Review – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
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  • Posted:
  • August 22, 2010

Well, I caved. I read the book that everyone is reading right now – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I think I needed something totally different that I never would usually read.

For the record, I am not a mystery reader. In fact, I actively avoid mystery plots. This comes out of the fact that nine times out of ten I can usually guess the outcome in the first 100 pages or less, usually with the introduction of a character or a new piece of evidence. My brain just clicks – This is who did it, or this is how. I’ve always been able to do it. So, naturally as a result, Mysteries are not a fun genre for me. In fact I first typed Myseries there, which says something.

However, given that griping I not only enjoyed reading Dragon Tattoo, I loved it. Wholeheartedly. And here’s why.

First off, the characters are very interesting. Particularly Lisbeth Salander, the 25-year-old socially off, genius hacker outcast. Lisbeth is hired by a disgraced financial journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, to aid in solving a 37-year-old crime. Lisbeth is a riot to read, unconventional and brilliant and scared of her abilities, while Mikael seems softer in comparison but still makes an impression. Together they are a very interesting Sherlock and Watson combination. The client who hires them is aging billionaire Henrik Vanger, who is obsessed with the disappearance of his niece in the 1960’s. The Vanger family also boasts some very interesting, very readable folks.

Second – The plotting and pacing of this novel completely suck you in. Pretty much everything you hear from everyone you know is true. This book starts at a light pace but draws in the reader despite an initial slow build up. Many have described the beginning to me as boring, but I didn’t find it boring. Slow, maybe. Boring, no. The beginning is necessary to set up not only Mikael’s hardships with a libel suit, but shows Salander’s flaws and strengths to the reader before she has the opportunity to exercise them. The beginning is all world building, character development, and exposition, which, I guess, mystery readers do not appreciate. They want to get right into the mystery and work backwards. This book is not set up like that. As is it takes nearly 100 pages before you find out what the crime is that Mikael is being hired to solve. This doesn’t seem to compute with most mystery fans.

I liked a lot about the book. I enjoyed Mikael’s time in the cabin trying to break down the crime one bit at a time. I enjoyed how the mystery built up in a very slow way, it made the ending more dramatic. I enjoyed Salander’s doubts about herself, her complexes about not being normal. She reminds me of no fewer than seven of my very good girlfriends; all beautifully complex women who have issues with fitting into the norm. Something is different inside so we have to develop physical filters on the outside to ward people off. Ward might be too strong of a word. The people who want to be in your life will look past the piercings and the tattoos and the clothing.  Salander uses the look as armour, a shell, to back people off. This is precisely why her shock at not only a sexual attraction to (and from) Mikael but also an emotional attraction. He sees the armour, but he sees beyond, and this dynamic makes the relationship between the two very interesting. She thinks she’s off, he does too, but he finds endearing qualities within the tough shell that draw him, inexplicably, to the girl with the dragon tattoo. It wouldn’t have worked with a normal girl. She would not be interesting enough to keep our attention, or Mikael’s. The book is more of a psychological love song to a very defective human being, and I loved every bit of it.

It’s a very cool book. Very cool. I dug it way more than I thought I would and do plan on reading the sequels. And seeing the movies. 5 out of 5 stars, for being the very first Mystery to ever capture my attention.

I very much feel like my customers now. “I don’t like Mysteries, but I liked Dragon Tattoo. Do you have anything like that?”

Also, the original Swedish title is Men Who Hate Women. The Swedes win.

– BP

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