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

  • Jan 1, 2010
 I had mixed feelings about what type of a rating I should give this book purely based off my disappointment with the end of the novel, which I won't spoil in my review. 

Overall, I enjoyed the mystery. I couldn't solve the ultimate puzzle, which always fascinates me since I consider myself an amateur sleuth when it comes to mystery novels. In retrospect, I fear I was too engrossed in the book to pay enough attention to the clues that would help me solve the puzzles. As a reader, though, I appreciate authors who give me opportunities to solve the crime along with the main characters. 

As for Mikael Blomkvist, he was an interesting choice for the lead protagonist and detective of the mystery. His character reminded me of Dan Brown's Robert Langdon. He was the epitome of journalists, a real diamond in the rough. 

However, the character who really made the novel enjoyable was Lisbeth Salander. She was tough, quirky, and different. Regardless of whether you thought of her as a protagonist or antagonist, she made Blomkvist seem like an old man. Nonetheless, they created a unique partnership in the book that allowed them to be a crime-fighting duo purely because of their differences. In fact, all the characters developed nicely based on their interactions with each other throughout the year in which the novel takes place. 

After the prologue, the beginning of the book is slow. I was a bit confused by the setting because I am unfamiliar with Sweden's governmental system. I couldn't help but wish I had conducted a preliminary reading about the country before tackling the novel. In fact, the book didn't start to engage me until about chapter 4 when Blomkvist meets with Henrik Vanger. Again, the two characters contrasted nicely and made the story more engaging. In fact, the entire Vanger family added important elements to the story that complicated the mystery. 

By the end of the novel, though, I was disappointed with all the characters. At first, I thought I could relate to some of them, either because of their past histories or their insistence on justice and freedom. Unfortunately, the ending left no warm feelings for any of the characters. They were all selfish. Perhaps it was my own fault for building the characters to be something they weren't, but I was sorely disappointed that there were no redeeming qualities
Book Review: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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April 04, 2012
I just posted my review, and came to the same conclusion you did about the ending and the characters!
July 11, 2011
The story is about the vagaries of life. As such, the author creates enough interest to accomplish the intended goal.
July 12, 2011
I agree! Thanks for the read!
August 15, 2010
I think that expecting characters to be altruistic seems a bit unfair to the book and the author, since from the sounds of it he didn't intend for them to be. Have you read the two other books in the trilogy? Perhaps that will fill in some of the blanks and explain why the characters are who they are.
August 16, 2010
No offense, Sean, but how can you know what the author intended of his characters without having read this book? 

As far for the "altruistic" attributes, Blomkvist was the "conscience" in the novel. He was the righteous journalist fighting for the "little people." He demanded truth at all costs, and this was supported by all of his actions up until the very end, which seemed out of context based on how he was presented in this first novel. 

No, I have not read the succeeding books, but I have purchased them to read in the near future. I heard the novels get better and that Lisbeth's character is more fully developed. I look forward to the rest of the series purely because Larsson is a fantastic writer, and I'm positive he will take the main characters to even further depths. 
August 16, 2010
I've read about Stieg Larsson. I had intended to read this trilogy over the Summer, but I just haven't had the time. I ended up doing some extensive reading on Larsson instead. He and I had similar politics and combine that with his life experiences, it's easy to deduct what sort of a perspective he had and what he intended for his characters.
August 16, 2010
You shouldn't always base your analysis of a person's body of writing based purely on their life. It limits your perspective.

I did a little preliminary research on Larsson too, and I would say that Blomkvist is not a fictional representation of the author, especially as presented in the first book. My main source of frustration had to do with how his character jumped from point A to point C with no natural progression through point B. 

Still, it was a good book, and I do advise reading it as well as the rest of the trilogy. :)
August 16, 2010
Oh, I wasn't saying that any of the characters were a representation of the author. I was merely commenting on the fact that he has a very stark outlook on modern civilization and that one of his main themes seems to be corruption.
August 16, 2010
Ah, yes, corruption was a theme of this book.
August 16, 2010
Precisely, the author wasn't trying to make role model figures with his characters, but rather show the general corruptibility of contemporary society. Like I said, we had similar world views.
August 16, 2010
Yes, and he showed this by having an uncorrupted and moral figure throughout the book by the name of Blomkvist. He was supposed to be "above it all," the upholder of truth and justice. He was until the very end, and there was no real transition into when Blomkvist himself became corrupted by others. The ending was a little silly because it felt like the journalist was giving in to "peer pressure," which was not one of his characteristics. You really need to read the book to understand what I'm talking about. I feel like you are too uninformed to understand my review.
August 16, 2010
No, I think you're just not understanding the character. He's essentially Ozymandias from "Watchmen". He's the straight character who appears to be righteous all throughout the story and turns out to be the most insidious. I get that. What I'm suggesting is that perhaps Blomkvist was corrupt before the events of the novel took place, he just kept it hidden behind a veil of respectability.
August 16, 2010
How can you claim to know or understand his character without having read this first book? I'm completely baffled by your insistence on this matter.

