Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I’m all about some young adult fiction, but I like to read outside my genre too. Been through my Dean Koontz phase, John Grisham graced my bedside table for many years, and I have a perpetual passion for anything James Patterson. Guess you could say I’m a bit of a thriller girl. So when I heard everyone and their great aunt on their second cousin’s side rave about the Stieg Larsson Millenium trilogy, I thought… Cool—I love a good thriller.

Why not?

Then I read the first twenty pages and asked myself…

Why, why, why?

Fortunately for the fabulous Mr. Larsson, I’m a reader. I don’t put a book down after the first five, ten, even fifty pages. Gosh… Twilight (one of my absolute favs) I couldn’t get into that baby until I hit the triple digits. And thank my need-for-a-page-turner-thriller mindset, I persisted past the technical mumbo jumbo (PS- absolutely necessary) of the first twenty some pages of Larsson’s book… cause after that temporary migraine, it was smooth sailing… well, more like full speed ahead. After page twenty-something, Larsson soars you down the choppiest currents of the wackiest wild river rapids.

Soooo-thriller woman? What’s so good about it, you ask?

Ah… let me enlighten you.

First—the premise.

Originally (and appropriately) titled Men Who Hate Women, the book combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue with one unifying theme: women victimized by men.

Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, loses a debatable libel suit and faces jail (gaol) time and the potential demise of his magazine, The Millenium. Enter Henrik Vanger, octogenarian and one of the eldest remaining members of one of the most prominent and wealthy families in Sweden, with a proposition: he wishes for Blomkvist to “re-open” a hacked-to-death forty-year old cold case—dig up the dirt surrounding the mysterious disappearance of his beloved great-niece Harriet. Under the guise of researching the family for a future novel, Blomkvist accepts the offer, moves to Hedeby Island, and soon becomes acquainted with five generations of the Vanger family—all with diverse personalities, and all with varying degrees of tolerance for his presence on the island.

He accepts and enlists the help of twenty-four year old research assistant Lisbeth Salander—tattoo-ridden antisocial misfit with a prowess for computer-hacking and a hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age. When they connect Harriet to a series of murders from the 1950s and ‘60s and as they delve deeper into the Vanger past, they realize they may not be working on a cold-case after all.

Second—I thrive on a good page-turner. With all the plot twists and turns and the skillfully intertwined storylines, I just did not want to put this book down, even after the katrillion new words I learned in the first twenty pages. Even when Blomkvist interviewed yet another Vanger family member, Larsson would throw in another twist and I was hooked, hooked, hooked!


The plot’s incredibly compelling, but ultimately what drew me in… the characters… for many reasons. Blomkvist—I just liked him. Why? He’s a middle-aged journalist faced with losing his reputable magazine publication. He knows fighting against his misguided conviction would only worsen matters so he leaves The Millenium in the capable hands of his long-time partner and takes himself out of the picture to save the business. He makes choices I know I’d never have the guts to make. And just when I think I have him all figured out, he does something to totally surprise me—in a completely good way.

And Salander(book namesake)—I’m intrigued by her from the onset. Readers will want to initially hate her but Larsson creates these characters who may affront everyone else, but he takes you past their walls and you fall in love with them. And the people who seem most upright, sometimes turn out to be the most iniquitous of all.

His book confirms everything I believe about a good read. Yeah, there’s got to be a compelling premise, solid writing, and page-turning moments, but it’s the characters the reader invests in, it’s the characters that keep the reader reading. I’ve read some supposedly fabulous novels that were beautifully written and had this phenom storyline, but I just couldn’t get into it… because I couldn’t connect with the characters.

And not everyone connects with the same thing, but trust me… with the myriad of characters in Dragon Tattoo (uh,… there’s like two hundred… seriously) you’re sure to connect with someone.

Pick it up. Read it. Test your endurance through the first twenty pages. Trust me—there’s no looking back after that.

Oh—and PS—I looove a book that keeps me yearning for more. And thankfully, before Larsson met an unexpected death in 2004, he finished the trilogy. Can you guess what graces my nightstand now?

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