reviewed by Kurt Proske
written by Stieg Larsson
November 5, 2010
It was a peculiar looking book, colorfully eccentric with its bright yellow, neon green, and radiant orange cover. The book resembled the alleyway of graffiti artists’ popular hangout spot rather than a piece of literature. Attracting a tremendous amount of attention, it stood out like a naked class clown amongst a crowd of formally gowned high school graduates. Even the title illustrated an ironic bewilderment of oddness, leaving any potential reader with a clueless expression of uncertainty. The book demanded attention from all bystanders that crossed its path; if it was a part of the writer’s marketing plan, than the plan was brilliant. After a few minutes of keeping my distance in a state of uncertainty, I found myself holding the book and walking towards the register.
Beginning the book ambiguously entitled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, written by Stieg Larsson, I found myself in an equivocal state of mind, while unfamiliar names such as Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist were placed in my basket of uncertainty. I contemplated a number of times if the book was worth my while. The basket was steadily becoming heavier as more strange names, places, and unpredictable themes were introduced. Yet I pursued on through the pages that were not clearly determined because my curiosity always seemed to overcome the fear of the unknown. With every turn of the page my uncertainty evolved slowly into mixed emotions of excitement, passion, and love for a book that I once considered an utter stranger. The names Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist were now characters that I shared concern for as the intensely dramatic plot unfolded.
The book is set in Sweden. You are introduced to the cunningly bright and devoted journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, who, at the beginning of the book, is in a place I like to call ‘rock bottom’. Due to a fatally serious mistake, Blomkvist loses all credibility as a professional journalist, but soon after is given the mysteriously unusual opportunity to redeem himself. The odd job entails a case from years ago that forces the journalist to use all his skills to uncover the secrets that were intentionally hidden in the dark past. As impressive as Blomkvist’s skills are, he cannot solve the case alone. Thus he recruits one of the most unexpected characters to complete the job, an out of control antisocial 24-year old girl who is tattooed and pierced from head to toe; her name is Lisbeth Salander. As illogical as the partnership sounds, they are the best crime solving match since the appearance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr.Watson. However, I must admit Salander possess talents that would make even Dr.Watson jealous, talents that I am not at liberty to reveal (crime thrillers thrive on secrets). Throughout the story the two characters bear witness to corporate wars, government corruption, filthy human actions of murder and rape, and countless scenes that will leave you dramatically on the edge of your seat. The brilliance of the plot has the reader in complete awe and ultimately satisfied by the words that line the page.
By the end of the book, I declared that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was one of the greatest books I had ever read and my statement was only reinforced when I discovered that this literary piece honorably held awards from around the world: Sweden’s Glass Key Award in 2006, the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the 2009 Galaxy British Book Awards for Books Direct Crime Thriller of the Year, etc. The book was part of a three part series, known to the world as the Millennium trilogy, a trilogy that sold 27 million copies worldwide (on average an author sells no more than 200 copies). Following The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the tantalizing story continues with The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.
The story’s author, Stieg Larsson, is fascinating in itself. The Millennium Trilogy was originally intended to be a ten book series; sadly, Stieg Larsson died before the epic series could be completed, leaving three unpublished manuscripts that were to become the Millennium trilogy (there is an incomplete fourth book and there is belief that a fifth book exists). It is a downright shame that the author was never able to witness the publishing of his great works, but his life experiences and beliefs had a great influence on his writing and are, therefore, allowing us to catch a glimpse of the “real” Stieg Larsson. Many of these experiences were quite dramatic: just to give you an idea, the main character, Lisbeth, is based upon a young girl (having the same name) who was gang raped; the author witnessed the rape. This event clearly had an impact on the legendary author; he decided to use violence against women as a recurring theme in his trilogy. As you will come to see, Larsson lived a life filled with startlingly intense moments and his obsession with writing accounted for what his eyes had seen. He may have died before he was able to see the outcome of his greatness, but he will always remain a legend after his time.
All in all, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is nothing short of sensational. Any respectable book shelf should and will have this instant classic lying amongst the extraordinary books of time. Two other strikingly attractive books will lay next to it:The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (to complete the distinguished Millennium Trilogy). I can confidently say that if you are looking for a book to catch your interest, then Stieg Larsson will provide you with an addiction that will enrapture the senses, revive the imagination, and induce a feeling of compulsive dependence to read on. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will be forever hailed as a great piece of literature and one that comes highly recommended.