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Powerful mystery disarmed

  • Apr 4, 2012
Rating:
+3
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 antisocial amoral anorexia-thin tattooed 24-going-on-15 waif named Lisbeth Salander.  She has earned her quiet, almost stoic, bitter cynicism honestly, through bureaucratic labeling as a mentally and socially incompetent and incapable of caring for herself, and sadistic abuse by a government-appointed guardian who attempts to tame her fiery hatred through sexual bondage.  He is not the last who will find out she is not to be crossed.  

Salander is also a phenomenal personal investigator with a photographic memory and ethically questionable means, which she uses first to investigate and then to assist financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist in his highly-paid assignment investigating the history and mysterious doings of the Vanger family industrial empire.  The thriller at the heart of the story is a fine one, as Blomkvist faces a decades old cold case that seems impossible to solve with a relentless effort.  When he combines forces with Salander, the case slowly yields with tantalizingly-timed pacing to their stolid effort.  

Its not quite a five-star classic, and here's why:

1.  Too much story for the plot - when the mystery was resolved, releasing the pent-up tension Larsson banked along the way, there are still many pages of denouement remaining, that left me a bit flat.  I haven't seen either movie version yet, but I wouldn't be surprised if the ending is either ignored of substantially shortened.  It left me expecting one more shoe to drop, and just a bit disappointed when it didn't.

2.  While their stolid persistence in battle against evil is part of the power of the book, ultimately Blomkvist and Salander are as soullessly amoral, if not evil, as the bad guys.  While the reader can cheer for them to win, and does, their victory isn't a clear moral victory.  True, part of the power of the book is the human flaws of the heroes, but perhaps their flaws are too easily accepted to be truly admirable.

So now I know why it seems half the people headed anywhere at every airport I've flown through in the last two years have been reading one of the Larsson books.  You might even see me reading the Fire installment the next time I fly through an airport near you.  Good, just not great.

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Todd Stockslager ()
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I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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Wiki

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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Details

ISBN-10: 0307269752
ISBN-13: 9780307269751
Author: Stieg Larsson
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Vintage
Date Published: September 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
First to Review
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