Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

dragon tattooPublished: 2005

Author: Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is another book from the Denver Public Library’s used book sale.  I felt sorry for this book, there had to be over a dozen copies of it at the sale.  I decided to give the book a shot even though I don’t read mystery-thrillers – and it wasn’t because there is “dragon” in the title.

It took me less than a page to realize that the book was translated from Swedish. Also, I know nothing about Swedish customs, geography, or laws.  With these two things in mind, I can’t really comment on the quality of the writing (translation issues might make a sentence or two look odd) or the logic/realism of some of the things going on in Sweden.  The only thing I am rating on is the story itself.

Mikael Blomkvist is a finance journalist sentenced to three months in jail for libel.  [Which he serves several months after he is convicted – I find this odd, but I did say that I’m not going to comment on possible Swedish customs or laws.]  With the conviction he is now a liability for the magazine he co-edits – he resigns, but the other co-editor refuses and changes it to a leave of absence.  During the leave of absence, Mikael is hired by Henrik Vanger, former CEO of Vanger Industries.  Henrik wants Mikael to write the “Vanger family history.”  This is really just a cover for him to investigate the disappearance of 16-year-old Harriet in 1966 (she didn’t have a dragon tattoo).

If it sounds dubious that a financial reporter would have any luck with a 40-year-old criminal case, you aren’t alone – even the main characters in the book are skeptical that Mikael would have any luck solving the case.  Since this is a book, you know that he is going to find something, however unlikely it seems.  As he digs into the mystery, he gets help from Lisbeth Salander (she has a dragon tattoo), a brilliant but socially inept young woman (the book basically stated that she has severe Asperger’s.)  Through their investigation, they discover a serial rapist-murderer.  For reasons I can’t explain, they decide to keep that buried.

I know mystery-thrillers are one of the more popular genres in existence, but I have a hard time seeing why this is such a popular book.  Even though Larsson lampshaded Mikael being ill-suited for the task, I found it hard to swallow that a financial journalist could solve a missing persons case from 40 years ago.  By the end of the novel, I found myself thinking that this was just a male fantasy – revenge against his enemies, a Pulitzer prize-level article, sleeping with a girl half his age, all while solving an unsolvable case.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has significant violence against women throughout the book.  In some sense, it is good to highlight how prevalent such crimes are, but it is rather disturbing and it is not for the faint of heart.  Perhaps those who enjoy mystery-thrillers will enjoy this book, but I found the plot and resolution thin.

WWYT Rating: 5.0

Goodreads Rating: 4.1/5

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