The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
by Stieg Larsson
With autumn creeping into the periphery and bringing its cooler temperatures, falling leaves, and pumpkin spice lattes, I am personally looking forward to all the reading I’ll get done once October hits. The fall season brings lots of distraction via football for my husband and lots of time off via school breaks for my kids, which equates to later nights and less work for me. It’s my favorite time of year to read, second only to the chic-lit saturated summers I spend poolside or locked in the embrace of my air conditioner’s welcome breeze, and there is nothing I love more than snuggling up under a blanket next to the crackling of a fragrant fire with a glass of wine, all while I delve into a good mystery or historical fiction book. With the quick and easy reads of summer now collecting dust on a well-stocked shelf, autumn and winter are the months that I spend catching up on deeper tomes.
When The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series, was published posthumously, it rose steadily to international acclaim and widespread sensation. Readers were captivated by the enigmatic and seemingly bottomless character of Lisbeth Salander and equally intrigued by the handsome male lead, newsman Mikael Blomkvist. The blooming relationship between two people who could not be less alike was difficult to turn away from, especially as the story unfolded into tantalizing tandem story lines that brought the reader so close to each character that it felt all it would take was an outreached hand to be able to physically touch them.
While most novels either stick to either a character-driven story or a plot-driven one, my favorite novels are those that take the time to do both. It’s a recipe that can be difficult for authors to manage with the current page restrictions that conservative publishers invoke, and the hardships of maintaining the reader’s interest without bogging things down. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hits the mark in both instances of plot and character, giving birth to a loyalty from readers that has thus translated into the success of five bestselling books and a handful of film adaptations (including one starring the incredibly sexy Daniel Craig).
After losing a libel case and finding himself in the tenuous position of being behind bars, magazine publisher Mikael Blomkvist is approached by a member of an illustrious and wealthy family to help solve a mystery that has been haunting them all for years. Harriet Vanger, the attractive young niece of the man asking for assistance, disappeared from the family’s residence decades earlier under mysterious circumstances. Armed with photographs, a puzzling journal, and the somewhat reluctant aid of the remaining living family members, Mikael dives into the case. He has been promised vital information that plays against his libel case and the plaintiff he considers his enemy, and Mikael is anxious to find answers.
As Blomkvist digs deeper into the past of the Vanger family, he is increasingly unsettled by the information he uncovers. Spurred on by the vague entries found in Harriet’s journal, Mikael begins to believe that a serial killer may be involved and that the crimes far extend beyond simple murder. The instinctual journalistic side of him takes control and he follows the clues farther and farther, into dark places full of sadistic intrigue and familial problems. Finding himself a tad in-over-his-head in the research department, Mikael hires an assistant, the complicated and emotionally vacant Lisbeth Salander.
With a story of her own that is laced in abusive relationships and mentally taxing circumstances, Lisbeth is a creature who is deeply troubled with a personality that sometimes borders on offensive. She’s dark and twisty, but the comforts she finds in the regularity of the tech world and her power over computer and program manipulations allows Lisbeth to hold on to some sacred parts of herself. Having been used, discarded, and vilely mistreated by those entrusted with her care, Lisbeth is wary and skittish. Nothing in the investigation into Harriet’s disappearance follows a logical path, and it is Lisbeth’s job to help Mikael connect the dots and put the case to rest.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a psychological thriller up until the very end, and Larsson has triumphed in his attempt at keeping readers guessing what will happen next. The layers of each character are singular and interesting, and I was pleased to see the series continue with Lisbeth at the forefront. It’s a novel that I give 4.5 out of 5 stars and have read multiple times, fulfilling that itch for a good and complex mystery. Fans of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo can read the Millennium Series in it’s order, as follows:
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
- The Girl Who Played with Fire
- The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest
- The Girl in the Spider’s Web
- The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye