Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - in which Mongoose returns to genre fiction

It has been years since I have read any genre fiction: crime, action, Star Wars (I was once a teen, too), fantasy, etc. This was a conscious choice, so I didn't expect much from Stieg Larsson's famous crime novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. But it came heavily recommended by my mom and a good friend, so I picked it up. And didn't put it down except to sleep and go to work for the next three days. It is truly riveting. This weekend, I bought the second in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and similarly finished it within 48 hours. If you have ever enjoyed a mystery novel, you have got to read these. I would go buy the third and final book (The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest), but it's only available in hardcover, and I have shit to do this week.

The trilogy, an "international publishing sensation," comes with its own dramatic backstory. Larsson died of a massive heart attack at age 50 in 2004 before the sales of the first book really took off - without a valid will. He had never married his partner of more than three decades, Eva Gabrielsson, and according to Swedish law his property went to his father and brother after his death, including rights to his three novels. Gabrielsson allegedly has the partial manuscript of fourth on her laptop. The court battles continue to rage.

Womens' issues play a large role in Larsson's novels, and the author is clearly a feminist. Lisbeth Salander, his  heroine, is a complicated and awesome leading lady, whose primary cause is to stop the "men who hate women." And we find plenty of them: Larsson intersperses the sections of his books with facts about violence against women in Sweden. (Surprisingly high!) I am really excited to see the movies - hopefully this will be a platform for a new actress-centric action series! (The trailer is at the end.)

It is not surprising to find an ally in Larsson, though. He spent his life as an activist against racism and extreme right groups, playing a similar investigative journalist role as his series' hero, Mikael Blomkvist. If the author had much else in common with Mikael, and I suspect he did, then he was also a workaholic who subsisted primarily on sandwiches and massive amounts of coffee. Read the books - you'll see what I mean. (Also, Ms Sady Doyle, a shout-out: I feel you would find a kindred spirit in this Mikael).


  1. Interestingly, Larsson may have been an average Swedish coffee drinker - this article tells me that per capita coffee consumption is highest in Scandinavia.

  2. Have you watched the film version? Apparently they are remaking it in the US. Must read books before that happens!

  3. Not yet, but Creative Loafing has pretty negative reviews. Like Sherlock Holmes, these are characters that are very cerebral - difficult to translate into the action film that is expected for a murder mystery!


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