Every now and again there will be a special offer that pops up offering usually the first book in a series for a very low price in order to entice the reader into purchasing the rest. So it was that I purchased The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2015. And promptly left it sitting on my Kindle for over a year.
Once opened it’s a curious beast. Part cold case mystery and part social polemic it takes a few chapters of ‘tell, not show’ to set up the background situation which eventually starts driving the plot. A disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, is hired by an old Swedish industrialist to find out who murdered his niece forty years previously in a small isolated town. The majority of the suspects are the victim’s relatives. This is an opportunity to meet most of them – and it’s all the more entertaining that the family has multiple factions who dislike the other ones with varying levels of distaste.
The eponymous female in the title, Lisbeth Salander, is one of the more fascinating characters. Brilliant, uncommunicative, and moralistic (on her own terms) her painful backstory is slowly unveiled throughout the book.
It’s a book about relationships: how they start, become twisted and end. All relationships here are complex with varying degrees of lying and things left unsaid. It makes the characters wonderfully and realistically human. Or inhuman in some cases.
There are times when the authorial voice does come across as a bit heavy handed. Perhaps it needed another round of editing or a touch more subtlety in the English translation. There’s a number of codas after the murder mystery comes to an unexpected end that seem slightly at odds with the downbeat tone of the rest of the book. Then again even Sweden -the country that is much a character as any other in this book – gets short intense warm summers to compensate for the cold of the rest of the year.