Series: Millennium #1
Published by Quercus on June 14th 2008
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
A murder mystery, family saga, love story, and a tale of financial intrigue wrapped into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.
Harriet Vanger, scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families, disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was probably one of the most hyped thrillers in the last decade. All in all, it was a good book but it wasn’t mind-blowing, and most of all, it was gross. Please be aware that this thriller features graphic rape, violence, and gory scenes. And I think my brain might have just gotten an overdose (this calls for a herbal tea and a warm bath). Stieg Larsson is not an author for the faint-hearted, let me tell you that.
So, this is how I pictured Larsson to have been like while happily hammering his fingers into his keys: “Do I want to focus on corporate fraud, murder, or rape? Can’t make up my mind. Oh to hell with it all, I’ll just tie all of those up into one knot.” Did this recipe work, you ask? Well, partially.
The book starts off as a borefest with a slow, slow, slow start. If it hadn’t been for all those deliriously fanatic reviews praising Larsson’s work, I would’ve given up on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo after four chapters. Alas, I couldn’t bring myself to care for his writing style. His writing is extremely tedious and feeds you with a pile of redundant info-dump, an overdose of adjectives, and endless descriptions during the first half. Like, who the heck cars if the taxi driver’s name is Hussein if he appears in one paragraph only? To make matters worse, there is the frantic skipping between points of view. Albeit keeping the general overview of what was simultaneously happening, this irked me immensely. With crime fiction, the reader is especially dependent on a clear line of events to keep their head together, but this book couldn’t provide that at all.
As mentioned, there is a frequent use of extremely graphic violence, including sexual abuse. This books contains one of the most disgusting rape scenes I’ve ever read. The repulsive scenes reached a limit where I started to ask myself what kind of a person Stieg Larsson must have been to have even thought of something like this. Like, this gorey shit came out of his brain, ok? I’m going to go with “not normal” here, folks. Just to make it clear once again: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is horror house meets sadomaso-like abuse meets incest/rape within a family meets God knows what. This is what you’re getting yourself into if you pick this up. You’ve been warned.
Now, this is probably the point at which you’re starting to wonder how this book even earned 3 stars, right? In spite of my complaints, Larsson is extremely talented at spinning webs of mystery, intrigue, and plot twists. However, the major plus is Lisbeth Salander, a highly unusual, fleshed out, and thus interesting character. Salander kicks some serious ass. She’s a complex figure with a rough past, appears both weak and powerful at the same time. She has obviously been scarred by her upbringing but she knows exactly how to stand her ground. While I read the chapters featuring Blomkvist and Vanger with mild interest, my brain switched to full alertness whenever Salander entered a scene. Without Salander in the picture, I’m not sure whether this story would’ve captivated me.
Lisbeth Salander, hobby detective and self-proclaimed badass, and the well constructed mystery is the sole reason to pick up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That Salander inspired the title of this thriller should tell you enough abouther importance at making the book as “good” as it is. While I cannot discredit this book as bad, there is some highly problematic content and the writing irked me a lot. Honestly, if I could give quarter stars, I’d probably give this a 2.75 rather than a 3, yet 2.5 would seem too low. Rating struggles right here. Shit is real.
This book was first published in Swedish in 2005. The title “Män som hatar kvinnor” (which means “Men who hate women”) should tell you enough about the nature of this book. And every other publisher – be it in Dutch, Spanish, or Portugese – stuck with the meaning of the title, but “Men who hate women” obviously wasn’t considered a selling title in English-speaking countries. I wonder why?