I have not read "Watchmen," so I won't compare the two characters.

However, Blomkvist is not insidious at the end of the book. I was disappointed that he didn't stay in character and do what he would have done at the beginning of the book. The beginning and middle of the book just felt disjointed from the end, which was rushed anyway.

As far as Blomkvist being corrupt, that is not shown or proven in this book. Perhaps in a later book but not in this one.
August 16, 2010
I'm basing my insight in this matter purely on my knowledge of the author and what I've read about all three books. I'm not being insistent, just questioning the why behind the what of your review. And if you've not read "Watchmen", I must again ask why you rated it so low?
August 16, 2010
Well, it's hard to discuss the why behind my review when you haven't read the book. Background knowledge of the author is good, but you really need to read the book.

Also, I never rated "Watchmen" low, or at least I didn't mean to. I believe at the time I was trying to rate the film, which I saw, but maybe I mixed them up. Either way, I just corrected it. I know you mentioned this before, and I had been meaning to check what you were referring to.
August 16, 2010
Well, I'm not the only one who feels this way about the character, so dismissing my thoughts on this simply because I've yet to read the book is a little odd.
August 16, 2010
I'm not dismissing your thoughts, but I don't necessarily give them as much credence since you have not read the book. I still suggest doing that and forming your own opinions after having read it rather than solely relying on others' interpretations.
April 21, 2010
Heard the movie wasn't very good so I guess I ought to check out the book someday but....I am not exactly fond of slow paces in books. Great review! How's the paper going, my friend?
April 21, 2010
Yeah, I am hearing the same thing. I still want to watch it, though. The beginning was a little tough, but it wasn't as bad as "Twilight." Ah...the paper...it hasn't been going very far because of some recent distractions in my life. I plan to bite the bullet the rest of this week and get a practically finished draft out to both of my readers. I really *really* hope I achieve this goal! Thank you so much for asking, William. :)
March 18, 2010
Good review. I like to read a good mystery from time to time. I'll have to check this one out from the library at some point. :-)
March 18, 2010
It can get a little descriptive toward the end when the mystery is revealed. That would be my main warning for you, Pard, because I can't remember how much you can handle gore in a book.
March 18, 2010
I agree about the how you felt about the characters by the end. I was excited about them and then by the end I was ambivalent.
March 18, 2010
Thanks for reading my review. I didn't feel like there were as much people who agreed with me about the characters by the end of the book. Ambivalence is a great description of my emotional state of mind. I've heard mixed reviews about the second book, whether or not the characters get more interesting or not.
March 16, 2010
Thanks for your comments and I can see why you didn't rate the book higher. The book grabbed from the start and that is important since it took you a while to get into it. Also the family intrigue brought back memories for me of Dark Shadows which was one of my favorite tv shows, so I was probably a little predjudiced.
March 16, 2010
I've never seen "Dark Shadows," but it sounds interesting if it was anything like the family in this book!
March 16, 2010
Johnny Depp is making a movie based on the original series so you might want to check it out.
March 16, 2010
Ooo! I will! I enjoy Johnny Depp as an actor even if he often lands into some redundant roles. :)
March 07, 2010
I finished the book last month and I too had mixed feelings about my rating. The first third of the book was so boring I wanted gouge out my eyes...but, in the end, I saw what all the hoopla over this book was about.
March 07, 2010
I didn't think that much of the book was slow, but the beginning was definitely more difficult to get into, especially if you are unfamiliar with the setting. The turn of events was extremely thrilling and surprising, but I had brought the characters to a level of high esteem that they didn't quite deserve, at least in my opinion, by the end.
January 12, 2010
I have also heard a lot about this book, and also don't know much Sweden. I'm intrigued.
January 13, 2010
The book made me want to learn more about Sweden, and it was a good mystery. I haven't had the time to do the research, though, outside the little bit I did while reading the book!
January 02, 2010
Great review!  I've heard tons about this book, but have yet to read it, so I'll have to check it out sometime.  Thanks for sharing, Adrianna!  The followers of the Book Community will sure appreciate this :)
More The Girl with the Dragon Tatto... reviews
review by . April 04, 2012
Translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland      I was late coming to the massively popular and critically-acclaimed novel (now a Major Hollywood Movie), and while I was thoroughly entertained, I found it left me not quite satisfied.  The hook, if you've not read or seen it in any of its formats (there is also a Swedish movie version), is the Girl of the titles (Larsson finished three before he died, and an unfinished fourth is in limbo pending a bitter estate battle)--an …
