Saturday, February 19, 2011

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I picked up this book because I wondered what the fuss was about. I finished it last night. So, is all the fuss warranted? (Spoilers ahead)

Mystery is not my favorite genre. I've read a few, and the focus typically is on the whodunit plot with the characters left as more of an afterthought. In "Dragon Tattoo," Stieg Larsson turns the formula on its head. Financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and hacker Lisbeth Salander are, first and foremost, good characters who happen to be investigating a possible murder.

Larsson was at one time the editor in chief of a magazine, which means he knows his stuff when he writes about journalism. So many tales about journalists get the most simple stuff wrong. I especially love how Blomkvist rails against professional colleagues who act as a mouthpiece for the companies they cover instead of digging deeper for the real story. I love how the struggling Millennium magazine lives and dies by its advertisers. Such details grounded the novel for me.

The only aspect of the story I did not like was how women tended to throw themselves at Blomkvist for the simple reason that he treats them like human beings, like this is an unusual concept. Even the independent and antisocial Lisbeth literally jumps into his bed at the first opportunity. Is Blomkvist the only decent man in Sweden? Each of the novel's parts opens with a statistic on assault against women. The plot involves brutal violence toward women. Makes me wonder a little about Larsson's worldview.

So, back to the original question: Is the fuss warranted? Is "Dragon Tattoo" worthy of its status as an international sensation? Hard to tell. I never do understand what is it that makes some books catch fire the way they do. I can say this: I enjoyed this book straight through. It is well worth the read.

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