I’m so conflicted about Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. On the one hand, it took forever to get into this book; on the other, I read the bulk of it in a day and a half. It’s over 800 pages long in mass market paperback, so this was no small feat. The plot was engaging enough that it kept me engaged, but when the Vanger family secrets were exposed, I felt like I had been cheated somehow.
More on the Vangers in a moment. First and foremost, the essential element to this book is what isn’t said. Specifically, what isn’t told about Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed, pierced, hostile punk with a gift for investigation and exposé. Even by the end of the book, very little is known about Salander — and it is her enigmatic presence that fuels the book. This, despite the fact that Lisbeth is missing for large chunks of the story. In her place is the disgraced journalist (after a libel conviction against a renowned industrialist) Mikael Blomkvist, who undertakes a decades old mystery into the disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a sixteen-year-old heiress who disappeared under mysterious circumstances in 1966.
While investigating the mystery, Blomkvist interacts with a rich tapestry of characters from the secretive Vanger clan — Harriet’s older brother, Martin, her mother Isabella, uncle Henrik who hires Blomkvist to solve the mystery, cousin Cecelia, her father Harald, and numerous other Vanger relatives.
To solve the case, Blomkvist takes on Salander as his research assistant and together the two piece together a puzzle that will test their fledgling friendship, their talents, courage, and their lives.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo moved along as an engaging pace; however, the ultimate reveal in the case of Harriet’s disappearance was not much of a surprise. I was reminded of another book I heard of (but did not read) years ago, and the connection was disappointing, since the first book is often referred to as if it were a punchline.
That said, I am curious about the upcoming Hollywood adaptation of the work. Daniel Craig has been rumoured to have agreed to take on the role of Mikael Blomkvist, but the casting of Lisbeth Salander has yet to be announced. There is a previous Swedish adaptation of the work, which I will likely watch, but my interest in the Hollywood film centers primarily around its choice of David Fincher, whose previous works I hold in high regard.
But as far as the book goes, my regard is simply that it was an entertaining summer beach read. Lisbeth is the draw, and unfortunately, in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there was simply to little of her to sustain all 841 pages.