Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I have got around to reading the first book in the Millennium trilogy, a book that nearly everyone around me who has read it has been raving about. Scandinavian literature has grown in popularity over the last few years. I have already read Let the Right One In and have The Killing on my Kindle. What do I think of this, arguably the most famous of all?

This is a mystery thriller in which a former journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, is clearly on a career decline – his magazine Millennium is on the edge of extinction and he could soon be out of a job following a libel case that went against the magazine. He is then presented with an intriguing offer by an old acquaintance to resurrect his career and put himself back at the forefront of financial reporting.

First though, he must investigate a decades-old crime. Because he is no longer the force he once was, he has compelled to take on a young, troubled woman by the name of Lisbeth who is a research genius but with a dark and tragic past, may at any moment turn out to be a loose cannon – she is the titular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The plot twists and turns and what starts out as a simple investigation gets much more complex. Nobody is who they seem, least of all Lisbeth. What does the 40-year-old disappearance have to do with anything?

This is a well-loved book and boasts 75 million sales worldwide, probably even more famous because of Stieg Larsson’s death at the age of 50 from a heart attack. Many believe his death was not as simple as that and involved a conspiracy.

On the plus side, it keeps the reader intrigued with constant twists and turns, insight into the shady underworld of big, powerful families, proper investigative journalism and many other things besides. To many, this is a gripping book that showcases some of the best foreign language literature to enter the English-speaking market. I must admit I rode the wave of hype and I largely enjoyed it, but several times I felt my attention drifting.

Some have cited that the misogyny, graphic rape scenes and overall brutality of Lisbeth’s world put them off. Some of this is intriguing and helps us to get into the mind of this very guarded character. She keeps her thoughts to herself most of the time and for me, Salander was what really made this book.

Which brings me to the downsides. Perhaps it is the writing style, or perhaps it was the translation, but the text feels over-written. So little happens for most of the first half and it could easily have been shorter. The style is also uninspired, it feels like reading a shopping list at times, and there is far too much exposition. It should flow, it should excite, I should have been on the edge of my seat – but I wasn’t.

That said, I enjoyed it enough to want to read the remaining two which I already have on my Kindle.


6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

  1. andfreed

    I found the trilogy quite interesting for the most part but I know what you mean about sometimes feeling like my attention was drifting. Enjoy the other two books. (BTW the movie version isn’t bad either).

    1. Thanks, Andrea. I’m going to give it a few weeks before I read the next one. I have the entire trilogy already so I will most likely read them both.

  2. Dylan Hearn

    I read these while writing my first book. I remember thinking at the time how badly written it was, yet I devoured all 3 books in a matter of days, so he was clearly doing something right.
    The real gem of the piece is Lisbeth. A great character and one that’s been copied a few times since.

  3. Sabina

    I own the first two books but haven’t read them. I definitely understand feeling like everyone else has read them! Hopefully getting around to the series this year.

    1. It was a mixed bag. Didn’t blow me away in the way it seemed to with others, but I found it intriguing enough to want to carry on. It’ll be good to hear your thoughts when you do get around to it.

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