#2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.
 I really don't know what to say about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I can't break it down into a "what's good" and "what's bad" style review, because it's really just this mess inside my brain right now.

I expected this book to be a sort of dark thriller, but I did not expect it to be as gritty and violent as it was. The murders themselves were grotesque; though they weren't focused on/described in a way that was meant to give the book a long-standing gore appeal. They were simply stated as they would be in a newspaper, or police report: the details were important. The same was with the "sex scenes". There were quite a few of them, but not one went into great detail... it did not focus on the sex, simply stated that it was had.

The hardest thing for me to swallow in this book overall was simply the way women were treated. So many of the core, central female characters were subjected to rape in one way or the other. Like the consensual sex scenes, the rape scenes are not described in detail (save for one that has a bit of detail, but not too much)... but they are rather unsettling, and tend to get under your skin. A number of women in this book are subjected time and time again to sexual assault, as a result of someone of authority abusing their power. It bothered me just how sick some of these individuals are.

Initially, I was a bit perturbed about the fact that these events were not real, that they had come from Larsson's mind. It's one thing to read an event like the ones in the book like they had actually happened, it's a complete other to know someone created a character for the soul purpose of going through something that disturbing. But then I stumbled across this little gem:
Larsson, who was disgusted by sexual violence, witnessed the gang rape of a young girl when he was 15. He never forgave himself for failing to help the girl, whose name was Lisbeth – like the young heroine of his books, herself a rape victim, which inspired the theme of sexual violence against women in his books.
 This is a bit understandable. If the books were written - on some level - to raise awareness against sexual violence (something that is far more common than it should be in modern day society), then they'll sit a bit easier. And I do believe that's what he was trying to convey... at the beginning of each portion, there is a small quote, stating what percentage of women endure certain kinds of sexual assault from men each day, how many don't report it, etc. etc. And as a book written to raise awareness against sexual assault, it does a great job. I have never been a fan of rape, but after reading this, I feel I hate it even more than I did before.

It also does a great job as a murder mystery/thriller. The writing is good, the suspense is there, and the characters are solid. The research Salander and Blomkvist do is laid out so plainly that I couldn't help but take my own notes, and the last half of the book became a race to see who could figure things out first: Me or them. And it is a solvable mystery; the clues are there, you just have to find them.

Overall, it is a well written, yet greatly unsettling novel. I think I enjoyed it, but I was also disgusted, skeeved out, and flat out repulsed at times. And a little frightened (it's hard to look at the murders/murderer and ignore the fact that people like that do exist in this world)... but if you can stomach it, it's worth the ride. The pacing is slow at first, but picks up soon enough. If you can wade through the initial sludge that is the Blomkvist vs. Wennerstrom lawsuit, you'll be greatly rewarded.

FINAL WORD: Read at your own risk. Not for anyone under 18, or those with weak stomachs.

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS