The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo



I’ve always wanted to read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — I’ve actually had a copy sitting on my shelf for several months now, but for a while there was some hype about it and I wanted to wait for it to dial down a bit. And then when I was looking for a book to read this weekend, the chartreuse cover got my attention so I finally took it out of its packaging, covered it in protective plastic (of course), and started to read it.

Originally written in Swedish, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. The novel has won multiple awards, including Sweden’s Glass Key Award in 2006 for best crime novel of the year, the 2008 Boeke Prize, the 2009 Galaxy British Book Awards for Books Direct Crime Thriller of the year, and the 2009 Anthony Award for Best First Novel.

Michael Blomkvist is a journalist under fire for libel, having published a damaging article about Swedish tycoon Hans-Erik Wennerstrom without any proof to defend his allegations. After a highly publicized trial, Blomkvist is sentenced with a hefty fine and three months in gaol.

Eager for time off the limelight before he has to serve his prison term, and wanting to save the reputation of  his magazine, Blomkvist is off to a sabbatical from his post as publisher of Millennium when he gets an interesting proposal from Henrik Vanger, the aged patriarch of a wealthy industrial family.

What Blomkvist doesn’t know is that prior to the proposal, Vanger commissioned a thorough investigation on his character, carried out by Lisbeth Salander, the “girl with the dragon tattoo.” Salander is a 25-year old  freelance detective who operates on her own rules, by her own moral standards. She is a highly interesting character, slight in stature, but with a tough-as-nails exterior: spiky hair, black leather, statement shirts (preferrably black), multiple piercings, and multiple tattoos. She’s also a kick-ass sleuth, a master hacker, and a ruthless avenger for justice.

Henrik’s grandniece Harriet disappeared forty years ago and Henrik is convinced she was murdered by one of the family members. He has spent four decades obsessing over the cold-case, and he asks Blomkvist to try and solve what appears to be a closed-room mystery, under the cover of writing the history of the Vanger family.  Although dubious of the murder — no body was ever found — Blomkvist agrees under the promise of support for the Millennium magazine and material to use against Wennerstrom by the end of the project. He moves into a guest cabin on Hedeby island, where Harriet was last seen, and where most of the Vangers reside.

In his research, Blomkvist comes across new material giving credence to Henrik’s belief, and decides to  find an assistant to help him verify some details. Vanger’s lawyer lets slip about Salander’s impressive investigation and Blomkvist enlists Salander’s help in the case.

Blomkvist and Salander’s lives are in peril as they start to uncover an evil that has been lurking beneath the surface for decades.

I’ll leave it at that before I start revealing crucial information.

It’s a pretty straightforward thriller that touches on the Swedish financial industry and the five generations of the Vanger clan. It took a few chapters to get into the story; the similar-sounding names can get confusing, and I was wondering where Lisbeth Salander would come in and she isn’t introduced until after some chapters, but I perked up as soon as I got that far. The chapters then alternate between Blomkvist at Hedeby island and Salander in Stockholm until they partner towards solving the mystery, which is compelling to the end.

While not as predictable or as absurdly unbelievable as a Dan Brown novel (which a friend calls a “leave your brains at the doorstep” mystery, although hey, I’ve enjoyed the Dan Browns, regardless of believability), Mikhael Blomkvist reminds me of a less nerdy Robert Langdon, especially as he makes his way through the ladies throughout the course of the story.

Lisbeth Salander is another story, though, and adds the edge to this novel; her wise-cracking, cantankerous, character (packaged in a punk-rocker get-up) keeps the surprises coming, and is bound to make Nancy Drew cower in her penny loafers. There is much more to Salander than meets the eye, of course, and while the first novel gives us a peek into her life, there is a lot more mystery surrounding her character, which will probably unfold in the next two books in the trilogy.

I really enjoyed this book as I haven’t read a page-turning thriller in a long, long while, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a satisfying read, exactly like my best friend Mika (check out her new book blog!) said it would be. I just got the next two in the trilogy yesterday; hopefully I’ll get to read them soon!


