My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was all the rage when it came out in the US in 2008. Everyone I knew who read the novel at the time said, “It was amazing!” The funny thing is that I never really had any idea what the novel was about and didn’t really ask questions about it. The only think I knew was that there was a hacker in the book. So when I finally got around to listening to this story, I really didn’t know what to expect. My only expectation was some technology related plot and this only based off the description that “the girl with the dragon tattoo is a hacker.”
I must admit, I was surprised to finally figure out what this book actually is: “a locked room mystery” combined with a financial and social commentary of Swedish life. The other thing that surprised me was the writing style. Maybe it’s the fact that it was more than likely translated from Swedish into British English had some influence on the way it read, but to be honest I was surprised at how “old feeling” the narrative was. Ok, how do I explain “old feeling?” I don’t mean literary, because I’ve read some really good literary fiction that has kept my interest (reading) from page one to page end (To Kill a Mocking Bird, Brave New World). It’s more like how novels used to be written at the turn of the twentieth century.
So, have you ever read a novel where someone is just sitting there telling you the story the whole time? That’s kind of how this book can be. It literally is someone telling you some story or another 50% of the time (may only be a slight exaggeration). Luckily, the first chapter does hook you with the story’s primary goal “solving the disappearance/murder of the niece of Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of a very distinguished Swedish corporation. Ok. That’s cool. I want to know what happened. The initial hook is set. But then there’s an excruciatingly long intro to set up the story’s main character Mikael Blomkvist, who is a financial news journalist. Many chapters were used to set up this man’s downfall and redirect him to focus on what the reader really cares about: the disappearance/murder. Another considerable amount of time is used “telling” the reader about Lisbeth Salander (whom is a very fascinating and unique character if you’re not into reading vampire and other modern paranormal novels). Most of the time I feel like an observer in these two people’s lives instead of involved in them. Mikael’s character isn’t really all that interesting but the things he has to investigate is interesting, which is the real reason you follow his story. Lisbeth is interesting because you hope that the author will tell you how she became the way she is and who she got there. She has a pretty exciting sub-plot before she and Mikael’s cross paths, and that’s the only real action that happens until the later part of the novel.
The major action of the book doesn’t pick up until FINALLY Mikael and Lisbeth meet, which is 3/2 the way through the book I think. The action is exciting and by the time you get there, you really want something to happen and then you can’t put the book down because you want to see the ending.
By the way, the ending is very European if you know what I mean. 😉
I haven’t read many mysteries, so I can’t really have an opinion about how it compares to other contemporary mysteries. Maybe all mysteries are written like this? Maybe I read too much YA and SF/Fantasy to “really get it.” Or maybe this is just something different.
Over all if you can get over the lulls in action, it’s a very well composed story. The ideas a great and you get some insights into Swedish society. I mean, how often do you get that?
Now I’m ready to see the movies. Note that the Swedes have already made all 3 novels into movies, which you can stream on instant play on Netflix, but I think I’ll see the American version first. Looking forward to it.