A Tattoo, A Girl and a Mystery: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Review
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo is the first in a trilogy of mystery novels by Stieg Larsson. It is a national best seller that introduces readers to Lisbeth Salander, a punkish and antisocial private detective. Though she is in her mid 20’s, she is still a ward of the state because no one thinks she is capable of fitting in long enough to take care of herself. Yet she has several gifts that fit perfectly into the mysteries that she helps to unravel.
The novel moves on two major plot points: a death in the prestigious Vanger family and a case of libel, along with one minor plot point: who is sending Henrick Vanger a framed dried flower each year on his birthday. After Mikel Blomkvist is convicted of libel, Henrick Vanger hires him to write the Vanger family history while surreptitiously trying to find out which of his family members killed or kidnapped his favorite niece, Harriet some 40 years ago. Blomkvist, at the same time searches for information against the man who successfully sues him for libel. Once he gets close to solving both mysteries, his life is in jeopardy but readers don't know from what source.
Because we learn Blomkvist’s story early, he seems to be the book’s only protagonist. He is a financial journalist who seems to be a man of integrity, so readers root for him as he broods over the recent libel trial that left him awaiting a jail sentence. But later readers feel pulled toward Salander despite her being emotionally closed and off-putting in appearance. Once Blomkvist’s and Salander’s paths connect, readers are so intrigued by Salander’s characterization we root for her success, tattoos and all. At the end of the novel, Salander shows her vulnerable side just enough to make readers eager to open the second book just to see if she embraces her softer, slightly more open self in it.
What Keeps Us Reading
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is fraught with twists and turns, some seemingly coincidental, some so surprising a reader might be tempted to give in to his or her frustrations and put the book aside. But Salander’s taciturnity and Blomkvist’s tenacity will lure the reader back, eager to know where the plot will lead next. Larsson weaves in research on corporate corruption that surprisingly does not slow down the plot nor does it deter the reader’s need to know what comes next or how it all fits together.
Since the story is set in Sweden, the character and city names make the opening chapters difficult to process—it’s hard to keep the names in mind and to connect characters to situations. But once the plot is set into motion things click for the reader, and Larsson makes sure that a reader feels he or she must read on because any guess about what will come next is foiled.
If you love mystery and suspense, I highly recommend The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo. And even if that’s not your favorite genre, this book will capture your imagination and leave you wanting more. And there's the selling point-- the sequel is ready and waiting for you.