Wednesday, January 27, 2010

One of the most unusual characters introduced in modern fiction is surely Lisbeth Salander, the title character in Stieg Larsson's sensation The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Tiny, tough and solitary, she doesn't allow anyone to get close to her. Because of so far unexplained circumstances, she is a ward of the court. Although she is 25, with a job and her own apartment, she does not have control of her own finances. The authorities have appointed her a guardian who oversees her affairs. All this is fine when her original guardian, with whom she has a trusting relationship is alive. Unfortunately, he is replaced with someone who decides to use Lisbeth's dependence on him for his own personal sadistic purposes. Until Lisbeth decides to put an end to that idea . . .

Meanwhile, the journalist Mikael Blomkvist, has just endured a trial where he's been sentenced to three months in prison for libel. He had an informant who was feeding him false information about a businessman that Blomkvist published in his magazine Millenium. With the prison sentence looming over him, he gets an offer to come to an out of the way island in Northern Sweden for a possible assignment. There he meets Henrik Vanger who asks him to write a history of the highly prominent and successful Vanger family as well as solve their greatest mystery: what happened to 16 year old Harriet Vanger when she disappeared in 1966? At first, Blomkvist is unwilling to take the job, but as he looks through the material that Henrik has saved over the years, he becomes intrigued.

Before Blomkvist was hired to take on the investigative job, the Vanger family had hired Lisbeth Salander to do some background research on him. Salander is a researcher and computer hacker who is able to ferret out the most private and hidden details about anyone. Once Blomkvist decides to accept the assignment, he hires Salander to help with the investigation.

That is the main story behind "Dragon Tattoo." The action is fairly fast paced, and there are plenty of situations when both Mikael and Lisbeth are thrown into danger. The story itself was pretty far-fetched (that a serial killer who kills in spectacular ways could go undetected for decades), but there are plenty of edge-of-your-seat moments. There is a Swedish version of the film, starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace), and supposedly a Hollywood version on the horizon. notes that Stieg Larsson was the best selling author in Europe last year. It's interesting to note that 3 of the top 10 authors were Swedish (Camilla Läckberg and Henning Mankell also make the list). I'm anxious to read the other two books in the Lisbeth Salander series. Sadly, Stieg Larsson died at age 50 of a heart attack before he could complete the fourth (of a planned 10) book in the series.

One thing that surprised me in the book was the constant reference to Swedish politicians, scandals and events. None of these had been changed or explained during the translation process. It's odd that a book that is so obviously meant for one country has become a world-wide sensation.

Final Verdict for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Four Gherkins, for being a thrilling mystery with a totally unique heroine


Brit Fancy said...

I loved the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo! I read the second Millennium book and then when I was in London in December, I just had to pick up the third book (which isn't out here yet). Well worth it!!

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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