise, he stumbles onto some new evidence that had been previously overlooked by both Henrik and the police. 

With the help of the young, emotionally troubled computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, Mikael soon learns that there’s much more to the story than a young woman gone missing.  The pair uncovers a string of brutal murders that span the decades and they risk their lives to discover the shocking truth.   

With all the corruption, sadism, kidnapping, torture, and good old-fashioned revenge, it’s hard not to get sucked into Mikael’s world, anxious for him to solve the mystery and take down Wennerström.  The setting of the story is Larsson’s native Sweden and having never read any books that take place there, I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  At first I had some trouble with the writing style.  It seemed a bit choppy and had all the flow of a laundry list (which might have just been a side effect of the translation), but once I got used to it I didn’t mind it a bit and I was able to focus more on the story and the characters.  It started off on the slow side but about 100 pages in I was hooked.  

I felt like I was right there with Mikael in his little guest house on Hedeby island, pouring through boxes of documents through all hours of the night, shivering next to the little wooden stove.  Even though it took me a little while to get into the story, I liked Mikael immediately and felt a connection with him.  He seemed real to me and it was easy to understand the motives behind his actions throughout the book. 

Salander is a fascinating character with a troubled past and enough flaws and admirable qualities to bring her to life as an intriguing and multi-dimensional person.  She shocked me more than once.  Faced with some terrifying situations she remains cool-headed and rationally plots out her next moves.  She was quite a little firecracker and struck me as a person that I definitely wouldn’t want to cross, despite the fact that she’s five feet tall and probably weighs 100 pounds soaking wet. 

Overall, it’s a great book that I would definitely recommend (although, fair warning that it contains scenes that some people might not be comfortable with).  It actually reminded me quite a bit of Serge Lukianenko’s Watch series (with I love), without all the supernatural elements of course.  I’d never heard of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo before I borrowed it (thanks, D!), but since then I’ve seen it absolutely everywhere.  Chances are, if you haven’t read it yet you’ve at least seen it.  With such an intriguing title and eye-catching cover it’s hard to miss.  

I don’t normally read thrillers but I’d love to see where this trilogy is headed in the next book, The Girl Who Played with Fire.

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1 Comment »

  1. Dionne Said:

    Yay, I’m glad you liked it. I felt the same way about the writing style at first. I’m used to (and tend to prefer) a wordier style, but once I got used to it it felt smooth. It was a perfect airplane book–I seriously read it pretty much the whole way to Boston, and then I stayed up late to finish it in the hotel. 🙂

    Man, you are just cranking out the books this week–awesome! Can’t wait for your next review!


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