Kelly's Reviews > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
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Jun 06, 10

Read from May 04 to June 06, 2010

Two friends, whose literary judgment I normally trust, recommended this book to me. I was told that it was “the best book I ever read’; “it’s a real page turner’. I was extremely underwhelmed by this book. Let me just say that my definition of page turner must be quite different from those of my friends. It took me almost 6 weeks to read the 590 odd pages as most of the time I was bored with the book.
There are two protagonists in the novel. Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who has been convicted in a libel case. The second protagonist, the more interesting of the two, is Lisbeth Salander an antisocial, sexually abused and possibly mentally unstable 24 year old who is a brilliant researcher and hacker.
I found most of the characters, except for Lisbeth, to be flat. When Lisbeth and her back story were on the page I found the book to be compelling. Unfortunately, she takes back seat to our other protagonist for most of the book.

The story has two story lines, a disappearance and the financial intrigue that caused the conviction of Mikael.
Henrik Vanger, an aging businessman, offers Mikael a job to uncover the mystery of one of his young relatives, Harriet Vanger. Harriet had disappeared many years ago in the late 60s and Henrik is convinced someone in his family murdered her. Mikael had been convicted of libel in accusing a corrupt businessman, Wennerstrom, of arms dealing. Henrik uses, as incentive, proof to Mikael that the businessman is indeed corrupt and, if Mikael takes the job, he will then give him the proof to convict Wennerstrom.
Initially I was rather excited that there was going to be an entertaining mystery. The author opens the scene early on with Henrik receiving a floral tribute and then Henrik looking behind him where 43 other pressed flowers hang. We also discover that Harriet’s disappearance is almost like a locked room mystery as there was no way for her to get off the island where she lived the day she disappeared. So we have some anticipation building up which is then frittered away as Mikael spends the next 280 odd pages wandering around the island, asking meaningless question and examining photographs. Oh, and he manages to sleep with one of the relatives. The bit with the photographs is somewhat interesting and eventually ,dragging on after many , many pages , the case appears to have new leads. We discover that a possible serial murder had been at work in the 50s and 60s. Lisbeth is then called in to help with the investigation and rather abruptly we find out who the murderer is . Mikael is then confronted with a dilemma, does he reveal the activities of the murderer or does he remain quiet? He chooses to remain quiet in spite of the fact that well over thirty women had been killed. I could not buy into the rationale for remaining quiet and was rather repulsed that he would do so. The second problem that I had with the book was that women seemed desperate to jump into bed with Mikael but we never know why including Lisbeth. The author tells us that Lisbeth feels more comfortable with Mikael than with most other men but never really shows us. When they eventually start to have sex I found this somewhat distasteful and unrealistic. What I find interesting is that the author clearly shows how abusive men can be to women so to have this type of relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth just seemed wrong.
Overall the pacing of the book is very poor. We get 300 pages of meandering, and abrupt and intense exposure of the murder and then the reveal of the murderer is not the end of the book and it should have been. No we drag on for another 150 pages while Wennerstrom finally gets his comeuppance. I think the author could have written an entirely separate novel using just the political and financial points of this novel and left most of those points out of this one. Its importance to this novel is only in giving Mikael a reason to investigate the disappearance of Harriet.
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