The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was my Mocha Girls Read book club pick for May with the theme of Scandanavian Mystery. When the original book came out, I was aware of the hype but opted for the film adaptations. I enjoy all incarnations, so I figured the novel would grip me. Instead, I found myself getting a bit impatient with the plot when it didn’t focus on the titular “The Girl”.
The story follows a journalist named Mikael Blomkvist who has been hired by the rich Vanger family. Henrik, the head of the family, has never gotten over the mysterious disappearance of his niece, Harriet. He loved her as if she was his daughter. He’d like to go to his grave with the truth of what happened to her decades before. He believes she was murdered and wants Mikael to solve this beyond cold case. He suspects someone from the family but needs a fresh perspective. Mikael isn’t working after being hit with a scandal involving jail time. He thinks Henrik is a rick kook but resigns himself to the assignment. He holes up in the Vanger guest house for much of the winter trying to go over all the skeletons in this crazy-ass family’s closet. There are SO MANY. I won’t spoil the end, but it gets twisty. The book interweaves the Vanger mystery with Mikael’s current story for his magazine, Millennium. Lisbeth Salander was also hired by the Vanger family – to do a background check on Mikael before hiring him. She works for a security firm as their hacker to get to the bottom of things. After she is briefly introduced in the beginning with a dark subplot with her evil guardian, much of the story focuses on Mikael and Henrik researching in the country. We continue to learn about her life in bits in pieces, but she remains much of an enigma herself.
Eventually, Lisbeth is drawn into the case and Mikael’s financial scandal article. This is where we get the money heist thriller bits at the end, which is why I’m reviewing this for the “Money” CBR12 bingo square. Pausing here to celebrate completing a bingo a few weeks ahead of the game, unlike last year.
The first half of the book dragged for me. I didn’t care that much about Mikael’s predicament and his lost magazine article. The opening was amazing introducing Harriet and hooked me on the mystery. I kept going because I needed to uncover who was behind the murders, much like Mikael’s character. It had been a few years since I’d seen the films, so I had nearly forgotten until quite close to the end. My absolute favorite parts though were when the story focused on Lisbeth Salander. Some of the violence against her was brutal to read. And that’s with me knowing what was gonna happen! The novel doesn’t end on much of a cliffhanger, which makes the trilogy’s success even more amazing.
The author had witnessed a rape in his childhood and was appalled by the lack of police action. I felt like the graphic and dark elements on the page were him making a political point while working out some issues. It inspired him to write this book, which was a passion project. He wrote the whole trilogy before trying to sell the first book, which was tragically published posthumously. Mikael was so clearly based on Stieg himself who was a journalist. I found it a bit annoying that nearly every woman he meets wants to sleep with him. He really must be some kind of Casanova in bed in these books. At least in the Fincher film, we get Daniel Craig to make that part seem more realistic. Finally reading the book did make me appreciate the film adaptations. After the book, I promptly did a marathon of the Swedish versions with Noomi Rapace on Amazon. The movies are kinda long but I really love them. Rooney Mara and Claire Foy both played Lisbeth in unique ways that I felt were true to the book. I might just be partial to Noomi in all things.
If you’re a fan of Scandanavian thrillers like The Killing, you will probably devour this series. That’s if you haven’t already! I was given the newer books, so will probably continue this series one day. But mainly just to see what’s going on with Lisbeth. I love her no fucks given attitude and perseverance despite a horrible past.
Read more of my musings on my blog.