June 1, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, By Stieg Larsson

You may have read our review of The Girl who Played with Fire, the second in this series, but I thought I'd also share a review of the book that precedes it. I'm sure I'm the last person to have read it, but just in case there's a few more of you out there, I hope my review is helpful.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a crime novel, set in present-day Sweden. It follows Mikael Blomkvist as he uncovers the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of Harriet Vanger, the niece of a wealthy former head of Swedish industry. In return, he's able to repair his own reputation, which fell after he was convicted of libel in his reporting of a corrupt financier. He's aided by the quirky, anti-social researcher Lisbeth Salander -- the girl with the dragon tattoo.

Overall, I enjoyed the book -- though it wasn't what I expected. I expected a little more suspense. I thought it's "page-turner" characteristics would be a bit more, well, page turner. But, the pages still turned quickly enough since I finished it in about a week (quick for me!)

Plot: I enjoyed the murder mystery aspect that pervaded the majority of the novel. But I could have done without the financial intrigue that launched and concluded the story. I understood why it was there -- without it, Mikael never would have embarked on his quest or met Lisbeth. But for me, it was a little too detailed and hard to follow.

But maybe that's because I don't get finances!

Characters: I loved Mikael. I felt like he was the perfect un-detective and I could really sink my teeth into him. As for Lisbeth, she was a little too counter-culture for me. Larsson did an excellent job writing his characters, because you could feel Lisbeth's coolness coming off the page. I just wished she had a little more heart and I'm wondering if I'll see more of her personality in the other two books.

As for the other characters...there was a lot. Thank God there's a visual family tree to help the reader keep all of the Vanger's straight. The family got a bit confusing at various points because I was trying to keep track of all of them in relation to Harriet.

Structure: Chapters were organized by dates, which I could have done without. I suppose it helped me follow a timeline, but for me, the timeline wasn't necessary. As I said, I appreciated having the family tree, but I also wished there was a map of Hedestad (where the majority of the book takes place). Larsson made mention of lots of physical locations and their relation to one another as Mikael tries to solve Harriet's disappearance. I must be a visual learner, because I had trouble picturing how all of the locations were connected just based on the words on the page.

Otherwise, the language was easy to follow (except for all that pesky financial stuff I mentioned above!) and the 590 pages were a relative breeze. I'm looking forward to reading the other two! 4 stars.

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