Friday, December 12, 2008

The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Famous journalist sentenced to prison.
Mikael Blomkvist, editor of Millenium magazine, is found guilty of slandering billionaire financier Hans-Erik Wennerstrom.

Henrik Vanger, C.E.O. of the powerful Vanger Corporation revives hunt for solution to niece's disappearance.
Harriet Vanger vanished 40 years ago from secluded Hedeby Island.

Lisbeth Salander declared legally incompetent

Computer hacker Lisbeth (code-name "was") loses control of her own affairs. The notoriously delinquent 24-year-old surveillance agent could not be reached for comment.
If you were to ask me what types of books are the hardest to write reviews about, normally I would say it was those books that were just mediocre in that they didn't inspire great enjoyment, but they also were not so terrible that you were tempted to wallbang them. Despite the fact that this book is definitely NOT one of those mediocre books I find myself struggling to decide where to start. The main reason for this is that there is just so much going on in this book.

There are in effect three major strands within this novel. The first is the story of Mikael Blomkvist. He is a investigative journalist and publisher who, as the book opens, finds himself on the wrong side of the law, found guilty of libel against wealth financier Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. Not content with winning his case, Wennerstrom seems determined to destroy the magazine that Blomkvist runs with his best friend and on/off lover Erika Berger. Mikael decides that his best course of action is to make himself scarce to give the magazine the best chance of survival.

Enter wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger. After conducting his own investigation into Blomkvist, Vanger offers him an unusual opportunity. He wants Mikael to move to the country and live on the island where many of the Vanger family make their homes, and write a family history. The more important task for Mikael is to investigate the disappearance of Vanger's niece Harriet some 40 years prior. This investigation has run into dead ends almost from the beginning and yet on his birthday he receives a gift that can only be from the killer, if there was a killer, seemingly to torment him until the end of his life.

As Mikael investigates it becomes clear that there are many secrets in this powerful family - feuds between family members, fanatical Nazism, abuse, and many other unpleasant secrets. Even Mikael cannot believe what he finds out!

The third major character is Lisbeth, the girl with the dragon tattoo. Lisbeth is a ward of the state due to the fact that she is perceived to be incapable of managing her own affairs. In fact, she has socialisation issues, but is a brilliant hacker who freelances to perform background checks and the like.

As Lisbeth and Mikael come together, events take turns that are difficult to imagine, and in the hands of a lesser writer could become over the top and unbelievable. Luckily for us, Larsson mostly avoids the potential pitfalls in such a dramatic story! That doesn't mean to say that this is a perfect book because it isn't by any means! As you read through the latter pages of the book, there appears to be at least one, if not two, possible natural endings but instead the book carries on for a further 50-100 pages, almost as though the author realised there were too many loose ends to be carried onto into the next book.

Lisbeth is unique. She is someone who skirts on the edges of society and of the law. She is edgy and difficult to those around her with lots of issues that she needs to deal with. Most of the major characters are well defined and there are very few two dimensional characters throughout the book.

Orginally written in Swedish, there are some issues with editing and translation. At one point for example he is talking about a road name where he says it was obviously enough called Stalagatan (or something like that - I've returned the book now so can't check). As someone whose only exposure to Swedish is the product names at Ikea, it was nothing obvious to me, I can tell you!

I noticed on Larsson's website that there is currently a movie being made of this book. For a first book this is an assured, complex, edge of the seat thriller that has so many different themes. Larsson died after handing in the first three books in this series, so his planned series will never be completed. However, I can't wait to read the next books in the series and to enjoy the ride that he was taking me as a reader on for as long as I can!

This book was the winner of the Boeke Prize and Glass Key for the best Nordic crime novel of 2005, and I am therefore choosing this to be one of the books that I have read for the Book Awards Challenge.

In my opinion, these awards are well deserved. I highly recommend this book.

Have you reviewed this book? If so, leave a comment and I will add a link to your review.

Mysteries in Paradise

Strumpet's Life


  1. I'm intrigued by this book because I saw a TV feature about it and the author (tried to find a link for you, but I can't even remember what channel it was on). Did you see the Tuesday Book Club episode where they talked about this book? It met with mixed reactions, although Marieke Hardy comparing it to IKEA furniture was quite funny.

