Sunday, July 04, 2010

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

It seems like everyone I talked to over the last couple of weeks has been reading "The Girl" series (aka Millennium Trilogy) published posthumously by Stieg Larsson. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's nest (his most recent release). I was warned that "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" was "good but gruesome" - not exactly what I was looking for so I passed on the download - especially after listening to Baldacci's "Deliver Us from Evil" which was so brutal, gory and needlessly violent that the listen felt abusive. . Then as more and more people urged me to read it (listen to it) without going into much detail other than "YOU MUST" I relented and spent the Audible credit.

I'm happy to report that "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is not entirely gruesome. Mature content - very much so: Rape, Murder, Domestic Abuse, Torture (though not graphic and detailed) - "R" rated scenes. If you can sit through an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit you won't have a problem with the particulars of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo".

Translated from Swedish, there are several names that all sounded alike - I'm not at all sure if this is my "American" ear listening to Swedish names or the enunciation of the narrator. It took me a bit longer than usual to distinguish between the characters - and even longer still to understand the relationships of the characters. There are a lot of "Vangers" and outlining the geneological relationships between the clan was difficult. As I was listening I had to work out a family tree to keep track of who was who. So my gift to the blogosphere (still not s spoiler):  Harriet is the Daughter of Gottfreid and Isabella. Martin is Harriet's brother, Henrik is the family patriarch, former CEO of the Vanger Corporation - brother to Harald and Uncle to Gottfried Vanger, Ceclia Vanger and Anita Vanger are Harald Vanger's daughters (and cousins of Harriet). Other characters: Mikael Blomkvist - journalist, on the losing end of a libel suit - hired by Henrik to investigate the disappearance (and murder) of Harriet Vanger nearly 40 years earlier. Mikael's existence is complicated by his role as partial owner of a Magazine called Millennium and his relationship with Erika Berger the other part owner and editor of the magazine. Lisbeth Salander - genius, researcher, contractor for Milton Security - also mentally "handicapped", living under Guardianship of the state. Dirch Frode - Henrik's lawyer, friend, confident.

Following the libel suit (and legal loss) Mikael is facing credibility issues and jail time. Henrik (in his 80's) hires Mikael to make one last attempt to solve the disappearance and murder of his niece Harriet some 40 years earlier - promising both a huge sum of money and a chance to defend his name and reputation against Hans-Erik Wennerstrom (the other half of the libel suit against Blomkvist). Henrik has dedicated much of the last 40 years to the search for Harriet's killer - he's got one last chance to find some answers - can Mikael solve the mystery?

The first few hours were somewhat slow - lots of introductions and in my mind figuring out who was who (see above). The story picked up in part three - once Lisbeth and Mikael finally get together on the case. There were twists and turns that were pure brilliance...Some I worked out ahead of the characters - others that took me by complete surprise. I enjoy "being wrong" when I'm engrossed in fiction - surprise me, thrill me, lead me along - I am continually frustrated when I figure out the end of the story and then have to work through several hours of content while the author eventually gets there. I understand that the movie is available on NetFlix - I've been on the fence about subscribing for a while - this might push me over the line...OK, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "Lost" (which I only recently discovered).

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" was released in hardcover on September 16th, 2008, but was originally published in Swedish in 2005 as "Män Som Hatar Kvinnor" which I'm told translates to "Men Who Hate Women". The audiobook was narrated by Simon Vance and published by Books on Tape with a release date of 9/16/2008. The unabridged version has a runtime of 16 hours 19 minutes. The abridged version was narrated by Marton Wenner and has a runtime of 7 hours 26 minutes. I listened to the unabridged version and recommend that version - if only to better understand the characters and their backgrounds.

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