Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Millennium I

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo officially marks the halfway point in my book challenge.

Publisher and journalist Mikael Blomkvist loses a very public libel case in court against billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. Feeling deserted and angry, he is approached by Advokat Dirch Frode on behalf of another incredibly wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger, who is the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation. Henrik employed Milton Security to run a thorough background check on Blomkvist, and he was vetted by the best of the best – he was checked out by Lisbeth Salander, an asocial, super-skinny, tough as nails girl, though he is unaware. Meeting Henrik in Hedestad, Henrik tells Blomkvist the tale of his niece that went missing in 1966, and that he is convinced she has been murdered and wants the answers to the mystery seeing as he is truly on the way out. He asks Blomkvist to write the family tale, though his true task is to uncover the truth.

Blomkvist realises that Henrik’s nice, Harriet, has been the old man’s obsession for decades, but takes the ludicrous offer that is put on the table of a few million kronor for services rendered when Henrik dangles the promise of information that will nail Wennerström. Blomkvist takes the job, though his long-time lover and partner at their magazine Erika Berger is not happy about the development. Meanwhile, Salander is getting a raw deal when her legal guardian, Holger Palmgren, ends up hospitalized, and his duties are taken over by Advokat Nils Bjurmen. The man now has control of her finances and her life, so to speak, and is vicious, cruel and nasty, and Salander misjudges the extent of his sadism. She is intent on teaching the man a lesson as well as regaining control of her own life and finances again.

Blomkvist is hard at work on the mystery of Harriet as well as the Vanger chronicle, and later when he makes a breakthrough on the ancient case that nobody expected to happen, he needs a research assistant. Naturally, Frode suggests Salander and the two of them become remarkably close, as close as anything Salander would ever allow. Harriet was researching something when she went missing, and it seems she was onto hunting down a violent psychopath that was brutally raping and murdering women. Soon, though, pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place in rapid succession, and the two race against the clock to solve a mystery that is decades old, though undertones seem to have seeped into the present, and many times after Harriet’s death.

Blomkvist learns many things about Salander, and keeps the fact that she is a brilliant computer hacker to himself. A semblance of trust seems to develop between the two, seeing as he knows more about her than Salander has ever let anyone in on. Will Blomkvist and Salander solve the mysteries surrounding the brutalized women over decades? Will they find out what truly happened to Harriet Vanger? Will Blomkvist get what he needs from Henrik to finally take Wennerström down once and for all, without burning sources or facing another court case?

GRADE 8The book was most certainly captivating, and demanded your attention at any and all possible moments. It was intense, it was interesting and it was, most importantly, exceptionally intelligent. It is very seldom that you find a mystery novel that demands to be read and insists on being sorted into a wholly new category from any other type. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo simply claims that, and so it is granted. When I was first given the books to read, I will admit that the titles put me off, and matters were not helped when I saw that they were translated from Swedish (translated books never seem to work as well as they do in their intended and original language), but this one begged for more. The prose flowed beautifully and it was incredibly well written – it was gritty, it was fast, it was raw. I can only imagine how stunning it must have been in its original tongue. Stieg Larsson is a writer to be respected, and it is heartbreaking that he is not around to present to us more in the series, but I will be eternally grateful that we got some insight as to what he could do. Amazing book, great debut novel, and high up on my “to read list” if you have not experienced these books.

Millennium Trilogy

This is one of the true beauties of the modern age. Stieg Larsson blew my mind to shreds with this series, and I am so sad that we will never really know how it ends. The literary genius has passed, but not before we got three of some of the greatest novels I have ever read.

When I first saw the rage hitting the shelves, I will admit, I did judge a book by its cover. I was not impressed with the designs (below) and the titles did not ring brilliance to me. I was convinced they were some cheap cock and bull romance novels, and gave it a skip. But then my friend’s grandmother pointed out that I would be a fool to miss out on something so amazing if I did not take the books from her. Oh well, what could I lose?

I borrowed the book from her exclusively to use as a break between studying for the weekend I was working at the guest house. I don’t really watch television, so when I take a break, it is to fictitious pages totally non-related to the studies. I gradually came to that part in the road where I desperately needed a break. Grudgingly I brought out The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and opened to the initial pages in the book. I read that it was penned by a Swede (definitely not the issue), and that the book was translated. This for me is a really big no-no. Not only did the books not look appealing, it was a translated works. I prefer to read in native English, as meaning and description often gets misconstrued and lost when one tries to translate.

This time, I was wrong on so many fronts. I sat down, and read the book that day, finished it, every glorious morsel that was presented to me. I totally forgot about my studies (good thing I had awhile to go before the paper, and no more books to distract me the following day!). I rushed to get hold of the two remaining parts to what I thought was a trilogy (and now, sadly, will only ever be such). I read the The Girl Who Played With Fire like a demon, lapping up the stunning prose, the intensity of the characters and the story, the twists that came, the danger that was almost tangible. This man wrote with a flair I had not encountered in an exceptionally long time. He wrote with passion. I was impressed. I then found that Stieg Larsson had passed a few years before, and I was shocked. How could such a great author lie dormant and then pass, before his peak? His work only caught on overseas when it was translated, obviously, and a lifetime to spread in my country (dammit, we really are so behind). But I do not regret finding the Millennium Trilogy, it was one of the more ingenious works I have encountered in a long time.

Upon my discovery of such a great loss, I read the final installment, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest, painfully slowly. I wanted to savour it, stretch it out for as long as was humanly possible. That lasted me a week. I caved, eventually, and just had to know what was coming.

If you have not indulged in these novels, I suggest you do. I believe that everyone should experience this story at least once in their lives, whether you are into this genre or not.

What were your thoughts on the Millennium Trilogy?