The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Millennium 1)
Rating: abandoned unfinished
You might like this if you: like media-hyped novels; aren’t easily disappointed by media-hyped novels
Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared off the secluded island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger family. There was no corpse, no witnesses, no evidence. But her uncle, Henrik, is convinced that she was murdered by someone in her own family – the deeply dysfunctional Vanger clan. Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomqvist is hired to investigate, but when he links Harriet’s disappearance to a string of gruesome murders from forty years ago, he needs a competent assistant – and he gets one: computer hacker Lisbeth Salander – a tattoed, truculent, angry girl who rides a motorbike like a Hell’s Angel and handles makeshift weapons with the skill born of remorseless rage. This unlikely pair form a fragile bond as they delve into the sinister past of this island-bound, tightly-knit family. But the Vangers are a secretive lot, and Mikael and Lisbeth are about to find out just how far they’re prepared to go to protect themselves – and each other.
First off I want to say I did not finish this book, but I think I gave it a very good chance – I read over 200 of its 530-ish pages. After hearing so many people sing its praises, I wanted to enjoy it, but it completely failed to impress me on every level.
One would expect something to happen within 200 pages of plot, but on this occasion one might be forgiven for believing nothing had happened at all. Small, seemingly inconsequential things happen, but there was little, if anything, of excitement. I wanted at least one or two small thrills to keep me hooked into what was happening, but I was sorely disappointed.
None of the characters seemed to me to be particularly “real” and they all felt like caricatures – the rebel computer genius; the journo with integrity; the evil big business man; the old guy with a kooky family – and I found I didn’t identify or sympathise with any of them. I didn’t find any of what I read to be all that original. The characters have all been done before and I had my suspicions about the missing girl from the beginning. I strongly suspect (highlight to view potential spoiler) that she’s alive and well and living somewhere else and that it’s she who sends the flowers to her uncle on his birthday. I found I didn’t much care why she left.
The amount of character back history given in the middle of what’s happening “now” was far too irritating. It jarred and annoyed me. Part of the problem is that I didn’t actually like any of the characters. Actually, I found them very annoying – especially Lisbeth (who I suspect I’m supposed to like) and Blomkvist (who I’m pretty certain I’m not supposed to find plodding and pedestrian). As they’re the two main characters it ruined any enjoyment I might have got from the story.
I really do wonder what all the hype is about (I came to the book knowing nothing about it except that a lot of people are banging on about it and the sequels – honestly, nothing more than the title!). To be perfectly honest, the only reason I continued as long as I did was because I’d already invested a fair bit of time in getting that far with it and could see myself getting very angry for having wasted the time if I didn’t finish it. It didn’t pick up and I wasted even more time on it.
I didn’t even care enough about Harriet to find out if my previous prediction was correct.
Apologies to all those who enjoyed it, but I found it pretty dire. I’ll be getting shot of the book pretty quick-smart and I won’t be bothering with the sequels.
Reviewed by Kell Smurthwaite