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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Girl with Dragon Tattoo Reviewed by UK Reviewer

Title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime

Reviewed by Owen O'Hagan, United Kingdom

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

If I’d stopped reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo twenty pages in, when I originally wanted to, I would never have experienced the compelling, clever and engrossing story that followed. It may get off to a slow start, but this book will keep you on edge until it’s all you can think about and you have no choice but read on.

Dragon Tattoo’s central mystery was beyond exciting. Ageing business-man, Henrik Vanger, employs journalist Mikael Blomkvist to solve the mystery of his great-niece, Harriet’s, disappearance and the truth slowly starts to reveal itself. I wanted to know what happened to Harriet, as much as the characters did themselves. At first, the amount of suspects in her case may seem overwhelming, but this particular part of the plot remains intriguing rather than complicated. The writer, Stieg Larsson, who tragically passed away shortly before the books were published, cleverly introduces characters and will leave you suspicious of each of them at some point.

Here lies a major strength of the book; its two protagonists. Blomkvist is a strong main character, who I gradually grew to understand and like. He has his flaws and is most definitely not the most likable character ever written, but his investigation into the disappearance of Harriet connects you to him. I even felt invested in his bazaar, accepted relationship with a married woman. I felt like I was on the case with Blomkvist and therefore grew to know him. It was small moments, like his relationship with a stray cat, that gave him some much needed depth, and made him three-dimensional

The second and perhaps the most unique character I’ve ever encountered, is Lisbeth Salander - the girl with the dragon tattoo. She’s a deep character, who is cold and calculated, but there’s something incredibly likable about her persona. She’s fiery, and doesn’t let anyone walk over her. It’s almost endearing. Salander’s sub-plot has likely attracted more attention than the main storyline itself. She loses her beloved guardian, only for him to be replaced by a disturbing and horrific monster of a man. This is where Larsson takes the story to a much darker place. It’s distressing and in your face, but that’s what’s so strong about the novel; it makes no excuses. Its conclusion is one of the most satisfying I’ve read, as well as one of the most shocking.

While Salander’s sub-plot is impressive, the same cannot be said for the story surrounding the political and financial scandal Blomkvist faces, thanks to his adversary, Wennerstrom. This very storyline is what put me off the book after merely reading the first chapter. The pages are full of information dumps, mostly about finance and business, and will likely go over the heads of many readers, leaving them bewildered and put off. I was relieved when the Harriet mystery was introduced, as the scandal was only mentioned occasionally, becoming background noise. Unfortunately, the mystery surrounding the Vanger family, that is full of compelling twists and shockers, concludes far before the end of the book. Instead, the focus returns to the scandal, and my interest levels dropped by a huge extent. This to me was a vital flaw in the novel – the main bulk of the book was enticing and gripping, but the beginning and the end fell flat. This was a disappointment in a book that had potential to be outstanding.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is at its core, an incredible thriller. The main mystery will steal your attention until its shocking conclusion. The characters will have you investing in their motivations and relationships. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t do enough to pull you into the story, and runs out of steam at its end. Please read this book, once you get past the first few chapters and delve into the mystery, you won’t want to put it down.


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1 comment:

Jan Rider Newman said...

I had pretty much the same reaction to this first novel in the Millenium series, especially about the beginning and the information dumps. The style leaves a lot to be desired. At the same time, like you, I had to keep reading it. However, by the end, I was interested in the Wennerstrom aspect. I also read with interest your reference to Lisbeth Salander's story as a subplot. I guess in this first novel it is, but hold on to your hat when you read the other two books.