The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

By Ekta R. Garg

June 13, 2012

Rated: Bypass it

A journalist sentenced for libel and a young female hacker with a dark past and troubled present make an unlikely team in this first book of the Millennium Trilogy by the late Stieg Larsson.  All three books in the trilogy were published after Larsson died and have won numerous awards.  In addition to the awards the books have received much acclaim from the reading public, although I would have to disagree with that public.

In the first book of the series, journalist Mikael Blomkvist finds himself sentenced for libel.  Despite writing a story in his magazine, Millennium, with the facts behind him, Blomkvist is unable to use any of his material in court and accepts the sentence handed down to him.  Along with the sentence comes much public ridicule and media hype, and Blomkvist finds himself wanting to hide from the world at large.

The parallel story of the other protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, reveals little about Salander’s past but, through her present, hints enough to let readers know she has serious problems.  Despite her problems, though, her brilliance with computers allows her to take a job with a security firm.  Her boss doesn’t know how she gets the information on their clients—no one knows Lisbeth’s a hacker—but despite her antisocial ways, Lisbeth’s boss feels protective towards her.

Lisbeth does research on Blomkvist for a client with a burning need for information: Henrik Vanger, the octogenarian head of the acclaimed Vanger family corporation, has spent more than half his life wondering about the whereabouts of his niece, Harriet.  Vanger is sure she is dead, but he has never been able to get to the bottom of her mysterious disappearance.  When Blomkvist decides on a self-imposed hiatus from Millennium, Vanger decides to employ him to find out the truth.

Before he can trust Blomkvist with all the darker details of the Vanger family, he wants to make sure Blomkvist is right for the job.  Lisbeth Salander steps in and digs up the details of Blomkvist’s life that no one else could possibly find and confirms Vanger’s gut instinct about Blomkvist.  As Blomkvist investigates the past of the Vanger family, he discovers secrets beyond anyone’s imagination but hits a roadblock.  When he requests the help of an assistant, Vanger puts him in touch with Lisbeth Salander and the two work their way through the remaining history toward the surprise ending.

A quick online search on the life of Stieg Larsson reveals he wrote the trilogy as a hobby.  Some sites state he had begun following through on plans to publish the books, but his death from a massive heart attack in 2004 prevented this from happening.  Nevertheless his partner and others took up the cause with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo making its appearance in 2005.  The Larsson storm began soon thereafter.

With the utmost of respect toward the late author, I honestly don’t feel all the attention bestowed on this first book was warranted.  The book’s plot seems simplistic, and the “big reveals” of the story—that Lisbeth is a hacker and the name of the main villains—don’t offer that dramatic punch normally reserved for stories with darker plots.  And despite the fact that the story eventually revolves around the work Lisbeth and Blomkvist do for Henrik Vanger, the two don’t meet until more than halfway through the story and uninitiated readers might become impatient for the impending encounter.

Keeping in mind all these issues and coupled with the dark nature of the crimes committed in the book, I really didn’t enjoy it all that much.  Yes, readers will get a sense of the lovely Swedish countryside, with a big chunk of the story taking place in a remote place outside of Stockholm, but the overarching themes of the story dim that loveliness.

When I read that acclaimed former literary agent-turned author Nathan Bransford also didn’t see the “big deal” in the book, I admit I sighed in relief.  He blogged about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and others in the following post:

I agree fully with this stance and have to say I don’t think I’d be able to recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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