Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Stieg Larsson

The Millenium Triology was what Swedish author Steig Larsson presented to his publisher in late 2004. Alhough Larrson did not live long enough to see the phenomenom his work has become, he has left behind a legacy that has sold millions of copies across Europe since its publication in 2005. A striking thriller debut, this rich, dark and totally compelling novel makes it an extraordinary tale that for once lives up to its hype.

The first installment of the Millenium Trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo opens with its description of how financial reporter Mikael Blomkvist is digraced when he attempts to expose a swindling Swedish company’s dirty deeds and is convicted of Libel. The novel begins to picks up speed as Blomkvist, in a state of exile from the publishing world he is used to, finds himself irrevocably pulled into the depths of the Vanger family history. Wealthy head of the Vanger Corporation Company, Henrik Vanger is in turmoil over the loss of his niece Harriet Vanger forty years previously. Vanishing off the island of Hedeby, nobody seen the young girl leave, and yet no corpse or clues to her disappearance were found by the police. Obsessed and convinced that a member of his own family committed murder, Vanger sets Blomkvist the impossible task of discovering who the murderer is…with devastating consequences.

Then he runs into angry punk-girl and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander; the two protagonists Larsson has given us are utterly incredible. Intense, deep and in conflict with themselves and each other, they provide both wit and depth to the novel and make it, if possible, an even more interesting and insightful read. With the help of Salander, Blomkvist draws links to other murders taking place around that time, and moves closer to discovering the heart of the thriller mystery. It is very difficult not to turn to the back of the book to find the answer, Larrson had built up its tension and suspense so ingeniously. Due to his clever and twisted plot, I was not prepared for what these two characters would salvage from such a bleak situation and the conclusion is absolutely mind blowing. The novel was well worth reading for its revelation alone.

The only thing that I disliked about the novel was its return to Blomkvist’s war on the swindling Swedish company that landed him in exile and jail. This opened the novel and reappared after the mystery of Harriet Vanger is solved; after such an explosive end of revealing who the murderer was, I thought the novel should have ended there and the ending we are given instead was somehow anti-climaxing.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is full of passion, anger and violence. Its original title was ‘Men who Hate Women’ which has made it open to misogynistic comments and critcism. Well. How can a novel that was previously called ‘Men who Hate Women’ not be misogynistic? Certainly women are hurt and abused in the novel, and believe me when I say the novel is not for the weak hearted.

”He slapped her hard. Salander opened her eyes wide, but before she could react, he grabbed her by the shoulder and threw her on to the bed. The violence caught her by surprise. When she tried to turn over, he pressed her down on the bed and straddled her.” 
And it only gets more graphic. Both enthralling and revolting, violence fills its pages and some descriptions of the abuse inflicted on women really are disgusting. However its important to take note that Larsson himself was not a misogynist; rather, he was attacking misogynism and exposing the unspeakable violence women suffer in Sweden at the hands of other misogynist men. If you think you can stomach it then fantastic. If you can’t stomach it then read it anyway. It truly opened my eyes to violence against women and just how many men have got away with it both in the past and present. It’s a relief that Blomkvist is ‘the good guy’, the male in the novel who brings justice and uncovers corrupted characters in a corrupted world.

A striking novel with its evocative settings, engaging characters and savage, gripping plot, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is my favourite crime thriller to date and it is easy to see why Europe has gone crazy over it. I look forward to reading the sequels of the Millenium Triology and can only hope that the film, starring Daniel Craig and out this December will be as good.

Rating: 4/5

Do I reccomend you to read it? Yes, if you don’t mind a bit of violence

Genre: crime/thriller/mystery