Several years ago, I watched both film adaptations of Stieg Larsson’s book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I loved them. It was only natural that at that point, I told myself I would read the book. As all bibliophiles like myself know our to-be-read piles are constantly growing, and sometimes we tend to add books to it faster than we’ll ever read them. The result of that is, ultimately, we don’t get around to the books we really want to read, because there are just too many of them. That was precisely the case with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo until I found it at one of my local thrift stores. It might have been the library too, I really don’t recall. I do know that I paid no more than a dollar for my copy, and it is undoubtedly the best dollar I have ever spent.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an utterly enthralling crime thriller, centered around Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist convicted of libel, Lisbeth Salander, a ward of the government with a penchant for hacking, and the age-old mystery of what happened to Harriet Vanger: a daughter of the prominent Vanger family that went missing in 1966 and is presumed to have been murdered. Filled to the brim with corporate corruption, misogynistic views, and sharp twists that could not be done justice by the films, Larsson has undoubtedly woven a masterpiece – one that I was unable to put down until the last page was read. I mean that quite literally, as I didn’t go to bed until after five this morning.
It’s not very often that a book snares me so strongly that I cannot stop myself from turning its pages, and the way in which this one sunk its claws into me has not happened in a very, very long time. The plot is complicated and filled with dead ends, but every single bit of information is also vital to the progression of the story. At first read, that might sound a bit contradictory, and in a way it truly is. When Blomkvist is hired by the aging Henrik Vanger to look into Harriet’s disappearance, he is given a cold case with no open leads. Each and every time he finds something promising, it fails to work out. In many cases, this is not an easy style to pull off. Other books that have created this sense of hopelessness have largely succeeded in boring me half to death, and in some cases I’ve dropped them.
When it comes to the characters in a book, the way in which they are written can easily make or break the story. Extreme distaste, in some cases, can lead to difficulty in finishing a book for some readers, while others loath the so-called “Mary Sue” character. In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Larsson’s characters are part of relationships that are largely unconventional, especially to the mind of a girl raised in the conservative Southern United States and. The interaction that results from these relationships help to drive the story forward by not only introducing the reader to a wide range of characters, but by also providing those characters, some of which are deeply flawed, with an impressive amount of depth.
While some of the content is, without a doubt, sensitive material for some readers, Larsson also uses The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as an opportunity to highlight statistics on sexual assault in Sweden, and for that I must give him props. Even in America, there is a lack of seriousness when it comes to allegations of rape and, more recently, things tend to get brushed under the rug, for lack of a better term, if the perpetrator of the crime has any reputation that could be deemed worthwhile. It is a disgusting, dehumanizing way of treating a very real issue, and Larsson hones in on this while simultaneously creating a very strong, independent heroine that readers like myself can relate to, sometimes unfortunately so.
The next book is definitely on my to-read list, but I don’t know when I’ll get around to it. Hopefully, I’ll be fortunate enough to cross it on one of my thrift-shopping trips. It was most definitely worth my sleepless night.