THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO: A REVIEW
There must be half a dozen people out there who have not yet read Stieg Larsson’s trio: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Here’s my take on them:
The protagonists in all three books are a middle-aged man and a young woman, contemporary Swedes living in Stockholm. Blomkvist is a journalist, prominent and successful, dogged, determined, clever, highly ethical. A worthy hero. (The Swedish version of the movie is excellent; Blomkvist is played by a man who seems perfectly cast: not particularly handsome, but appealing.) Lisbeth is a puzzle. Gradually, over the three books, the reader is clued in to what has turned her in to such a cipher, but one suspects she would have been quirky anyway. Blomkvist speculates she has a touch of Aspergers. They are lovers, briefly, but this is not a love story. It’s a mystery/thriller.
The plot is dense and complex. The characters are wonderfully complicated. There are some interesting bad guys and plenty of mystery. These are engaging books, and I am particularly intrigued by Lisbeth. The best pages are the ones with Lisbeth on them.
I have friends who didn’t like the books, and I can see why. The Swedish names and place names are hard going and the author seems to think we need to know on what street every action takes place and how you take this unpronounceable street to that unpronounceable avenue to reach an unpronounceable destination. Even if the place names were in English, I’d find that much detailed information tedious. The setting, Stockholm and a smaller village some hours away, are interesting. Can’t say I’ve read anything else set in that time and place.
I do recommend the first two books. Even while I was grousing about the slow pace and the proliferation of street names, I couldn’t stop reading. Lisbeth is unique and fascinating. The third book, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, I can’t recommend. My reading buddies and I wonder if Larsson, who had planned 10 books in this series and who died after writing only three of them, was either too ill or perhaps just not yet finished with the Hornet’s Nest before he died. It seems rough, like a draft not yet ready for publication. It does, however, finish the revelations about Lisbeth’s background, which you’ll be itching to know.
There is an American movie version of the first book which I haven’t seen but my friend Jane says is very good. I believe there is already a Swedish version of Book 2, which I am eager to find. The movie is of course quicker and easier to digest than the book.
So let’s come up with some stars. I’d give the first two books four stars, maybe four and a half. I’m withholding the full five because of the pacing and tedious bits. The Hornet’s Nest, not nearly as good, but still I had to finish it. Three stars.