I finally caught up with Stieg Larsson’s  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2005, English translation 2008) – about a year later than the rest of the mystery reading universe and wrote the following review….. 

Another review of this book seems more than a little redundant – there can be few mystery readers who, if they have not actually read the book, have at least read a review or heard of it. Sharon Wheeler’s at rte is much the best place to start (http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/review.html?id=7201) and will save me from regurgitating the plot.

So its just a matter of my judgement. Is it an astonishing debut? Yes, undoubtedly. It is almost impossible to believe it is a debut, so assured is the writing even in translation – and one point I would make is that this book would be an even deeper and finer experience if you were Swedish or understood the many references to Swedish politics, media, personalities which permeate the book. It is part of the book’s triumph that Larsson is very Swedish but transcends any national boundaries (although it was very amusing to see St Albans described as a suburb of London – not something the inhabitants of that town would appreciate I imagine!). But the plotting, characterisation, sociology, sense of location, narrative impetus are all of a very high order.

Do I rate it as highly as Sharon (‘one of the finest crime fiction novels it’s been my privilege to read‘) though? Regretfully I am afraid not. This probably comes down to a matter of personal taste. For me the aspect of the book which concerned itself with international finance was all a little over-blown and thrillerish. In fact I felt that the two stories – one of the Vanger family and Harriet Vanger’s disappearance some 40 years before the book is set, and the other of Blomkvist’s battle with the crooked financier Wennerstrom – are not wholly integrated despite all Larsson’s clever attempts to disguise this. I much preferred the Vanger story – which is in many ways a classic mystery puzzle. The third ‘story’ of Lisbeth Salander and her struggles against the system provide the books tension and much of the anger and are well-done, until towards the very end when she becomes embroiled in the Wennerstrom saga, when once again the book teeters into thriller country.

In conclusion – a fantastic debut novel, recommended without hesitation if you are one of those who haven’t read it, without doubt an alpha rating and a book which would have made my top 5 for 2008 if I’d read it then. But in my greatest of all time – no. << 

Now on to the second in Larsson’s Millenium trilogy The Girl Who Played With Fire when I can get it from the library – waiting times are lengthy, a tribute to his well-deserved success. It is worth adding – albeit for the millionth time – my personal sadness that these works should be appearing post-humously. 

(April 2009)

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