Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson (2005)

Once upon a time this was a book blog. I can’t remember the last time I posted about a something I’ve read. (Just checked. Wow, August! It really has been a long time!) I’ve got a lot of catching up to do before I can compile my annual list of book recommendations–something I usually start to do around Thanksgiving. Yikes, that’s just around the corner!)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won’t be making my list this year. Someone (I can’t for the life of me remember who–just a scribbled note on a Post-It–was it you?) recommended this book to me a while ago and this past summer, when it came out in paperback, I was reminded that I had yet to read it. At one point, it seemed as if every sixth person I saw reading in public had their nose in Dragon Tattoo, so it came with a fair amount of expectation.

All in all I was disappointed. There were elements to it that detracted from my overall enjoyment, most notably the violence. There’s some fairly graphic and disturbing stuff in here, a major portion of which I thought was completely gratuitous to the main story. I won’t go into details for fear of giving anything away, but suffice it to say it’s one thing to provide psychological insight into a character and another to exploit the situation to create a jarring scene. (Movie adaptation, anyone? In fact, a Swedish version has already been done. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before Hollywood gets on board.)

Much of Dragon Tattoo seems written for the big screen, right down to the product placement. I began to wonder if Apple had sponsored Larsson’s writing, so many times does his specifically mention their products by name. And if this book is any indication, they drink a boatload of coffee in Sweden. Strangely, no brand names mentioned in that case but the author makes a point of mentioning every time characters offer each other and gather together over pots of coffee.

The crux of the story concerns a disgraced journalist who’s hired by a wealthy businessman to solve a forty-year-old missing persons case. Under the guise of researching a family history, the writer uncovers all sorts of skeletons in the closet as he searches for a supposed murderer. The page-turning murder mystery is wrapped within a tale of corporate intrigue, the weakest and least interesting part of the book. This is the hook that gets the writer to the remote island where he undertakes his sleuthing, but it made for a dull beginning and end to the story.

I also had trouble at times with the writing, particularly in the back and forth of dialog. Perhaps it was the translation into English, but I often found myself confused over exactly which character was speaking when.

I’m not sorry I read Dragon Tattoo and will probably pick up the sequel (which just came out this year, the second in a trilogy posthumously published after the author’s untimely death in 2004.) Dragon Tattoo was never boring and it made for a decent summertime read. I just wouldn’t recommend it to everyone.

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