The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Author: Stieg Larsson

Notes: published posthumously and translated from the original Swedish

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while. I heard so much buzz about it from the interwebs. So when I noticed a hardcopy of the book at my local library, I snatched it before someone else did.

I returned it fourteen days later after slogging through the prologue and first chapter. I’m not sure if this was due to the mood I was in at the time, or evidence for a writing advice I hear often: if at all possible, skip the prologue.

My second attempt was the audiobook, and I listened to the whole thing in one sitting. A sign this was a story meant to be heard, not read perhaps? Anyway, the prologue, which bored me in print, was suspenseful when narrated. The story then waffled around establishing the main characters before transitioning to the main story.

And what an intriguing story it is. A complex crime thriller featuring a wealthy family, a favored niece who disappeared forty years ago, and a disgraced financial journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, who agrees to investigate the cold case. The titular “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is the hacker Blomkvist hires, Lisbeth Salander.

Salander and Blomkvist; who’s story is this?

I’d call The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo a story with good bones (plot) and a solid core (characters). Blomkvist’s reason for taking the case — gaining damning information on Hans-Eric Wennerström, the crooked businessman who won a libel case against him — establishes his character well. The injustice and his stoic “keep on carrying on” attitude made me root for him. But Salander definitely steals the show whenever she appears. Her story as a troubled and brilliant young person, who the state deems “unfit”, is compelling. I like to think had Larsson lived long enough to put the story through a few more round of editing, the book would’ve been superb. As is, I’m not sure who the main character is supposed to be: Salander or Blomkvist.

As for the plot, the core mystery, the aforesaid cold case had me hanging by my fingernails. Blomkvist shines as he investigates. The pace is excellent. Salander is cold, brutal, brilliant, and heartbreaking all at once. The interaction between Salander and Blomkvist, once they meet, is electric. But once the cold case resolves, Blomkvist petters, whereas Salander finishes the Wennerström situation with gusto. I think both the plot and characters would’ve been better off if the Wennerström case had deeper ties to the Vanger affair.

All in all, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a solid thriller. Reading it through a writer’s eye, picking out the flaws, made it even more memorable. Would read again.