The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is one of those books that I didn’t know about until it was super-popular. Operating under the assumption that if it was so mainstream, it couldn’t be that good, I had pretty much resolved on not reading it—even before I read a less-than-flattering article about the trilogy on Slate.com (caution: lots of spoilers, especially about The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest). But my roommate happened to have it with her this year, and asked me to pick up the second installment in the trilogy at that book sale a few weeks ago—and I thought, I have plenty of free time, why not?
The story begins with journalist Mikael Blomkvist getting sentenced to three months in prison for libel. Out of the blue, he’s hired by Henrik Vanger to find out what happened to his niece, Harriet Vanger—who disappeared thirty-six years before. Blomkvist, initially skeptical, eventually gets caught up in the mystery, and hires Lisbeth Salander, a genius computer hacker, to be his research assistant. What they uncover turns out to be much darker than they could have ever imagined, but someone in the Vanger clan doesn’t want them to discover the truth, and will go to any length to stop them.
When I started reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I didn’t expect to be impressed. And, in truth, I really wasn’t overly impressed with the quality of the prose, but the level of detail was astounding, especially about finance (Blomkvist was imprisoned for the libel of a well-known financier). I also know nothing about finance, so any level of detail would have impressed me, but Larsson was very in-depth about all of it, even though most of his readers probably have little to no knowledge of finance, like me.
The storyline was also good, though rather slow for almost the first half of the book. Even at the climax, there wasn’t a lot of buildup, and when it was over I felt a little bit like, “So that was it?” It had me curious to find out what had happened, don’t get me wrong, but the anticipation just wasn’t there as much as it had been in other crime thrillers I’ve read.
One thing I do have to say, even though it’s obvious to anyone familiar with the book, is that Lisbeth Salander is badass. I know that’s basically the point of the book, and no one who’s read it would disagree, but it’s still worth saying. Four-foot-eleven and less than ninety pounds, she nevertheless doesn’t take any crap from anyone and defends herself at any cost. She doesn’t apologize to anyone, nor will she ask for help. Severely emotionally damaged, she won’t let herself get close to anyone, and rebukes any efforts others make to befriend her. This is her failing, but I have hope—especially since I’ve now begun The Girl Who Played With Fire—that she will eventually heal.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a lot better than I expected, and I have to admit it: I’m hooked. I’ve officially added the remaining two books in the trilogy to my list. 🙂