Sunday, March 07, 2010

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

Vintage Trade Paper, 2009
ISBN: 978-0307454546
608 pages

From's review:

Once you start The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there's no turning back. This debut thriller . . . is a serious page-turner . . .

From the blurb whores:

What a cracking novel! I haven’t read such a stunning thriller debut for years.
—Minette Walters

As vivid as bloodstains on snow.
–Lee Child

First published in September 2008, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is still on the bestseller list.

As I sit here inserting book hype, I seriously wonder what the hell book I read with the same title, cover, and author. With ghosts of The da Vinci Code still haunting me, it feels like déjà vu all over again.

I am a seasoned mystery and thriller reader, or I should say I was: at 600 pages, the book’s length should have tipped me off that it was too long by half—the first half, to be exact. Description, description, talk, talk, yammer, yammer—you get the idea. If the book had been edited and pared down to 300 pages, then this would have been a good book.

Story-wise, Mikael Blomkvist is a disgraced financial journalist hired by Henrik Vanger, retired scion of a family-owned industrial conglomerate, to solve the disappearance of his niece Harriet nearly 40 years ago. To say that Henrik is obsessed with Harriet is an understatement. To say that the Vanger clan, all of whom except one live on an island north of Stockholm, are misfits all, is a double understatement.

Mikael not only has Harriet’s story told to him in detail by Vanger, but then we, the reader, get to go through it all again as Mikael reads 40 years-worth of binders compiled by the old man. Mikael cannot come up with clue one, and he needs help badly.

Enter Lisbeth Salander, 24, the young woman with the dragon tattoo, body piercings, and a brilliant but very troubled mind. She is a computer hacker extraordinaire, a keen observer, and she is the one who gets the story finally rolling.

I had other, more serious problems with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in addition to bloatation. There are many more characters than I’ve mentioned, but Larsson didn’t create even one that I could give a fig about. To me, they were merely paper characters on a paper page. Lisbeth had the potential to be fascinating, but Larsson only gave hints here and there to her “trouble.” A ward of the state at age 24? Why? Beats me.

Once the story starts to take off, Larsson commits the sin of coincidence. Serious, Dickens-type coincidence that is difficult if not impossible to believe. Larsson resorts to computer jargon and programming that is also difficult to believe and understand. Lisbeth may be a computer wunderkind, but this was over-the-top stuff.

I strongly believe that Larsson was a misogynist. Women are sex objects (including Mikael’s best friend and married boss), there is rape, incest, and torture, white slavery by Vanger’s nemesis Wennerstrom, and Lisbeth performs oral sex on her Ward so she can receive her money allotment. The only “pure” woman in the book, according to old Vanger, is his beloved Harriet.

I give the book 3 out of 5 stars: 2 for Larsson writing it and 1 for me reading it, but then I have to deduct my 1 star for falling for the hype, again, so the revised total is 2 out of 5 stars. And forget about me reading the other two books in the trilogy. Fool me once, fool me twice . . .

[Please remember that this is my opinion only; your results may differ at home.]


Kevin Musgrove said...

Interesting: a couple of our reading groups have read this and came up with similar (or even ruder!) comments. Ladies of a certain age don't mind a bit of grit or filth but they have no patience for blather.

Wandering Coyote said...

You took out the "dragon and on" part of the original post (which came up on Google Reader). That was great!

I will give this a miss, though...

LOL - word verification = "readors"

TechnoBabe said...

Glad to hear your comments on this book, I had it on my next list to get from Amazon.

Hannah Stoneham said...

Great review - thanks for sharing - i have been wondering whether I should read this for a while because it is *everywhere* - but maybe not!


Pat said...

I'm quite relieved you didn't seduce me into reading this as I have two in waiting having been waylaid by a gripping book which appeared from nowhere. How does that happen?

savannah said...

i loved this book and the second, the girl who played with fire and i almost bought the third and final part of his trilogy from the uk, but decided i'd wait until it hit the usa. i visualized this book a i read it, maybe that's what he wanted, a movie deal, i don't know. as a mystery it was complicated, but that was part of the backstory and also, part of the other character, the country. i will admit i did come to the book knowing that it was part of a trilogy and that the other had died after completing the final installment. for me, this series isn't high literature, it's pure entertainment. it does no harm to the genre or the reader, but simply entertains for a moment. this is one trilogy that will make a good movie, sugar! xoxoxo

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Are you going for some kind of sainthood? Continuing to read the entire thing when the first half was so bloated? You are a trooper.

Lady_Amanda said...

Thanks again for reviewing a book. You saved me the trouble of reading a book that I would not particulary care for. It sounds like a VERY big book to waste ones time on if it has all those weird things in it that you said it does. So thank you.

Tiffin said...

oh no, the sin of bloat. Thanks for taking the hit for the team with this one, Charlie. I'll give it a pass.

laytonwoman3rd said...

I started this one some time ago, and gave up. I admire your persistence. I recently tried to read Jar City by that Indridason person. Gave up on that one too. The characters didn't even seem interested in themselves, so why should I bother? I guess I'm not destined to become a fan of ice-culture fiction.

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

Wow Charlie -
I will be taking this one off my list. :)

I generally try to stay away from the really big sellers.. and if the guys a misogynist...definitely in the out pile.