Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist in disgrace. He accused a high profile businessman by the name of Hans-Erik Wennerstrom of a number crimes in his magazine, Millenium, and was unable to produce the proof the charges were based on. Blomkvist was fined a huge amount, sentenced to jail time, and had his reputation torn to shreds. In the midst of his ruin, he is contacted by industrialist Henrik Vanger to solve a 36 year old mystery of the murder of Vanger's great niece, Harriet. She disappeared without a trace and every year on his birthday, he receives a pressed flower like Harriet used to give him. He regards this as the killer taunting him every year. As a cover, Blomkvist will be working on a book compiling the Vanger family history for a year as he digs into the past to solve this mystery. Later in the investigation, he employs the help of Lisbeth Salander, a talented, tattooed computer hacker with antisocial tendencies. She was originally investigating him for Milton Security when Blomkvist discovered her and asked for her help. Together, these two misfits will uncover the truth in this very old crime, but this is only the beginning of the scandals they will reveal to the world.

Despite the pages totaling over 600 pages, I read the book in about 2 days. I was so drawn into the world I almost literally could not put it down. The beginning of the book starts pretty slowly, but it doesn't drag along. It's worth reading until it speeds up a bit. The pacing is really one of the novel's strong points. One of my typical complaints of mysteries is after the mystery is solved, the denouement is fairly short and ends quickly. This isn't true with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The ending takes as much time as it needs to resolve, while still leaving enough loose ends for the next book.

The strongest part of this book is the clearly written, detailed characters. The two that most stand out are Mikael "Kalle" Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. Mikael is such an intense journalist and he works focused on the one story until it's completely done. His major goal is to expose seemingly upstanding people as the criminals they really are. He is admirable and fiercely loyal to his friends and family. Lisbeth Salander is the most remarkable character in the book. She is extremely complex with an obviously troubled past with a brilliant mind. Her diminutive size and capacity for violence are an unexpected mix. Her high intelligence and her declaration of incompetence doesn't add up at all and it makes me wonder why the official view of her is so different from reality. The way she strikes back at those that try to victimize her is unlike anything I've ever read before. Up until these two characters meet, each chapter either focuses on Mikael or Lisbeth. I honestly found myself looking forward to Lisbeth's chapters more because she was more unpredictable and engaging.

I really enjoyed this book. The Swedish locale and language interested me and made me eager to see more of the landscape. The ending was unexpected and I never saw it coming. There are graphic scenes of violence, torture, murder, and rape, so if this isn't something you like in your literature, I would stay away from it. I highly recommend this novel and can't wait to read the next book.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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