  2. I didn't see that episode. Unfortunately I don't often agree with Marieke about any book, so it doesn't surprise me!

  3. Actually, I hardly ever agree with Marieke either, but I love listening to her anyway. Here's the transcript, if you're interested. Wendy Harmer also had problems with it, mainly with the violence. Jason Steger liked it, though. I like listening to him, too. But the tv feature, the name of which I can't remember, made it sound so interesting. I might cheat and just watch the film? *g*

  4. I feel compelled to comment mainly because I just started listening to this book on my iPod a few days ago (I have an hour commute to work and the radio drives me nuts) and I agree with your sentiments in the first paragraph of your post EXACTLY! I posted a link to this book on my facebook page but was speechless as to what to say about it. It's just good. I just love how he started the book with the mystery of the pressed flowers and then delves into the lives of so many other characters only to bring you back to the pressed flowers, uniting the characters carefully and beautifully. (I am not done with the book and only just now got to the part where Vanger sat down with Blomkvist.)
    Anywho - I too, am going to snatch up the other books as they make it to the States and look forward to finishing this one soon!

  5. I have reviewed this fantastic book on my Danish blog, in Danish, so I will not post the link. I througly enjoyed your review. Everything you said is true. I read the whole series as soon as each book came out (in Danish) and all three books were enormous bestsellers in Scandinavia. usually I tend to steer clear of too-hyped books, but I had to give in regarding Larsson's Millenium Series. I was crazy about those books and sad when I read the last page in number 3, because there will be no more. I am probably going to read them all again at some point. Number 2 and 3 are excellent, although I am one of those who found number 1 the best of them all. That varies a great deal. But conclusively, I adored them all and found that especially the Lisbeth-character was unique.

    Thanks for a fab review.


  6. I reviewed this book. Like you I had issues with the translation. Can't wait to read the next one though!

  7. This sounds neat. I have to admit that I'm looking forward to the movie lol.

  8. Ladytink, I have no idea whether the movies will eventually get shown here or not. I don't think we have a big Swedish movie audience here.

    Strumpet, I can't wait to read the next one either! I will link to your review.

    Louise, a question for you. Can you tell that book 3 was not meant to be the end of the series?

    BecFlies, enjoy the rest of the book. You still have lots of dramatic things to listen to!

    Thanks for the link Kat. Sometimes you can actually watch the shows as well.

  9. Marg, there are some things which are being wrapped pretty much up in book 3. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll not elaborate to much about why I say so, but the ending of book 3 definitely make room for more books as easy as you can say that it ends there. Rumors are, that Larsson was writing on a number 4 before he died and now his family (from which he was estranged I think) are battling over royalties and rights and all that nasty stuff which is often causing trouble when there are gazillions involved. He wasn't married to his "wife" so according to law she is not entitled to anything, so his estranged father and brother suddenly bounced up on the scene and bla bla. At least that is what the rumours say.

    You will not feel that there are too many loose ends when you finish number 3 though, so it is not as it ends totally open.

    I can't wait for the movie either, but as you read Swedish authors (in English) then there is a chance that it will come out on dvd at least ;-)

  10. The book has met with mixed reactions, mainly on its length. My own opinion is that if Larsson had not died, the editing might have been more severe

  11. Perhaps you are right on that one. Either way, I really enjoyed it as it was! Looking forward to the next one!

  12. I just started listening to this book on audio, but as there is so much going on I'm wondering if I should just get the book and read it. I tend to listen on my walk home from work, but it's cold and the traffic noise can be distracting. However it is engrossing right from the start, so one way or another I'll "read" the book!

  13. This book didn't sound like my type of read when I first heard about it, but maybe I was wrong... It's almost better when my opinion doesn't change, you know, because then I don't have to want another book! lol

  14. I've been wanting to read this book... if only I can track down a copy at the library. The only thing discouraging me is that the plot seems so complicated from all the reviews I've read.

  15. It is, but you don't get lost in it.

  16. Yes the plot is complicated, but it is not confusing the read the book at all, not in my opinion. Once you get past the first couple of pages, then it just keeps moving forward and it is a really great read.

  17. Marg, thanks for the great review! Thanks to Bec for mentioning that she was listening to it. It's going to be this month's Audible selection for me!

  18. I know exactly what you mean by it being hard to know where to start when reviewing this book - I simply loved how complex the novel was. Great review by the way! I have taken the liberty of adding the link to your review to my Mister Linky list on my blog review of this book. My review is at



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