Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Review - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2.5/5 stars)

I had heard a ton of good things about this novel and I found the idea intriguing, so I decided to give it a read.  I am not a huge thriller reader, but I do like great books that have a thriller element to them.  I listened to this on audio book and the audio book was very well done.

Mikael Blomkvist watches his career as a journalist go down the tube when he takes on a major financial entity, who he believes is unlawful, and looses.  He is sentenced to a short jail sentence and his journalistic career is potentially in ruins.  Then he gets a strange call from old-school industrialist Henrik Vanger; Henrik wants Blomkvist to investigate the decades old disappearance of his niece Harriet.  He wants Blomkvist to do it under the pretense of writing a history of the Vanger family.  Entwining with this story is the story of Lisbeth Salander who is a crazy punk girl who has been declared mentally unfit.  In reality she is an incredibly smart person, with top notch computer hacking skills, and an excellent research ability.  She is hired to research Blomkvist before Vanger hires him.  We learn both about Lisbeth's struggles within the Swedish legal system and, we watch as she is drawn deep into the Harriet Vanger case with Blomkvist.

As I stated overall I don't read a ton of thrillers; so keep this in mind as you read my perspective on this book.  There were some things I liked about this book.  I liked how Larsson goes into the detail describing the characters actions.  I liked how the author fit many small pieces of evidence into a whole.  Larsson also did a good job keeping the multitude of characters organized and easy to recognize for the readers.  Overall Larsson did an excellent job on characterization too; both Salander and Blomkvist are believable and complex characters that are interesting to read about.

There were many things I didn't like about this book.  It takes forever to get to the actual thriller part of the book.  Almost half the book deals with setting up the Vanger family tree and I found this to be a tedious and boring to read.  I think this could have been done much more efficiently.  There were some things with Salader that I didn't understand; for example there is a particularly viscous sexual scene between Salander and her appointed guardian.  It is gone into in grisly detail.  I understand that this scene shows some things about Salander's character, but I think that this could have been depicted in a more efficient way without so much detail.

I also found it interesting that a good portion of the book is dedicated to who is sleeping with who, or who has slept with who.  The amount of time dedicated to casual sex in this book was odd.  I don't mind reading about sex; I've read a number of books with oodles of sex.  I just thought it was odd in context to the rest of the story.  I realize the story was about sexual violence; but that doesn't mean we needed to read about every single time Blomkvist decides to sleep with another woman..I just don't understand how it was relevant.

That brings me to another point...if you don't like to read about violence, torture, and sex skip this book.  The majority of this book focuses around torture, rape, sexual abuse, and serial killers.  Again, I don't mind some of that but reading about rape and torture of women is not something I am really all that into.  So just a heads up.

The biggest thing that bugged me about this book was how predictable it was.  After the first third or so of the book I had guessed what happened to Harriet, I also made some guesses about the torture/killings, and I was right.  So, I was very disappointed that I was able to correctly predict the outcome of this lengthy novel.  I was hoping for some surprises and all I got was a wandering and lengthy read.  The novel does tie up nicely, so you don't need to read the next book to get a fairly complete story.

Overall it was okay.  The mystery was fairly well put together, the characters were well done, and it was an interesting read; but I can't honestly say I really liked it.  The drawn out set-up, excessive sex/violence and predictability turned me off this series.  I won't be reading anymore of Larsson's books.  If you are big into thrillers and serial killer-type novels then this book may be a good match for you.  It just wasn't something I personally enjoyed.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge
- Thiller and Suspense Challenge
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Vintage) 

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