Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a translated mystery by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson. It is the first of a trilogy, featuring Mikael Blomquist and Lisbeth Salander. He is a journalist, she is a dysfunctional amoral young woman whose only skills lie in investigating people, since socializing comes so difficult for her. They do not know each other at the beginning of the book, although she has investigated him through her work.

The mystery involves the Vander family, a Swedish industrial family who have made their fortune over the 20th century in various ventures. One of the younger Vangers went missing 40 years ago, and Blomquist is hired by her grandfather to find out if she is dead, because every year since her disappearance, the same kind of gift she used to give her grandfather, arrives for his birthday and he thinks the killer is taunting him. He wants to know if she is dead, and how.

This is a gritty Swedish mystery. It is also a love story, and about all kinds of love, and about relationships of all kinds. The best mysteries I find always involve the human heart. This book has heart, and plenty. It is also different because part of the story involves Mikael's public humiliation when he is found guilty of slander in an article he wrote on a mafia-like financier, and how he comes to believe in himself again and redeem himself. Lisbeth is his key. They make a very unusual detective team, their skills balancing one another's; they are good for one another.

It is unputdownable, literally. I read through lunch, through several Smallville episodes (we are working our way through Season one again as the kids search for something to watch in the evenings), through dinners, any time I could get last weekend was spent with this book. In fact, I read it through much of Sunday afternoon, finishing it blissfully on the sofa, enjoying the luxury of reading while the kids were awake.

I can't say enough about the characters, because they seemed so real, so life-like, that I always had the sense the conversation continued off the page, that the characters had a life away from the page, and we just got to see part of it. I really enjoyed getting to know all the various characters, and the Vanger family are numerous and exquisitely drawn, as are Mikael's colleagues and other secondary characters. As Mikael earns Lisbeth's trust, we come to know her better too. This is the story of how Mikael finds redemption and Lisbeth learns to trust. And it's about how the truth is never quite what we think it is. Unusually too this is a mystery about ethics, and I enjoyed this angle very much also.

The translation is so good that the book reads like it had been written in English! Only occasionally does something with a foreign understanding of our language slip in.

The mystery? This is part of what made the book so thrilling to read; it was so hard to put the book down. The mystery is dark, and very very bad. There are several layers of darkness in this book. Very good, very creepy, funny in places, and a lovely sense of some of Sweden outside of Stockholm.

I really enjoyed this book. I had think it is deserving of all the acclaim it has received. Highly recommended; just make sure you have some free time before you pick it up! 5/5

Other reviews:
Fyrefly's Book Blog
Literate Housewife Review
S. Krishna's Books

Today's ghost story from Bluenose Ghosts:
Mrs McGillivray of Marion Bridge, told of another strange ocurrence.
"One evening many years ago Uncle Neil was visiting us and I went to the windo to draw the blinds. I stood there for a moment looking out at the night, when I saw a light moving up by the apple trees. I said, "I think you're having a visitor. It must be someone carrying a lantern.' He said, "I must go." (Cape Bretoners are always considerate of visitors and would not dream of being away when a call was made.) I said, "No, don't go. I'm making the tea." (That too is a Cape Breton custom; they always make tea for their guests.) But he felt he should return home.
The next time we met he looked at me strangely and said, "Was that a trick you played on me the other night when you saw a light going up to my place?" I said, "No, I wouldn't do such a thing when you were out ceilidhing (visiting). Mother and I were so glad to have you ." When he arrived home that night he found no visitor there, nor had any of the neighbours called. That was October. December his daughter died. It was probably a forerunner of her casket, for it had looked like a light carried by a person on a wagon."


Bybee said...

Slowly but surely, I'm moving closer to getting this book. Wait, I think I can borrow it from a book club member. Thanks for the review!

Joanne said...

I have got to read Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Your review was terrific!

Love the Bluenose Ghost excerpt too. I'm going to read that book for RIP, love all Creightons stuff and it's especially creepy since it's all local stories.

Laughing Stars said...

Your review thoroughly piqued my interest! :-)

Kailana said...

I want to read this one of these days.

Table Talk said...

Oh just wait till you get to the second one! We were discussing them in Library Group on Tuesday and were all agreed (and that doesn't happen often, I can tell you) that brilliant though the first one is, the second is even better. The third one is due out here next month, I think and we are all salivating at the thought.

DesLily said...

wow i guess you liked this book with a 5 of 5 stars! lol.. love it when we enjoy books this much!

Sue F. said...

I loved this book too, and I am not usually into mysteries that much (except that I also loved Tanya French's 2 books that I have read). You wrote a very good review of it!

文章 said...