Thursday, November 11, 2010

Book review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I really didn't like this book, for three main reasons.

The first one is quite petty. But basically I found myself agreeing with Phil Whittall. And those of you who know me and know Phil and know how we go way back will know how painful that is to admit to. (My tongue is in my cheek as I type that.)

When I say agree, I agree mainly with his points (articulated in this post) about unnecessary episodes of violence, including graphic descriptions of sexual torture.

Rape and sexual violence is real in this world. It's horrible and it is wrong. There is something very screwed up about turning it into entertainment.

And there are three gruesome incidents that actually could have been cut from the book without much being lost. That they were written and included says something about the writer, Steig Larsson. Phil relates how Larsson witnessed a gang rape, which traumatised him. Well, it may have been catharctic to write about ultra-violence, but really that should have been shared with a therapist, not the book-buying public.

The second reason I didn't like it is that I really wasn't that fussed about the main characters. I had a vague sense that the male lead, a good-looking forty-something financial journalist, was a wish-fulfilment character. The author was a forty-something financial journalist, which kind of gives it away.

Thing is, if you are going to turn yourself into a hero, then make a bit of an effort. Being the kind of guy everyone sleeps with and who falls arse-first into money, and who gets even with all the bad guys in the end, is improbable. It makes you look pitiful.

And thirdly, the denouement was shit. [SPOILER ALERT]

So, the missing girl had been alive all along and living in Australia.

Somehow the police weren't able to work that out. But nobody is that good at disappearing. Certainly, not 16 year-olds. We were meant to believe that the Uncle who was obsessed with her disappearance had spent thousands of kroner to try and find out what happened, but no one had worked out that there were two family members with the same name out there! It was just rubbish.

And then there were the last couple of chapters after all the excited unveiling of the serial killer (!) that covered the financial journalist's vengeance in print on the industrialist who had bested him in a libel case. And it all worked out perfectly. And everyone was happy. And all the bad guys got their comeuppance! And the Famous Five got to eat tea with their Auntie and washed down the ham sandwiches with lashings of ginger beer.

Give me a break.

There was a taster for the next in the trilogy at the end of the book. I thought I'd read it. Oh, another girl getting tortured. Great.

This is where I diverge from Phil. He said he might read the other ones in the series. I won't.

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