The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
By Stieg Larsson. Translated by Reg Keeland
Alfred K. Knopf, 480 pages, $25
In 2004, Swedish journalist and author Stieg Larsson died in his 50s of a heart attack, leaving behind three unpublished thrillers that were immediately pounced on, the first being The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
I suppose this a good idea. I mean, it worked for John Kennedy Toole. And apparently everyone in Europe loves it. But this isnt A Confederacy of Dunces.
This is easily one of the worst books Ive ever read.
And bear in mind that Ive read John Grisham.
Ive read the Sweet Valley Middle School, High School, and University books.
I know my bad literature.
The novel begins by introducing you to Mikael Blomkvist, a Swedish financial journalist and co-founder of Millenium, a self-righteous magazine known for its investigative reporting. Blomkvist is famous; hes successful. Hes a ladykiller, managing to literally charm the pants off of a number of women, whether they may be married, sexually prudish, or even lesbian.
They all want him. Lets just hope he doesnt have a venereal disease.
But our Casanova is going to jail for libel. He wrote and published an article making accusations that industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström doesnt do things completely legal all the time. Apparently, poor Blomkvist was duped and now hes going to have to pay for it.
However, Blomkvist is not the only star of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The real heroine (supposedly) of the novel the girl with the dragon tattoo is Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is basically a sociopath, having no emotions and no attachments to other human beings. She also wears leather and t-shirts with threatening slogans and has facial piercings and drives a motorcycle.
So naturally shes a total psycho.
But Lisbeth would rather hack computers, working as a private investigator, than hack up other people.
It takes Larsson more than 100 pages to finally reveal what is essentially the main plot of the book: Blomkvist is hired by Henrik Vanger, the millionaire CEO of his familys now struggling corporation, to solve a mystery. Vangers beloved niece Harriet went missing in the 1960s and he wants to find out what happened to her before he dies. He assumes someone in his giant, crazy, selfish, and too-complicated-to-keep-up-with family is involved. Blomkvist eventually meets up with Lisbeth and the two work together on the case.
(A tip for the reader: There is a family tree at the beginning of the novel. Learn it. Use it. Live it.)
This story is centered around men who hate women, and Im not so sure if Larsson shouldnt fall into that category himself. He manages to present two completely revolting scenes in which Lisbeth allows Ill repeat, allows herself to be sexually assaulted not once, but twice.
She doesnt put up resistance to the first incident (seriously, she doesnt even say no) and then voluntarily walks into the second. While she does manage to get revenge on her attacker, these scenarios have little to do with the rest of the book, except, maybe, to show just how abnormal Lisbeth is and how far shes willing to go to maintain control. Theyre mentioned only once more in later chapters. In afterthought, they feel almost unnecessary.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo has no real central climax. The mystery of Harriet is solved. And so is another, even creepier one, the weak pay-off of both taking up maybe a couple dozen pages in this almost 500-page novel.
I think Larsson, may he rest in peace, spent more time loading the book with unnecessary details, like practically every time the main characters dine, including exactly what they eat and where they eat it.
Except neither of the previously mentioned plot lines, which should have been exciting, are what were supposed to really be interested in. Nope. The book goes on for almost another hundred pages after all that is wrapped up.
Because, really, its about getting revenge on Wennerström. Its a hit overseas, but I dont get it.
Maybe I have to be really into finance. Or Swedish.
Id rather just settle on this being another one of those silly European fads.
Like the metric system.