Having somehow managed to avoid seeing either versions of the film, I was quite excited to pick up the first of this renowned trilogy and find out where the hype began. Just over a week of obsessive reading later, I was not disappointed.
While I’m certainly no expert on crime thriller novels, I can clearly tell that Larsson has produced a masterpiece of the genre. Murder, mystery and uncovered truths: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo bears all the hallmarks of a classic thriller, expertly woven into a sophisticated narrative that keeps you perplexed and second guessing from start to finish.
The novel opens with our central protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, a financial reporter of the Swedish magazine Millenium, facing sentencing after his article on a key business baron is charged for libel. Disgraced and down on his luck, Blomkvist soon finds himself confronted with a strange proposition for a new assignment, that will take him far from Stockholm and deep into the dark and troubled past of his new employer.
In the meantime, we are simultaneously introduced to another key character who will play a role in the intricate plot to come: Lisbeth Salander, a.k.a the girl with the dragon tattoo. Despite bearing the name of the novel, this mysterious character takes some time to come to the fore. Her story begins with a series of brutal encounters and hardships, as we gradually learn more of her troubled nature and past. Out of this backdrop however emerges the hardened and iconic character who has gone on to feature in another three novels.
In terms of style, I found this novel quickly contradicted my ideas of what makes a real page-turning thriller, which you often see in others of the genre. The narrative opens very much as a slow burner, with Larsson presenting the reader with a large amount of background to set the scene. While this can often be tedious in some novels, whose authors often write for the sake of their own imagination, this lesson in history quickly proves not only intriguing, but also very much important in the pages to come. The benefits of taking some time to set the scene are often over-looked, with many opting instead for immediate action. In this way, I quickly found myself as immersed in this fictional investigation as the characters themselves, eager to discover the next shred of evidence and decipher its meaning.
On the whole, this is well worth a few late evenings and lost weekends. With a series of interesting characters, twists and hard-won truths, its clear why this novel found its way to two different cinematic features.
Length: 538 (Quercus)
Overall Rating: 4.5 stars