The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Written By: Stieg Larsson

Published By: Vintage

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


             After watching The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and being pleasantly surprised by what I saw, I decided that I should check out the novel that the movie was adapted from.  I had heard great things about the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, but I wasn't about to believe the hype until now.  I couldn't wait to check out the first book in the trilogy.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo starts off with Mikael Blomkvist, a Swedish journalist who has just been convicted of libel involving a wealthy speculator.  Facing a jail term and a huge monetary payout is not the worst of Blomkvist's troubles - he is co-owner of a  magazine and the advertising backers are pulling out in droves.  If the disgraced journalist doesn't figure out something soon, Millennium will go under.

Enter Henrik Vanger who offers employment away from the magazine, thus luring the taint away from the product.  Vanger is the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation, a huge company in some financial difficulties of its own.  After having Blomkvist checked out by Milton Security's best investigator, an incredibly intelligent young misfit named Lisbeth Salander, Henrik decides that Blomkvist is trustworthy enough to take on an investigation of his own. 

You see, Henrik Vanger's great-niece Harriet disappeared thirty-six years ago and Henrik has been receiving a framed flower every day on his birthday for the past thirty-five years, a gift that the teenage Harriet used to bring him on his birthday before her disappearance.  It is Henrik's belief that Harriet was murdered and that one of the members of his extended family committed the deed, carrying out the flower tradition to taunt him.

Mikael is hesitant at first, but soon takes on the case, but something about the case just doesn't add up.  There is also the added incentive offered by Henrik - a chance to prove that Blomkvist was wrongly accused of libel regarding the speculator.  He hires on an assistant - the same troubled young woman who was hired by Vanger to investigate him.  Can the unlikely duo solve the mystery of the disappearance of Harriet Vanger or will someone involved in the case decide to put a definitive end to the investigation once and for all?

While there are some major differences between the contents of the book and the movie adaptation, I feel the creators did a credible job in keeping the main theme of the novel intact.  I felt that the movie creators were as faithful to the book as the time allotment for the movie would allow.  Thus, I can honestly say that I enjoyed both the movie and the book equally as much, although I must admit that the book (as is usual in this sort of thing) fleshes out the characters better and makes their actions more easily understood.

Now that I have talked about how I feel regarding the book and the movie adaptation, let me focus solely on the novel.  Stieg Larsson's writing style is captivating.  His character development and the tantalizing mystery that weaves them all together draws the reader in.  I found myself unable to put the book down for hours at a time.  I finished the novel very quickly, so excited I was to see the mystery through to its conclusion.  While the novel focuses on two main characters, I found that my favorite was Lisbeth Salander.  I found her character to be fascinating and I loved her strength.  In the face of all she has suffered, Lisbeth doesn't just endure, she gets even, getting the better of anyone who harms her or those she cares about.  Hers is a strong female character with vulnerabilities that never undermine her powerful presence.

The Vanger mystery is engrossing and the reader will enjoy collecting the clues along with Mikael and Lisbeth.  You become so engrossed in the characters in this book that the revelations made during the course of the investigation are so shocking, it's as if the reader has discovered something horrific about a member of their own family.  The final moments of the investigation are fascinating and I had a lot of fun figuring things out with Mikael and Lisbeth and comparing the outcomes of the film and book (I think I liked the film's version better).

It's a shame that Stieg Larsson only completed a trilogy of novels.  His writing style is such that I have no doubt I will enjoy the rest of the Millennium Trilogy.  In fact, I can't wait to get my hands on the next novel, The Girl Who Played with Fire.


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