Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Monday, May 10, 2010

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson

I have succumbed to peer pressure. This has got to be the book I've heard talked about the most, and from the most varied venues. I can't even tell you how many bloggers I've seen posting about it in recent weeks. I have studiously avoided reading all of those posts Just In Case. Partly, of course, to dodge spoilers, but also because I didn't want to have my experience with the book colored by the opinions of others. So, get ready for me to color your experience with it. (That is, if you haven't already read it, which somehow seems unlikely.)

The writing was a little awkward as I first began to read, but who knows, this may just have been due to the translation. (The book was originally written in Swedish). I imagine it is difficult to translate an author's words and intent while retaining their unique voice. I guess I will never know whether Larsson's own writing was as awkward as this English translation. But as I read, either the awkwardness disappeared, or I got so accustomed to it that I forgot about it (with occasional reminders by way of little words like "anon"--more than once!--and "alas".)

I'm not sure what exactly I expected of this book, but I hadn't realized it's basically a murder mystery novel, and I was pleasantly surprised when I figured this out. The book may not be as "literary" (or navel-gazing?) as I expected, but neither did it make me feel guilty for reading it. It was certainly not one of those brain-cell-killers, thank goodness.

This is the first mystery novel I've read in a long while that ranks well on my Agatha Christie scale, which would be my method of measurement for all murder mysteries, Christie's novels being the epitome of the genre in my opinion. I must note that this book definitely had more "contemporary" themes than a Christie mystery. (In this case, "contemporary" is a euphemism for nasty-minded.) I can't imagine Agatha Christie ever writing about anal plugs. Especially since I had never even heard of them myself, before reading this book. Well, you learn something new every day. That, by the way, is one of the reasons why I am marking this book as Not Suitable For My Mom. She doesn't need to know about anal plugs (or any of the rest of it, because it gets worse).

Deviant behavior aside, this was a truly engrossing story. The characters were well-written, unique but not unbelievably so, imperfect but still likable. The plot was tight and, for the most part, fast-paced. I loved that I found it unpredictable. (Although I did figure out Who She Was a page ahead of time--mainly just because there weren't any other options remaining). It wasn't exactly like a Christie book, in which I generally suspect every character in turn. But neither was it like a flawed mystery with the perpetrator as a surprise stranger that jumps out of nowhere at the end of the book. I also liked that the mystery kept rolling over into something new. You think it's solved, but wait! There's more! On the other hand, I didn't like that the book started and ended with blah blah blah finance blah blah blah industry. For me, the excitement ended about 60 pages before the book did. Not that I was completely bored by the dénouement, but it wouldn't have hurt my feelings if that whole section had been edited out.

Then the last two pages, ugh. Not that I should have expected a nice pat happily-ever-after ending with these characters. And honestly, with the way things were left, I think I am more interested in reading the next book in the trilogy. (Although I had already planned to, many pages previously). This is not because the end raised more questions that need to be answered in the next installment, but because the characters were true to form, and the unresolved conflict is sure to be interesting when it is addressed. But still, ugh. Any time you end up with Elvis* in the trash can it can't be good.

Now I'm off to read all those other bloggers' posts about this book which I have been evading until now!

*Don't worry--not the real Elvis, lest I be coloring your experience with the wrong hue.


Emidy said...

I love a good mystery novel, and this sounds perfect. I'll have to give it a shot!

Book Quoter said...

I really enjoyed this book. I remember that I picked it up blindly from the new books section in our library summer of 2009, for a trip and was surprised that it was a good book. I liked it because the heroine was so interesting. I've read all three books and am really sad that there will be no more books from the author. Spoiler alert: there may be more 'blah blah blah' for you on the third book.

Rachel said...

I really did love this book.. the second one is great as well. I can't wait til I can read the third (can't buy it til the covers match you know).

Kathy said...

Ooof, more blah blah blah doesn't sound encouraging. But as much as I enjoyed the first book, and as well-received as all three seem to be, I'm sure I'll probably read the other two at some point!

Amanda said...

I was a afraid you didn't like it after reading the beginning of your review. I am glad you did. Can't wait to read the next two!! Hopefully no more butt plugs and we can get through the blah blah blahs! Sometimes it freaks me out that you write what I was thinking after finishing the book!

Amanda said...

Did you know there is a movie of this book? I had no idea until it popped up as a new release in my Blockbuster account. I think it may have been too premature. Most of my friends are just reading it now or just finished reading it.
Hmm, I just looked, it is subtitled, maybe a Swedish production.

Kathy said...

Yes, I actually have it on my netflix queue but it's marked "very long wait" so it could be months before it arrives. It is Swedish and it was released more than a year ago. But of course Hollywood already has a remake in the works. says the remake won't come out until 2012 and that Daniel Craig is supposed to play Blomkvist.