The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Book Review) – Stieg Larsson

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the first book in The Millenium Trilogy by late Swedish author Stieg Larson.

Mikael Blomkvist is a man of many things but liar isn’t one of them. He wasn’t exactly being framed. His predicament was totally his fault but he should have known better. Sitting in court, receiving a three month sentence for libel against a Swedish business giant, he thought he had hit rock-bottom both financially and career-wise.

Soon after, Mikael receives the strangest job offer from the head of one of Sweden’s leading businesses, albeit being on its way down. Henrik Vagner, aged 82, wants Mikael to spend a year writing the history of the Vagner family in an attempt to solve the mystery of the disappearance of his niece: Harriet Vagner, some 40 years prior.

As they say, you can’t get a colder case than this. Harriet disappeared on Children’s day on the fictional Swedish island of Hedestad and even though an extensive search was made following her disappearance, a body was never found. So Vagner asks Mikael to attempt to find answers, as a way of closure for a man whose days are nearing their end.

But soon enough, Mikael needs help as he starts uncovering chilling new evidence that were overlooked in the original investigation. And that help comes in the form of Lisbeth Salander.

Lisbeth Salander is a 26 year old woman who has been under the auspices of the Swedish state since she was thirteen after being deemed unfit to look after herself. She’s 4’11”, flat-chested, has more piercings than places to put them and more tattoos than real skin. One of those tattoos is a dragon on her left shoulder blade.

Lisbeth also happens to be a world class computer hacker, able to go into any program or computer known to man and make it look as easy as counting from one to ten. She’s also excellent at investigating people and coming up with extensive reports detailing things they never told anyone.

Together, Lisbeth and Mikael start unearthing detail after detail about a chilling series of murders with a biblical element, all taking place in scattered parts around Sweden, in relation with the Vagner corporation. Who could the killer be? And how does Harriet fit in all of this? these are some of the questions they will try to answer in the book, even if their lives depend on it.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a top-notch thriller. It doesn’t have any dull moments and it engages you with the complexity of its characters. You get immersed in the detail that Stieg Larson provides in his description of the inner workings of Salander’s mind, who happens to have some form of asperger syndrome, or Blomkvist’s sense of guilt after his sentence, which nearly got his magazine “Millenium” to go under.

The author writes down many of the main characters’ thoughts, in italics, throughout the book. These thoughts, along with the impeccable dialogue in which they are immersed, serve as a backdrop that enriches the story and breathes new life into it. Sure, many authors have used thoughts in italics in their texts before but those thoughts have never been as important to the development of the story as they were in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”

Larson doesn’t shy away from being explicit in the book as well. There are scenes which are depicted with exquisite detail that they will shake you. The book’s original Swedish title was, after all, Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women), which means the book has many physical, mental and sexual abuse scenes. They are depicted to the letter.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a must read to anyone who enjoys an immersing novel to entertain their days (and nights). It is a book that you won’t be able to let down. It is a serious page turner that is more a character study of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist than a cynical approach by the author to his country, Sweden. It is a book where little is at is seems. But one thing is most definitely clear: you do not want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.