Posted by: Natalie | May 10, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I am devastated. I borrowed this book from Christie and now I have to give it back! I will undoubtedly be procuring my own copy for future book hoarding. We are awful at giving books up. Even if we never intend to read them again, we love to have them shelved in place as a testament to their once loved pages. And Dragon Tattoo deserves to be among them.

I have never read, to my knowledge, a contemporary murder/crime novel before and I have to say I enjoyed my first foray into the genre. I was a little bamboozled at the beginning as there is a lot of financial jargon, theory and circumstance to scene set. It took me a while to read through these initial pages of the story as I found some of it difficult to grasp – I am not one for understanding financial material in any form and I certainly don’t read the pink papers. But once beyond this I found myself well and truly sunk into the book. It was gripping, enticing and all consuming. It is one of those books that engulfs me entirely and I feel unable to think of anything else during the none reading hours of the day. Even last night whilst reading the next on the pile, I kept expecting the writing to suddenly change and reveal the next steps of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. This is especially weird as my current read is a kids book!

The story written by the sadly departed Steig Larsson, is a triumph and tragically its author never got to see the remarkable reaction of the millions of readers who have loved this book. The deep dimensions of its lead characters are truly inspiring. Without telling all the details of their undoubtedly murky pasts, you are wrapped into their world, constantly intrigued as to what it was that caused such fascinating specimens. Salander in particular. I am assuming the following two parts of the Millennium Trilogy will uncover more of their individual histories and their paths to the present, and this is the gossamer thread that entices me towards The Girl Who Played with Fire. But no. It will stay on the pile until Vegas because I know now Larsson’s words will keep me entranced throughout the many (many) hours of arduous travel.

The story, or should I say stories, are tied up neatly. I don’t get the impression that the details of this book will bleed unduly into the next. It is, as I say, the fascination of Blomkvist and Salander and their fellow players that will remain. The beginning of the book sees our lead character, the editor in chief of Millennium Magazine, Mikael Blomkvist, indicted for libel against a multi-millionaire super magnate in the financial world. Confidence in his independent financial publication is under serious attack as his prison date looms. It is at this bleak time that an elderly man of some wealth, entices Blomkvist to his remote home on an intriguing errand.

Henrik Vanger is very much in his twilight years and has been plagued for many of them by the disappearance of a favourite relative. Having had Blomkvist investigated for integrity and credibility, he approaches him to investigate the potential murder of Harriet Vanger, his brother’s grand-daughter in 1966. Vanger is convinced that someone in the family is responsible for her disappearance in this ‘locked-room’ (or should I say, ‘locked island’!) mystery. Under the pretence of writing a family history of this industrial dynatsy, Blomkvist is more than intrigued – and I am sure the millions of kronor promised for a year of dedicated research added something of a cherry to the situation! But, before long, Blomkvist starts to wonder just what it is he has signed his name to.

The family is large and complicated as well as having several volatile arms and warring factions. Their number include some members who were prominent in the Nazi regime that arose in Scandinavia during the second world war.  There is a lot of bitterness and hatred and few who trust. Most of those linked to the mystery have really unlikeable qualities  that allow your suspicions to run riot. Almost all of them believe Henrik deranged with his obsession over Harriet and see Blomkvist’s arrival as an unnecessary snooping into their private lives. The solution seems impossible and inevitably the result is one that the reader does not suspect.

As the ‘investigation’ begins to progress, Blomkvist is ‘introduced’ to Salander, a very troubled young woman with an uncanny knack for uncovering the dirtiest laundry and oldest skeletons in anyone’s closet – including Mikael’s! Her harrowing story to date is given as an aside (and believe me, it is harrowing) but goes to some length to explain some of her eccentricities. Once she is involved, the climatic resolution to the murder mystery becomes rapidly and terrifyingly real. I am an absolute pain for working out twists and foreseeing an ending before it even arrives, and I have to say, I did not see this one coming!

I don’t want to say a great deal more because I do not wish to ruin the story for anyone who plans to read this book – as you should all be by now! But I do want to warn you. There are some quite disturbing details in places regarding sexual attacks. Such things are not easy to read, however, Larsson has managed to depict the necessary without being vulgar, crass or inappropriate. These elements are somewhat crucial to our understanding of characters and the darkness of the story, however, if such things offend your sensibilities, they should be skip-able (should you so wish) as long as you can accept that something horrific has happened.

I have to say, I am a little worried as to how this book has been translated into film. I think it would be far too easy for someone to create this in a much more gruesome way than the writing suggests. The writing creates so many subtle layers and such depth that I am concerned that no adaptation can do it justice. There is of course the surface stories that provide the ‘entertainment’ value, but it is the characterisation that they can never hope to mirror in such brilliance. This would make any film version, for me, worthless. If you have read the book, you will understand, I am sure as to what I mean. It would be too easy to make this film one dimensional and loose the true genius and detail behind Larsson’s work.

I really enjoyed this book and actually let out something of a dramatic, “Nooooooooooooooooooo!” when the final page was turned! I may be starving myself of the next instalment until the end of June, but by God, it will be worth it!!

Last night I begun this week’s book (which is now over half way through read), I,Coriander by the Queen of children’s historical fiction, Sally Gardener. Expect a review soon!



  1. […] falling in love with Larsson’s characters in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I have carefully stored the second book for my trip to Vegas. The Girl Who Played with Fire has […]

  2. […] The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo […]

  3. Hello. I came here by a curious route: wordpress, which I am still getting used to, automatically generates links below my posts. Don’t ask me why but I’ve just noticed your story ‘Ain’t I cute?’ came up on my post. So here I am, looking around.

    Coincidently, I’ve recently watched the film version of this book on DVD. I haven’t read the book; I don’t usually go for crime novels. The film was quite violent, Explicitly so, probably more than I like, though not gratuitous, I suppose, in the context of the story.

    I agree with you about film versions of books, and I think it’s best to read the book before you watch the film. Anyway, I thought I’d just mention it and say thanks for the review, it was very interesting.

    • Hi Ian,

      I love wordpress’ little suggestions, utterly random but sometimes with surprising consequences! I hope this was a happy find for you?! I do really want to watch the films but I do worry that I might not take to them as well as the books. There is an awful lot of violence which was uncomfortable to read but would be nothing, I’m guessing, compared to the visualisation of it. But yes, all in context and actually more necessary as the novels progress. So, still gearing myself up for the films! Might wait for a dvd boxset to come out!

      I would recommend the books though. I am not a crime fan at all, but these I loved. The boyfriend also really enjoyed them which is rare for us to both rate the same books so highly. I can only suppose then that they appeal to most readers (er . . . the best sellers’ numbers probably also suggest it but I tend to disregard top tens!) so if you get a chance, do give them a go.

      Thank you so much for finding me, and for your comment – I like to meet new people!!

      Nat x

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