“Ah, what to say about this “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”? Obviously, any book that has spawned a series of Swedish movies and one Hollywood film you would expect a lot from, right? So, when I saw the book at a reduced price, I figured “why not?”
The book is really two novels in one. It is a mystery novel, wrapped inside a revenge novel. The best plotline of the book is the mystery portion. The revenge portion is okay, but it also adds more girth to a book that is already too long, and it drags out the ending much further than it should. Having seen the Swedish film version, though, I found enough different in the plot here to surprise me. So that was good.
The characters in “Dragon Tattoo” are the strength of the book. There is so much backstory and character interaction, that the characters are fully flushed out. Very real. That said, none of them are particularly admirable. The primary protagonist, Blomkvist, is an absentee dad, a philanderer (who apparently puts his libido above all common sense) and apparently thinks practicing evangelical Christians are cultish. “The Girl” Salander is brilliant, yet so broken and abused you can’t help but feel sorry for her. Still, she does little positive to help herself either. Together, they make a pretty sad pair.
The primary failing of the book is its slowness. It takes nearly a hundred pages of setup before we get to the mystery portion of the book, and the real meat of the mystery doesn’t start happening until we’re over two hundred pages in. Clearly Larsson had fully flushed out the background of his characters and world, but I’m not sure he needed to give us so much of it. In fact, I wonder how this book got published in its current form. It is just that slow. Very little action in the first half, outside of a lot of walking, talking, and extra-marital (and sometimes forced) sexual activity.
I did manage to finish the book, though, so that’s something. Don’t think I’ll be buying the next one, but “Dragon Tatoo” does make me wonder about Swedish society, and if the people there are really as drifting and immoral as this book portrays them. Consider this: Blomkist is defined by another character as being “moral.” Kind of makes you wonder what passes for moral in Sweden, huh?