The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson; Vintage Books, 2009
Every now and then, one happens upon a book so compelling that our life is essentially placed on hold until we finish reading it. Beds go unmade, dishes languish in the sink, social obligations are postponed or ignored; everything waits until we finish the book. One such book was Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs; another is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson.
A copy of this book fell into my hands during a recent trip to Denver, courtesy of my friend Kay Stevenson, and I was up until 2:00 last night reading it. Briefly, the novel tells the story of Mikael Blomqvist, the co-owner and publisher of the financial watchdog magazine Millennium, and Lisbeth Salander, a socially awkward, abundantly tattooed, fiercely independent private investigator and computer hacker extraordinaire. Blomqvist is hired by aged industrialist Henrik Vanger to investigate – and if possible, to resolve – the disappearance thirty-six years ago of his niece Harriet, and he hires Salander to aid him in his pursuit. The working out of this mystery is compelling in and of itself, but more enthralling still is the character development of the novel’s protagonists, especially Lisbeth Salander, who engages our interest and sympathies from start to finish.
Originally written in Swedish, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was first published as Män Som Hatar Kvinnor, “Men Who Hate Women”. That title tells us a lot about the author’s central theme, which is the tendency of power to corrupt both morally and sexually. Yet for every character in the book who does hate women, there is a Mikael Blomqvist, Holger Palmgren, Henrik Vanger, or Dragan Armansky, who love and respect them. It is obvious also that Stieg Larsson himself loves women, or did. Tragically, he died of a heart attack at age 50 in 2004.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not a polemic on the evils of men; it is a psychological thriller, and a first-rate one at that. As such, I heartily recommend it.
Just be sure you don’t have anything else you have to do.