The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who, at the start of the book, is found guilty of libel after publishing an article about a prominent businessman. Deciding to to dissociate himself from his magazine, he accepts a commission from the aged head of a family firm who wants him to solve a forty year mystery.

The mystery to be solved has echoes of What a Carve Up!, with a family tree printed at the start of the book, and a young journalist uncovering having to delve into the history of a family that has its dark side. But it's not the same kind of book: this is a straight page-turning thriller, and I was stuck to it for the three days it took me to get through it - I had trouble putting it down.

Larsson has created some good characters for the book, not least Lisbeth Salander, the girl of the title, who is simultaneously odd, capable, and sympathetic. Actually maybe a bit too capable: some of the descriptions of her sounded like they could have come out of a John Grisham book, but I'll forgive him that; she definitely had her fair share of flaws. I'm pleased to see that both Blomkvist and Lisbeth turn up in the next book, they make a great team.

The way the tension was maintained was really impressive and well paced: as Mikael or Lisbeth uncover a fresh clue, you feel compelled to read a bit more and see what happens next. I didn't want it to end, and so the final denouement couldn't help but be disappointing.

But although I was glued to the book while I was reading it, the plot was fairly contrived: definitely one in the Silent Hill vein, where it's pretty exciting wondering what's going on while you're reading it, but when you stand back a bit you realised that you've been on rails all the way and things couldn't have turned out any differently.

Evidently Larsson was something of a campaigning journalist himself, and his own opinions seem to come out a bit towards the end of the book: he has Mikael talking about Sweden's "real" economy as compared to what's going on in the stock market:

The Stock Exchange is something very different. There is no economy and no production of goods or services. There are only fantasies in which people from one hour to the next decide that this or that company is worth so many billions, more or less. It doesn't have a thing to do with reality or with the Swedish economy.
Well I think he's earned a bit of room in his book for some op-ed, so I don't mind this, even though maybe it's not strictly speaking that relevant.

I was really sorry to finish this one. I've reserved the second one from the library, although I see I'm 34th in the queue so it may be a while before it comes...

Completed : 26-Jan-2009

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