Recently I decided to start reading more books that fell outside my “normal” reading patterns. The first book I picked was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a mystery book by Stieg Larsson. I chose it, as the main character, the titular girl, Lisbeth Salander is a computer hacker, and earns her living working for a security firm by finding out people’s darkest secrets.
Overall I think the book was a good book. Worthy of a spot on my shelf, and it has lead to me acquiring the second in the series. (I will buy the third when it is released in paperback.) If you like mysteries, I can suggest it as one of the best I have ever read. If not, perhaps a look, but maybe with a bit of a check first.
NOTE: SPOILERS AHEAD DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK. (Or if you don’t mind being spoiled.)
First off, I love the character Lisbeth. She is a wildly intelligent hacker, that clearly has had a very rough life. Her social skills are painfully absent. She trusts no one and has very odd sense of right and wrong. Through the course of the first book, we see her sense of fair play that borders on psychotic. She always does what she feels is right, regardless of whether it is legal.
She seems completely unable to understand people’s intentions or responses towards her. Her antisocial and standoffish behavior seems to draw others in the book to her. I find it interesting that unlike most authors, who will give their characters “abilities” beyond the norm to assist them, Larsson realizes that her ability makes her that much more incapable of handling things. He makes her exceptionally strong, while giving her extremely profound weaknesses. He also doesn’t seem to mind heaping misfortune on her. One of my favorite qualities is her inability to have compassion for a victim. She is furious at a character for fleeing. Even going to far as to blame the victim for not doing something about the crimes sooner. But then in the very same scenes, proceeds to cover up a serial killer! She also scoffs at the notion that society or upbringing can be blamed for anyone’s crimes.
The book is very dark and is far more along the lines of a Law and Order Special Victims Unit than a standard mystery. The author is not one to shy away from detailed gruesome details. It makes for uneasy sections, but then, it really solidifies the reader to Lisbeth’s side.
I also really liked the fact that the book is very Swedish. They didn’t change or edit it (at least not as much as some others) to make it more “American”. The constant issue with characters not owning cars and having to rent them. The fact that square footage is generally included in a place description (how many Americans can even tell you how much square footage their home is?). They always speak of money in kronor, although I think they converted the numbers to the American equivalent without taking into account the exchange rates now… Otherwise the numbers all appear to be shockingly low. $20k driving a company into the ground? Regardless, it’s nice to read a story that is allowed to be told from a different culture and viewpoint.
The ending, while “happy” does not feel satisfying. Much the way that I dislike Law and Order Episodes where the outcome is unclear or the guilty party is not punished for their crime, this book leave the reader with a hollow victory. Yes, the serial killer is dead. But was he brought to justice? Were his crimes brought to light? Was he forced to suffer the atrocities he committed on others? The grand cover up just annoys me more. As I pondered why, especially since the characters give such convincing reasons why it should be covered up, I realized that my biggest issue is none of the characters grew as people from their experience.
Harriet was no more able to face the truth of her childhood than when she ran away. She was just as irresponsible and weak willed as she was at 16. Mikael is just as flaky as he has always been, and just as self centered. He ignores Lisbeth’s feelings to the extend he might as well be just as oblivious as her! Does he consider the women who have died? Does he lose sleep over the person he was friends with that turned out to be a serial killer? Do ANY of them stop to wonder about the man’s girlfriend?!? No, he is far more concerned with his vendetta against the guy he libeled.
After reading the first part of the second book in the series I discover that Lisbeth is in fact the *only* character that grew as a person!
All in all, it was a good book. I am reading the others in the series, but I am wary of suggesting it to others, as it could be a bit squeamish.