The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a huge 500 page opus, multi-layered, multi-character tale by a writer of some considerable power. Full of social conscience and compassion, with considerable insight into the nature of moral corruption, it just knocked me out. This book took over my life this weekend, as when I was away from the narrative I became grumpy and desperate to return to the story, such is the power of this work.
I read it in two sittings, with the final stint a five hour marathon of arm-strain and strong coffee that took me into the very early hours of the morning. It was 4am when my eyes finally surrendered despite my mind being still being locked into this tremendously atmospheric crime novel When I put the book down I was unable to sleep as my head was filled with the high-definition world that Larsson had crafted, and Reg Keeland translated from the Swedish language. The book drained me emotionally but also filled me with emotion.
I consider this novel to feature as one of the greatest crime-fiction novels I have ever read. Even if the English translation is not released until 10th January 2008, I think this could be the crime-fiction novel of 2008. No mean boast considering that this is the first book I have read that has a 2008 release date.
The most interesting aspects of this novel are the vast array of characters that Larsson populates the story with, as well as unfamiliar landscape which captivates the reader as the tale unravels to an unexpected and chilling solution. The two main characters that bring this tale to life are the disgraced journalist and publisher Mikael Blomkvist and his partner, the enigmatic and deeply troubled Lisbeth Salander. I feel that these two characters will soon join the pantheon of greatest crime-fiction characters that populate the genre at its apex. It is obvious that Larsson is very well read in the genre as his investigator Blomkvist reads Sue Grafton, Val McDermid and Elizabeth George while the novel follows and mixes aspects of the sub-genres. We have a splash of Courtroom Drama at the opening when Blomkvist loses a libel case brought by corrupt Swedish industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerstrom which has serious repercussions for the Magazine Millennium?s future [where Blomkvist acts as publisher]. Then we have the Private Eye strand which comes in the shape of the fourty year-old case of missing teenager Harriet Vanger from an isolated island on a desolate part of Sweden.
Mikael Blomkvist is hired by wealthy 82-year old Henrik Vanger, the former CEO of the Vander Corporation to uncover what happened to the teenage Harriet who vanished four decades ago under mysterious circumstances at a family reunion. Then we have the blending of a locked-room mystery, as the island on that fateful day was cut-off due to a road-tanker crash on the only bridge that connects the inhabitants to the mainland. Henrik Vanger believes that Harriet [his brother?s grand-daughter] was murdered by one of his family members, as the island was cut-off from the mainland when Harriet vanished. As Blomkvist is in disgrace due to losing his libel defense; he decides to take the Vanager case as the old man offers him not only to help the financially strapped Millennium Magazine, but also the promise to give Blomkvist information to prove Wennerstrom is corrupt. And so begins this tortured tale of family secrets, evil and compassion that takes the protagonists from a desolate Swedish island during a frigid winter, to London and then to Australia. Soon both Blomkvist and Salander find themselves both hunter and hunted and it will take all of their combined skills to untangle themselves from the evil that surrounds the course of events that shaped the Vanger clan. We also get a techno-thriller element with Salander?s skills and contacts in the computer hacking community, and finally what would a crime novel be without serial killing and horrific torture? Despite all these conventions, Larsson makes them fresh in a blend that is as mesmerizing as it is insightful into human motivations.
I strongly suggest that you investigate the world of Stieg Larsson ? as his work sits right at the top of the genre.
Ali Karim, Assistant Editor - Shots Magazine
Submitted: 9 Mars 2010