I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo long ago and had really liked it. I hadn’t read anything about the Swedish culture before, and since the story was set in a place with a lot of snow, it appealed to me enough to pull me in. The hero of this story is a middle aged guy (not my type :-p) who starts off by getting into a big trouble – his life almost ruined. Yeah, yeah, same old, same old…but what was new was the detailed description of his troubles, his feelings, and his relationships with other characters. The description was so detailed, it felt like reality, almost as if the author had actually written an account of real life incidents from someone’s life. The sheer expanse of Mikael Blomkvist’s troubles, the repercussions of what had transpired, and his feelings about the whole affair seemed quite real. I felt gloomy and depressed all day long and wouldn’t have kept on reading if the book hadn’t given me a tour of the investigative reporting world of Herr Blomkvist.
Then, the heroine was introduced. Lisbeth Salander. This girl is (highly) socially challenged, but is bloody brilliant – an odd combination. She’s a very good investigator and her methods are described in a way that we don’t understand what she’s doing; at least I didn’t, until it was “told” what she was doing – hacking. (I didn’t know that in order to hack a computer, you sometimes have to visit the location of the PC. I used to think that one could hack a computer from anywhere in the world. It turns out that this isn’t true at all times). And then she gets attacked…which was so brutal, I wondered if it was necessary to give all those details.
Now, all these threads are running side-by-side, along with the actual story line as it unfolds: Blomkvist’s ruined life, the new assignment he got, the suspense surrounding the new case, Salander’s twisted personal life, her suspenseful professional life, and both their individual relationships with different people (present and past), not to mention the life-stories of the other characters involved. In real life, we usually sit with one person at a time to hear his/her life story… This helps us remember their individual backgrounds better and not confuse one person’s story with another. But in this book, you’re exposed to various different stories running parallel to each other and you’ve to grasp the stories of all the characters at the same time – life with all its complexities for all characters, unfolding one day at a time. Though it was necessary to tell the story in a chronological order, with so many characters the author was juggling, the parallel stories became a little bit confusing. Sometimes, it felt difficult to remember what had happened to who and when, or who thought what and when. To add to this little confusion, the main story unfolds around a verse in Bible and I, being not a Christian, it was difficult for me to understand the logic behind the incidents (crimes). However, the suspense was so intense, I couldn’t keep the book down and drank it all in one gulp. When I finished at last, the taste of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo lingered in my mind for quite some time. I didn’t know what was it about this book that remained for so long, because I hadn’t particularly liked the hero or even the heroine. But I think the storyline was like a shock to me, and the detailed description taught me a lot of things about two new industries – investigative journalism and hacking – and that’s why I liked this book.
Many days later, I came across the next two books at a lucrative price and I literally pounced on them without knowing what was so exciting about them. I was looking forward to reading about a new case that Blomkvist and Salander would solve together and as soon as I got home, I opened my package of magic. However, I was in for a surprise. Nobody gave them a case to solve together. The hero and the heroine had a kind of falling out and the heroine is drifting from one part of the world to the other. Almost the first 1/3rd of the 2nd book is filled with incidents and details that are not even related to the story in that book. However, the description of a storm is so realistic, it made me open other books in my possession to cross-check whether any other writer had ever written such good description about anything at all! The actual story starts after the 1/3rd pages are over. (This again made me feel like the author was just documenting the incidents of real life of the characters, because life isn’t focused like a book would portray it. A book would normally document only those incidents that are related to the story that it is telling, and would weed out all other details that are irrelevant. But not this book.) By halftime, the story is reaching its peak and Blomkvist’s publication agency is ready to raise a hell of a storm in Sweden. Suddenly, two main characters are killed and Salander becomes the suspect!
This was quite an unexpected twist and very inconvenient for the story to continue forward…Now how will Blomkvist raise hell as he wanted to? Will the crooks go scott free just like it happens in real life? If not this scoop, what will Blomkvist’s publishing house publish in its place? Would they have enough time to work on another theme altogether for their upcoming magazine’s publication? It was like you’re salivating over a chocolate cake, you pick it up, open your mouth wide to eat it whole, but as soon as it touches your lips, it goes poof! It not only leaves you hungry and salivating, you’re also confused, angry and with a big black pit in the stomach as an indication of your unfulfilled strong desire. What I liked about this book and the previous one was the investigation that ensues. The first book covers the investigation done by just the main characters. The second book covers investigation from various different parties – the Police, the media (read Blomkvist), and a security agency where Salander used to work before. Its interesting to read how each group investigates and speculates about what must have happened based on the limited information they possess, while the reader is told beforehand what exactly happened and how. This is where a new character is introduced, but is kept well hidden under the veil. The people who know him, have been shown as really afraid of him and nobody wants to talk. At last, before the police or the security agency or the media (Blomkvist) could reach the end of the investigation trail, Salander finds this main villain and reaches his place to kill him. A gory fight ensues and the heroine is almost killed, but I felt as if the story was left incomplete. It wasn’t because she was ‘almost’ killed, but it felt incomplete because of some other details. Luckily, I had the third book at hand, so I could directly jump onto the next book, but I couldn’t imagine the plight of the readers of the second book before the third book was published.
One downside in this book was the excessive description of regular life, like multitudes of pages are spent in describing how the heroine shops for furniture, clothes and eatables and the detailed description of each item she buys. The author may have thought that these details would describe the personality of the heroine, but at times, it just goes on and on. The second half of this book again, like the first book, was full of suspense and I couldn’t stop reading it till I’d read it all. And even after finishing this second book, I had an urge to start with the third book and I jumped right in.
The third book starts with the heroine being carried into a hospital and her medical condition on one hand, while the hero struggles with the police (like regular people do in real life) on the other hand. The heroine survives, but the main villain also survives. The whole of the third book is a wrap up for the first two books. We get to know why the gruesome attack on the heroine in first book was explained in so much details. We get to know the history of the heroine and why she is so socially challenged. We also get to know the reason behind her special skills and where she got them from – her picture perfect memory. By the time this 3rd book comes to an end, it feels as if this book also is going to be left incomplete. However, there seems to be last minute tying of loose ends and the almost-real story of Blomkvist and Salander comes to an end.
I read “About Author” after I finished reading all three books and realized that Stieg Larsson died even before his book was translated into English and published throughout the world. So, he didn’t live to see how well his Girl with the tattoos was received across the world. Maybe, what I felt was last minute tying of loose ends, was done in the English version just to give the trilogy a closure. Maybe Stieg wanted to write another book in the series when life happened (I mean ‘death’)…just like life happened in the 2nd book of his, where I felt like the chocolate cake in my hand went poof!
While reading the second and third books, I had a feeling as if the author possessed great knowledge about the bureaucracy and how things functioned in Sweden. I wondered, being an author myself, how ‘I’ would do research to know such great details. Then, I read that the author was a renowned and international level journalist. Hmm…so that’s how he knew. Yet, I’ve read books by other journalists and nobody seemed so good with details while being equally good with spinning a tale. The writers either have vast knowledge OR they know how to spin a tale. But Stieg Larsson is different and is skilled at both. Sorry, was… Its a shame the world lost him so soon. I would have loved reading some more of his work.
The host of the International Author’s Day blog hop: http://www.b00kr3vi3ws.in/
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