Quick Tip by . November 05, 2014
I really enjoyed this one as it reminded me of the intrigue of the Collins family in the old Dark Shadows series.  The two follow-ups, though necessary, were not nearly as good.
review by . March 16, 2010
When I finished reading this book, it was hard to imagine it being the same book that I began a month before. In fact, reading the last third of the book was like reading a completely different book from the first third.  The first third of this book was so slow and boring that I had significant problems even wanting to pick it up off my nightstand to read it. It was great for sleeping but not so good for reading!       Everywhere I went, people were raving about how fantastic …
review by . August 01, 2010
Mikael Blomkvist, investigative journalist and owner of Millennium magazine, is on top of his world. He's just published a hard hitting series of sensational financial articles exposing the staggering corruption of Swedish banker, Hans Wennerstrom, and his star is in the ascendant until Wennerstrom drags him into the courtroom and wins a devastating criminal suit for libel. Blomkvist's world looks bleak as he faces three months in prison and a fine that threatens to take down everything …
review by . December 28, 2011
I finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo around three-thirty this morning and I still can't believe how brilliant it was! My husband bought me a copy and I started it as soon as it arrived. Lisbeth Salander is one of the most likable characters that I have come across. I had heard a lot about how great this book was and so I was expecting it to be pretty awesome. What I found though was that words cannot describe this book. No matter how great I tell you it is, you won't understand unless …
review by . October 07, 2010
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" is the first book in Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy. It is a well crafted crime thriller, but both in its scope and execution it is much more than that. It features two main characters, a middle-aged journalist Mikael Blomkvist who publishes a magazine Millennium in Stockholm, and a young tattooed girl with a troubled past named Lisbeth Salander who works as a freelance security consultant. These two unlikely individuals find themselves …
review by . February 25, 2011
   I saw the movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, before reading Steig Larsson’s book, and I really enjoyed it. The movie is very true to the novel, but the main surprise I found in reading was how handsome and intriguing the main character was meant to be. Lisbeth’s attraction to him is much more believable in the book. And Lisbeth herself is perfectly cast! I think I liked the book even better than the movie.   The story starts slowly with lots of details of …
review by . September 26, 2010
OK, so I'm a little late to the phenomenon that is Stieg Larsson and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. This book, and in fact the whole Girl trilogy, seemed to come out of nowhere and reach a fevered pitch in a very short period of time. I find it even more amazing that it did so as a novel that had to be translated into English after the author's death. Regardless, I finally got a copy and started reading... and was immediately hooked. Larsson mixes a criminal mystery plot with a number …
review by . June 25, 2010
I was initially drawn to Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo after reading about the movie, which, to be honest, is a crying shame.  When I started looking for it (this was before it started turning up in big box stores, following the release of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest - which is, by the way, a great way to pick it up on the cheap), no one I knew had ever heard of it.      Two things really stood out in Larsson's story: the characters …
review by . July 19, 2010
For me, The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo started as an audiobook. It's slow at first, and I had a hard time getting into the story--but after about an hour of listening, I realized that I didn't have enough patience and picked up a hard copy of the book. I couldn't stop reading for seven straight hours. Stieg Larsson's style is enrapturing, every scene leads you onto the next, and you're always wondering what's going to happen, how this information ties into that.   …
About the reviewer
Adrianna Simone ()
Ranked #18
MY GROUPS (AND COMMUNITY):      The following information was taken from the officialCafe Libri Website.   Cafe Libri (Yahoo Reading Discussion Group)is the original Cafe … more
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Amazon Best of the Month, September 2008: Once you startThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, there's no turning back. This debut thriller--the first in a trilogy from the late Stieg Larsson--is a serious page-turner rivaling the best of Charlie Huston and Michael Connelly. 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 reallydon'twant to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo. --Dave Callanan

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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ISBN-10: 0307269752
ISBN-13: 9780307269751
Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Vintage
Date Published: September 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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