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Book review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

January 21, 2011
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo came to me highly recommended from a trusted friend so I was looking forward to starting, and enjoying, the book. After I was about 100 pages into this long novel I decided that everyone deserves a do-over and I pardoned my friend. I didn’t have the heart to drop the book, so I trudged along and about half-way through, the story eventually picked up to the point where I was no longer bored.

There’s a lot gong on in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and it takes a long time for the story to go anywhere. Very briefly, Henrik Vanger is an elderly Swedish businessman who, for the last 40-some years, has been receiving an anonymous gift of a framed flower on his birthday. The gift is postmarked from different cities and countries around the world and Vanger believes the gift coincides in some way with his grand-niece, Harriet, who mysteriously disappeared just before the annual birthday presents started arriving.

Obsessed with his grand-niece’s disappearance, Vanger has spent years trying to solve the mystery. Unsuccessful and faced with his own mortality, Vanger hires disgraced journalist and magazine publisher Mikael Blomkvist to look into the mystery under the ruse of writing a history of the Vanger family. Did I mention there’s a very large Vanger family? So large that it required a family tree at the front of the book to keep track of them all? Eventually Blomkvist joins with Lisbeth Salander, an emotionally scarred computer hacker who works for a security firm and is the tattooed titular character, and together – as Blomkvist sleeps his way through all the female characters in the story – the two of them begin to inch slowly toward the truth. Yes, there’s a link between Salandar, the security firm and Blomkvist, but it’s not relevant to my comments.

Basically this is a locked room mystery without any of the mystery or charm of a locked room mystery. There are subplots involving a corrupt businessman and sexual abuse that I thought took away from the basic mystery and I found the English translation awkward at times. For the most part, I found all of the characters – and there are a lot of them in this book – unlikeable. There are a lot of place references in the story and I think a reference map would have been nice.

Finally, the thing that I couldn’t stop focusing on while reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is that characters in this book drink a lot of coffee. In fact characters don’t really do anything in this book without drinking coffee and they drink so much coffee that I frequently felt like I had to go to the restroom while reading.

I give my friend a do-over on this one and I would only recommend this book to someone else after telling them I didn’t think it lived up to the hype.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2011 12:28 pm

    You should be writing for a magazine. This is an excellent review.
    The premise is intriguing-receiving something anonymous for 40 years.
    I am reading a novel by author Amy Tan called Saving Fish from Drowning. Have you heard of it? The reviews are about 50-50 some hate it and some love it. The title was intriguing to me. It is also a mystery of sorts. I’m not quite sure what the title has to do with the story yet. You might find this interesting: saving Fish from drowning: it hides man explained to his followers “it is evil to take lives and Noble to save them. Each day I pledge to save 100 lives. I drop my net in the lake and scoop out 100 fishes. I placed the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl. ‘Don’t be scared,’ I tell those fishes. ‘I am saving you from drowning’. Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still. Yet, sad to say, I am always too late. The fishes expire. And because it is evil to waste anything, I take those dead fishes to market and sell them for a good price. With the money I receive, I buy more nets so I can save more fishes.”


  2. January 21, 2011 12:31 pm

    I use voice-activated software so sometimes it doesn’t understand what I say and I don’t proofread well all the time! The sentence above:You might find this interesting: saving Fish from drowning: it hides *It hides* should say *A pious*!


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      January 30, 2011 11:35 am

      I’ve never heard of this book but I was just reading some reviews and it sounds interesting. I wonder if the reviews are split because this is a different type of book for her and maybe the people who didn’t like it are reacting to that difference?


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