Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Book Review

Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is getting a lot of well-deserved hype - it's a good read though not without its flaws, and there's an interesting back story about Larsson himself - he died before his "Girl" series of mysteries hit as huge as it has.

But let's leave Larsson's story aside and judge the book on its own merits. Though at heart a mystery, it's also a family history saga, an insider's look at the journalism industry, and a love story all wrapped up in one. Long, too, for a mystery - my rule is if you can't run through these things in 350 pages or so, you're just repeating yourself - but only plodding in a few places. Larsson's sets several wheels in motion from the start and resolves each of the plot lines in a satisfactory manner though the underlying mystery - the disappearance of a girl 40 years ago - is solved in a tired manner. When will we see the end of these serial-killers-as-super-villain stories? None too soon for me.

After that mystery is solved, there's still some 100 pages to go to take care of the rest of the plotlines but Larsson's done his work and makes you care about how things turn out. Much of it is fantasy and wishful thinking but, hey, it's Larsson's book and he can write his plot any way he wants. I just don't have to believe it. As a journalist, Larsson makes his prose trot right along - yeah, I know it's a translation but things move along well for the most part. But though this takes place in Sweden, I never got the sense that I was in a foreign country that the setting was unique to itself, that this story could have only taken place there. Is that because the rest of the world is becoming more like America? I don't know. I like to think some places still have a unique sense of place you can't get from anywhere else but maybe that's wishful thinking on my part.

(There's already a movie with a trailer that, though not entirely dishonest, is rather misleading. Is there an American remake in the works? Of course!)

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