Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson


608 pages

I find it hard to imagine that there could be anyone reading this blog who has not yet heard of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Like me, you have probably been bombarded with plot description, spoilers and general gushing.  With so much information, it is hard to go into a book open minded and often times I am disappointed by the end of such an anticipated book—they never seem to live up their expectations.  My fears turned out to be unfounded.  It turned out that all the hype was deserved.  I came thisclose to adding this book to my Best of 2009 list.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is, simply put, a mystery novel.  Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist with a tarnished reputation.  The book opens with his trial for slander, brought on by an industrial magnate, Hans Erik Wennerstrom.  I would estimate that this portion of the book took up about fifty pages, and although dry and technically verbose, I was still somehow drawn into the novel.  And then it got good.

Blomkvist is then invited the estate of Henrik Vanger.  Vanger is an elderly gentleman who has a problematic family which revolves around the disappearance of his sixteen-year-old niece, Harriet Vanger, some thirty years prior.  Vanger is convinced Harriet is dead and although his research into the case is methodical, he has yet to come up with a suspect or scenario as to how Harriet was killed.  Therefore, Vanger contacts Blomkvist in order for him to investigate Harriet’s disappearance and hopefully solve the mystery of her demise.

Meanwhile, Lisbeth Salander had been hired by Vanger to do some preliminary research on Blomkvist before he was hired to research the disappearance.  Lisbeth is quite the character—urban and gritty, she comes off very realistic.  I would say that Larsson did a phenomenal job with developing both Salander and Blomkvist, in fact.  Their personalities were almost tangible in how provoking they were.  But anyway, I digress.  Back to the story—

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo continues on with the type of twists and turns that are difficult to pull off.  Some of the circumstances surrounding Harriet’s disappearance and the Vanger family in general could, in retrospect, seem too ludicrous to be taken seriously.  Again, this is where Larsson proved his capabilities, because no matter what curveball was thrown my way, I accepted it without question.  I don’t read many mysteries, but sometimes in a book look this, it is too easy to point out fault with plot—either it’s too unbelievable or too predictable.  I think Larsson was able to walk that fine line without straying too far in either direction.

SPOILER: If you would like to read my one issue with the plotline of the book, highlight the following passage (and please be forewarned—it is a big spoiler, so click at your own risk):  Please forgive me, but I was actually disappointed when Harriet was found alive.  That sounds so awful, but it’s true!  For whatever reason, finding her under an assumed identity living another life was just too anticlimactic for me.  I was expecting something macabre and horrifying and instead I got a middle aged Harriet who seems to just step into her former life as if nothing happened. /

One other slight issue—I didn’t like how the book ended with more Hans Erik Wennerstrom.  I just didn’t find him or his fraudulent lifestyle to be that interesting.  I think the book could have been ended more swiftly with the reader more focused on Harriet and the Vanger family.

Other than that, this book was superb.  I don’t feel like literary fiction mixed in with a mystery is something that is prevalent enough. Which is why I am pleased that there are two more books in this series.  I already have The Girl Who Played with Fire and I plan on buying The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest when it comes out in a few months, so I look forward to reading both of those—hopefully sometime soon!!

Other reviews:

Fyrefly’s Book Blog

S Krishna’s Books

The Book Lady’s Blog

The Literate Housewife

Farm Lane Books Blog

Confessions of a Bibliophile

Nose in a Book

I purchased this book from Barnes & Noble

8 Responses

  1. I’m afraid this book doesn’t appeal to me at all. Way too violent.

  2. I agree that the Wennerstrom “bookends” are unnecessary and should have been edited down. On the other hand, I’m currently halfway through The Girl Who Played With Fire, so obviously I really enjoyed TGwtDT too! Thanks for the link!

  3. I’m on book 3…I set it down a few weeks ago and haven’t picked it back up. I needed a break from the tedious descriptions. By book 3 they get a little much. But the suspense in book 2 is fantastic.

  4. I loved this book, when I read despite the overtly descriptive writing. Lisbeth makes a great protagonist, and I found the story to flow quite naturally, as opposed to being forced. I wasn’t happy with the way it ended, but, I could see the ending coming – maybe too many years of mystery reading!

    I’ve read The Girl Who Played With Fire as well, and that’s more Lisbeth-centric. Very enjoyable, I thought. Waiting for the paperback of the final one, before I buy it.

    Glad you enjoyed it.

    I wasn’t a big fan of this book. I found it very predictable. I thought that Harriet was alive from very early on and so was disappointed to discover this was the case.

    Literary mysteries are fantastic. If you are looking for a better one I suggest Stone’s Fall by Iain Pears.

  6. I also really liked this book. Enough so that I purchased books 2 and 3 from the UK before the US release date so I could read them immediately.

    I am sad that Steig Larrson died and there won’t be any more stores with Mikael & Lisbeth. I thoroughly enjoyed all three.

  7. I thought this one was a winner & I’m so glad it’s been so successful> I haven’t read the sequels yet but I can’t wait! 🙂

  8. I can’t believe I haven’t gotten to this yet. Sounds like it’s worth reading, warts and all.

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