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, trade paperback, 4/5 stars

Book #91 for 2010, book #1 for the Chunkster Challenge – 608 pages (am about 60% done with 2666 then four more chunksters to go!)









25 thoughts on “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”

  1. I still cannot change my URL when I comment on your blog. Where is Lisbeth Salander when I need her to sort through my online hijinks? Haha.

    I recommended this book on Twitter, and a guy commented back that he got turned off by the violence in the book. What a weakling. I can guarantee you that the series gets better with the 2nd and 3rd books. It’s a shame that Larsson passed away early—his initial plan was to have 10 books on Blomkvist & Salander. If you read Larsson’s bio, you’d think that Blomkvist was a projection of himself in fiction.

    Interestingly enough, the Swedish title of this book is “Men who Hate Women.” Ah, much food for thought. :)

    1. Re the guy on your twitter – what a wimp! Hahaha.

      I need Lisbeth Salander too for some surveillance duty and dirt-digging on a certain froglet.

  2. i really enjoyed this book, i think mostly because lisbeth salander is one of the best characters i’ve come across lately. the other two book are sitting on my shelf waiting to be read for a scandinavian writers challenge so i’ll be reading them soon. i’ve heard the second book explores lisbeth more so i’m looking forward to reading it.

    1. Ok naman sya. Not as a friend would put it, a “rock your world” kind of novel, but compelling enough, and worth the hype naman.

  3. Hi there!! I came across your blog because of searching for Blankets (the graphic novel) and then I saw your profile and Shelfari! You have read a lot of books and your reviews are great! I can’t help but see good books in your Shelfari. I’m currently reading the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Wuthering Heights. I was wondering though how you are able to manage to read a lot of books? Do you buy them all? I just bought 6 books and I think my wallet’s dying already XD It’s really amazing! I’ve been meaning to get a copy of Blankets but it’s out of stock everywhere and it’s expensive. I do wish to read more graphic novels too!

    Will now become a regular visitor of your blog! It looks like we have similar tastes! I am loving Thursday Next series but I mistakenly bought the First Among Sequels because it’s hard to find the others and I really thought that it wasn’t even a series! haha!

    Will try to read what you recommend! :D Thank you!

    1. Hi there. Am not sure where you’re based, but Blankets is available on Amazon. If you’re based in the Philippines, there are copies in Fully Booked.

      I do own almost all the books I review. I’m a bargain book hunter and I rarely buy books full price (unless they’re new releases by an author I like), hehehe. Of course it still goes without saying that I’m perpetually broke.

      Thanks for dropping by, do browse around the reviews for my recommendations :)

  4. It was sold out in Fullybooked and Powerbooks when I visited them during their sale :O

    Am based in the Philippines. Woooww! That is so awesome! I don’t know how you find them so faastt! I am itching to get Yann Martel’s Beatric and Virgil and more Thursday Next series but can’t find in bargain storesXD

    Thanks for the tip! :D Will browse around more :D

    1. You can special order it through any of the bookstores, I think you just need a 50% downpayment, and it takes about a month or so. It was around P1400 when I saw it at Fully Booked (MOA)

      There are Thursday Next books that come out from time to time at Book Sale — I’ve even gotten some hardcovers there, and one was even a signed copy!

      Also, try, it’s a great trading site and the local membership has grown in the past couple of years

  5. With similar opinions to yourself about this one, it is still on My Mt TBR. I think I should read this trilogy soon, otherwise I will be one of very few people who have not done so yet!

    1. I just finished the trilogy, and it’s awesome!!! The first book takes a while to get to the compelling parts, the second book is an interesting transition, and I just loved the third book. Will have the reviews of the next two books up this weekend.

  6. They’re going to show the original movie in the Philippines beginning March 30! Maybe I’ll go buy and read the book after watching it first.

    1. Really, the Swedish ones? That’s cool! I’ve seen them though, and I thought Noomi Rapace did justice to the role.

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