Review time: The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo


 I am probably going to spoil the shit out of this book, and every other book I ever review, so if you haven’t read that then don’t read this (unless your don’t plan to read that anyway and just love reading irrelevant info. ).

I have heard about The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson for years.  The thing has sold more than 15 million copies; I’d have to be dead to not have heard of it.  However, I’d always avoided it.  For some reason, anything set in Scandinavia brings to mind sparsely furnished apartments, Ingmar Bergman films, bleak month-long nights, thin blondes dressed in black, beatnik mock-turtlenecks reading the Swedish version of Sylvia Plath and eating Lutefisk.

Ok, I’ve never personally tried Lutefisk.  Who I am I to say that jellied fish is disgusting….

The ridiculous thing is that I’ve even BEEN to Scandinavia and know that it is not these things at all, but for whatever reason, when I find out a story takes place above the North Sea, there is a small hurdle that I need to get over before I’m willing to give it a chance: whether it’s Wallandar, Insomnia, or The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, part of me walks in not wanting to like the story (and all of the works I mentioned, I like very much).  I know it is probably just some sort of deep seeded prejudice that’s swimming around in my psyche, and I just need to get over myself.  Who knows…maybe my mom  burned me with a hot peice of kladdkaka when I was a toddler and I’ve never gotten over it.

Anyway, I started reading the book last week.  I’m not going to get too much into the plot.  I’ll try to sum it up in a paragraph or so.

Two main characters.

Mikael Blomkvist: a 45 year old journalist who takes a leave of absence from his job as editor of a local magazine when he’s convicted of libel.  He is offered, what seems to be, a very cushy job working on a rich old man’s autobiography for a large amount of money and finds himself wrapped up in a web of murder and deceit that goes back more than 40 years.

Lisbeth Salander: 24 year old, tattoo and piercing laden, socially inept computer hacking and investigatory genius who gets hired to help with Blomkvist’s research (After a bunch of other stuff happens that I’m not going to bother going into).

They snoop.  They get chased.  They do some chasing.  She gets raped.  She does some raping.  He has affairs with his boss.  He has an affair with a potential suspect.  They have an affair with each other.  He gets shot at.  He gets captured.  She saves him.  They catch the bad people.  He likes her.  She falls in love with him.  She decides to tell him.  She sees him with his boss-lover and leaves without telling him shit.  The end.

There it is.   Now you don’t have to bother reading it if you haven’t already

The book starts slowly.  Not trudging through mud slow, but it’s a nice leisurely pace that feels like a stroll in the park.  You’re not too invested yet but it’s still nice and pleasant.   Even the crime that’s being investigated is 40 years old, and nobody in the book really cares about it but this one, lonely old rich man.

Instead of there being a big shocker (like a body in the Louvre with one hand pointing to the Mona Lisa and the other around his tool so he can jerk off all over the reader’s intelligence), the pace in this book just slowly increases.  So, slowly you hardly notice it.  At Mid-afternoon, you’re giving it a casual read and can really take it or leave it.  Around dinner time, you suggest that the kids be allowed to watch a movie while they eat dinner so you can keep reading.  By midnight, you’re beyond caring how late you will be up or how tired you will be the next day because you have to know how this thing ends.

All in all, I give it a 8.1 on the mystery novel scale.  I had guessed who dunnit long before the end, although the way they got there was unexpected.  All in all, it was one of the best structured and most enjoyable mystery novels I’ve read in awhile…and I’ve read quite a few since the book I’m working on now is a mystery of sorts.

Now, a bit about the writer.  I read up on him a bit and was saddened to learn that he dropped dead before this thing ever got published.

Steigg Larsson was an journalist and an activist; and I don’t mean the kind of activist that throws fundraisers and holds a picket sign every now and again.  I mean the kind that goes to Eritrea and helps train a bunch of guerrillas how to use grenade launchers.  He spent a career as a journalist fighting racism and intolerance in his home country and he was a woman’s rights advocate.  He apparently also had a hard time holding down a steady job and stuck mostly to freelance work.  I doubt he had too much scratch stuffed away under his mattress.

There are 3 books in the Millennium series and so far they’ve sold 27 million copies worldwide and the guy dropped dead of a heart attack at 50, after climbing 7 flights of stairs and before seeing the first book published.

I think it sucks that a even a crazy like Van Gogh didn’t get to enjoy some of the fruits of his labor.  The fact that this seemingly stand-up guy didn’t get to take daily money baths in all of dough his books have made is a travesty.  And the fact that the woman he lived with for 30 years (but never married) gets nothing while the guy’s brother and father, whom he barely spoke to, are at home giving each other kroner massages, is almost as sad.  It seems that good people always get the dick.  Thank god I’m a jerk….

In writing news:

There isn’t any.  I did nothing last night but read.  I read 62% of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo and 16% of The Girl Who Played with Fire.  I went to bed after 2:00am.  I’m tired.

Tonight I will probably not be writing either.  I have gotten notes back on my spec script from that friend of mine.  Very good notes: Thanks Harwellicus.  So, I will be retooling my Hollywood machine tonight instead of pounding out any towering literary achievements.

P.S.  I guess that negative reference to The DaVinci Code was a bit harsh.  I read it and think it’s an ok book…except for the prose.

Published in: on August 3, 2011 at 8:52 am  Comments (3)  
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