Title/Author: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Publisher/Year: Vintage Books, 2008
Where I got it: Powell’s
Why I read it: My dad raved on and on and on about it
Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.
When my dad read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in August, every time I walked by him he looked up (or didn’t, because he was so insanely engrossed in the novel) and said, “Natanya, you HAVE TO READ THIS.” Although I knew that I would not be as blown away by it as he was (my dad spends most of his time reading emails, not novels, and he’s a computer geek), I knew I had to see whether the novel lived up to the hype. And now that I’ve read it, I can say that the majority of it did. The real meat of the story—the main mystery—is quite the thrill ride, and I found it pretty impossible to guess who the “culprit” was until the end. I loved Salander and her various methods of getting information or making things work to her advantage. Blomkvist was a little blah at times, but that didn’t really hinder the novel very much—he provided a pretty good contrast to Salander’s unpredictability.
However, the mystery is framed by this financial libel disaster that Blomkist got himself into, and, consequently, I found the beginning and end of the novel to be very boring. While I was largely able to ignore Larsson’s often excessive amount of detail for the bulk of the book (some of which became relevant later, others which were really not necessary), I had to force myself through the first 75 pages or so of detail and financial crap that was relevant to Blomkvist’s life, but entirely irrelevant to the rest of the book. I suppose it is better that Larsson fleshed out the context rather than just throwing it in as a wimpy reasoning for why Blomkvist could spend a year on this mystery, but, honestly, I have little interest in the financial world.
But, while this boring frame (and maybe it was just boring to me) made the novel a bit less enjoyable, the bulk of it is much more applicable to a college age girl (at times terrifyingly so), and is also far more graphic, shocking, gruesome, and totally gripping. As a warning, though, it does get pretty gross at times—I wanted to throw up after one of the descriptions, and I had a hard time falling asleep a couple nights. So you may not want to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo right before going to sleep, but if you like mysteries or thrillers, or are just looking for a hold-onto-your-pants ride of a novel, do read it.