The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (a/k/a Picky Reader 12)

One reader’s opinion follows:

 The only reason I read this book is because a workshop presenter at the upcoming Novelists, Inc., conference expects the participants to have read it and also to have recently viewed the first Terminator movie.

Several months ago a Starbucks customer who is also an avid reader, urged me to read TGWTDT, as well, but contrary as I am, I resisted.  I resist reading bestsellers just because they’re bestsellers.

However, since I had a Barnes & Noble gift card and it didn’t technically cost me anything to buy a copy, and I wanted to be prepared for the workshop, I bought a paperback copy and read it.

This book breaks rules, which is probably why it’s a bestseller.  It’s long (paperback edition is 644 pages), it doesn’t fit any one category, instead it fits into many, and even at that it’s mislabelled, it’s complex and it doesn’t exactly start in the middle of the action, but with a prologue that won’t make sense for quite a while.

I’d heard rumors about this book.  That it starts slow.  That it’s hard to keep track of the characters.  That there’s a lot of financial information to wade through at the beginning.  None of which I felt was true.  The premise of the book presented early on is pretty straightforward and easy to understand.  If that was considered a slow start, it’s no slower than the beginnings of many other books I’ve read.

There is really no point in trying to keep track of who’s who in the Vanger family, so I completely ignored that.  It simply doesn’t matter.  The two characters who matter most are Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander and what they are doing separately and together.

Although TGWTDT is billed as “a sexy, addictive thriller,” it isn’t sexy and it isn’t a thriller, at least not in the traditional sense.  It is a complexly layered mixture of mystery and suspense.  Lisbeth Salander is by far the more fascinating character, but I found her almost over-the-top as to border on unbelievable.  Blomkvist, on the other hand, is quite believable, almost annoyingly normal and non-confrontational which makes him an excellent foil for her extreme behavior.

This is an almost can’t-put-it-down book, so I’ll give the PR-hypers “addictive” in their description.  But the reason I didn’t want to put it down is because there’s so much going on, so many branches of activity to keep track of, you really want to know how all of it will be resolved, from the hunt for a serial killer, to the hunt for a long-missing woman, to the hunt for proof to bring down a huge criminal corporation.  It’s all connected and I thought the author did a fine job of keeping the threads between those dots going, keeping the reader interested and the characters on their toes.

Although I thought about the possible conclusions, and I was partly right, I didn’t figure out much of anything beforehand.  I just let go and enjoyed the ride.

The only time the story fell apart a little bit is during the banking business toward the end.  I would love to know what “private bonds” are, how Lisbeth got them, and how they are so easily and without question converted to cash. 

I have no idea how long it took Mr. Larsson to write this book.  It would take someone like me years and years and it wouldn’t be this good.  

I rarely read excerpts from a sequel that are included at the end of the book, but with this one I did.  I will most likely read the other two books, maybe when I get my Kindle which is due to arrive any day.  Or maybe I’ll take that B & N gift card and get the paperbacks.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is it’s okay to read a bestseller every now and again. J

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