Sunday, December 26, 2010

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo 
by Stieg Larsson

Published: 2008
Synopsis (GoodReads): Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues.

--May contain spoilers--

I was swayed in two directions before I started reading this book. On the one hand I had my mum and sister telling me how poorly they thought of it, an opinion I respect because of the 1000s of crime novels my mum has read, and on the other hand there were the shining recommendations by authors I respect and other people (i.e. bloggers) that I've come to respect. I tried to keep this out of mind but when I started I couldn't help thinking that I should really enjoy this book because of the positive reviews it had received, and I felt like maybe I was missing something because I did not like it. Well not until 300+ pages in.

I found those first 300 pages hard to wade through. The writing was clunky, although that may a problem with the translation, there was tonnes that should have been cut out or edited down and I really had no emotional connection to any of the characters until Salander and Blomkvist started working together. Before that there were moments that caught my interest but overall it was a lot of work to force myself to keep going and finish the novel.

I like the premise of the disgraced journalist hired to do an internal family investigation and I like Salander's character as an eccentric and deeply disturbed PI (I refuse to associate her as Autistic, I think that was an error on Blomkvist's part) and as the story continued I grew to really respect and invest in their characters but it took far too long, especially in the first book of a trilogy spouted as being 'The best crime novels of all time'.

In other reviews I've read on GoodReads people have made excuses for the clunky writing saying because this is in the crime genre it doesn't need to be perfect. I'm sorry but I'm going to call bullshit!! That just goes back to the post I wrote the other day, it isn't allowed to be crappy just because it's genre fiction. There are some fantastic crime writers who do not make the same errors that Larsson does in his novel, which ultimately I'd conclude as being a rather amateur mistake of ignoring the golden literary rule Show don't tell. Larsson tells everything, he didn't let me gather anything about Slander's character by myself, instead I had it pushed down my throat exactly what she looked like half a dozen times and her inability to trust and her dislike of this and blah blah blah, her internal narration was not interesting enough to sustain that kind of flow of reveals. It was much better when you simply looked at her actions or through Blomkvist's eyes.

Finally I think the end of the novel petered on to long, after the resolution of the mystery and the action against Wennerstrom it should have finished quicker, instead we had to wander around with Salander again while she thought over her relationship with Blomkvist. I could have been quite happy if I'd stopped reading at page 520 or so. It was too much of a wrap up, 'oh we haven't heard from the original informant in awhile, let's have him send a christmas message', and 'let's have one final meeting with Vander where we'll discuss every percentage owned by the family and what outcome that'll achieve'.

Overall the mystery wasn't bad, in fact I quite enjoyed sifting through the red herrings which is one of the best parts of reading crime fiction, but a terrific middle doesn't excuse a terrible beginning and end. I think this book had the potential to be much better but ultimately I feel the same way I do about Twilight, that someone should have taken Meyer and Larsson's hands and taught them how to show, not tell and how to be a little ruthless and just chop away the unnecessary chunks of text. In both cases I think a much better book is hidden in the rubbish that has been left. I don't know if I'll read the rest in the series, I hate to start a series and not finish it, but I really don't think I can manage to get through another two of these books. Maybe I'll just watch the movies instead.

Rating: 2.5/5


  1. Your review is very interesting, expecially your comments about the style. I read it both in French and in English and I prefered the French version because of the style (which is not usually the case ;) )

    I personally liked it althogu the beginning is (quite) slow but I understand why you don't

    Happy reading and blogging!

    Lara Emilie @

  2. This was such a difficult read for me because I really wanted to like it, but I just couldn't get into it. I've come to like the movies quite a bit, but mostly because they edit down a lot of the extraneous details and its a much more streamlined story. I might revisit it sometime to see if my feelings have changed now that the hype for them has died down some.



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