Sunday, August 22, 2010

Book Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

So this is kinda weird: I actually read this book.

Weird, because usually the very fiber of my being cringes away from anything that "everyone is reading," anything with the amount of hype that's surrounded this particular book for what seems like ages.

But then someone told me they didn't like it, which was interesting since it seems like everyone and their dog loves this book. And then I read something about it in an article about the casting of the American version of the movie, something that intrigued me -- I can't remember what. And then they had a free sample available in the Kindle Store, so I read the first two chapters, and while they were not life-changing in any way, shape or form, I did feel compelled to continue.

So this book is a mystery novel about an investigative journalist in some amount of professional disgrace who receives an offer from a wealthy elderly retired CEO of a large family-owned corporation to look into the disappearance (and probable murder) of his niece back in the late 1960s. Along the way, he is assisted by a young woman who is ostensibly a background check expert for a security firm but comes by most of her info by hacking. She has issues. She is the "girl" of the title, covered in several tattoos, including a dragon on her shoulder.

First of all, she is a woman in her 20s, so right off it irked me that the book was called The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The other reason this title irked me is because she's not the main character. She's a sidekick at best. Personally, I don't think a book should be named for its sidekick. How misleading would it be to have called a Sherlock Holmes book The Adventures of Watson? Extremely, that's how.

But getting past the title, I did really enjoy the book. It's a mystery, as I said, and has a lot in common with most of the work I enjoy in the genre (PD James, Jonathan Kellerman, Faye Kellerman, etc.) -- just enough back story for the detective (or in this case, the investigative journalist) to keep him an interesting character; a clear painting of the supporting cast members; intriguing setting (Sweden, a country I really knew nothing about other than its location and some other very basic information until I did some research the other day); and a good mystery compounded by a lack of evidence and the amount of time that's passed since the subject's disappearance (36 years). The book has a lot of lengthy conversation in it, and not quite so much action as one might expect from the average thriller -- towards the last quarter of the book, there's quite a bit of action, but otherwise it's more of an intellectual thriller.

Occasionally it feels as if there are moments that have been kind of lost in the book's translation from Swedish to English. Weird motivations and dialogue that doesn't seem to progress properly from point A to point B to point C -- it just goes straight from A to C. But it wasn't terribly distracting.

I didn't do any background reading on the book and the other two in the series till after I finished, and now I'm a little concerned -- there's a secondary plot line about the girl, where she has some kind of mysterious past which has caused the issues she has now. And I suspect the plan was to spread this plot line throughout the remainder of the series... which was intended to be 10 books. 10! But the author died before completing the 4th, for which there is apparently an outline or some notes or something. Which means... total cliffhanger. I bet.

I'm going to go ahead and read the other two books. I recommend this one if you like the genre. It's no literary masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, and I can't quite wrap my head around what about it has so captivated so many; there is fandom surrounding this book to rival Harry Potter and Twilight (although it's a grown up fandom, so not as screechy and annoying as the TwiHards), and I just don't get it. I would far prefer to see millions of people go all book-groupie on PD James' ass if they're going to get addicted to a mystery series, but I suppose that's just my personal penchant for a good British mystery talking.

Oh, speaking of which -- the author was clearly a fan. He had his main character reading British mystery novels throughout the book. Including something unnamed by Elizabeth George. Inspector Lynley for the win! Which was a nice touch.

And I'm not gonna lie: the whole thing was made easier by the fact that Daniel Craig (swoon) has been cast as the main character in the American version of the movie, and I was thus able to just picture him the entire time I was reading. That was kind of awesome.

1 comment:

Carola Bartz said...

I nver quite understood the hype about this book either. I read it because a friend told me about it and borrowed it to me. I don't think I'd missed anything if I hadn't read it. Well, now I can at least voice my opinion!