“I’ve had many enemies over the years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never engage in a fight you’re sure to lose. On the other hand, never let anyone who has insulted you get away with it. Bide your time and strike back when you’re in a position of strength—even if you no longer need to strike back.” (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson)
After years of seeing the ubiquitous bright covers on the Boston public transportation system, I finally succumbed and picked up Steig Larsson’s series. It couldn’t have happened a moment sooner, because it was only last week that my curiosity about it was piqued. I had to solve my own personal mystery about why The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I knew to be thriller or action novel, was shelved in the mystery section of my library. Within a few pages the answer became clear: the book is a mystery. Although everyone who’s had the pleasure of engrossing themselves with this book doubtless knew that, those of us who have sat on the sidelines listening to the rumors about it have formed the opinion that it is a book is compiled solely of graphic rape scenes and high-finance suspense. However, I have since formed the opinion that the first book, at least, is actually a rather slow (up till page 400), almost sleepy little family mystery novel.
Since reading it, I have developed a problem with reviews that only focus on the violence in Larsson’s novels. It might be appropriate to warn sensitive readers, but I believe we have heard enough on that subject at this point. To me, the violence was appropriate because the book was about crimes against women. It wasn’t as if it were layered on like icing for the fun of it. In actually, the point of the book was to bring alive how frequently hate crimes against women happen, and how infrequently they are reported. This takes the importance of the book beyond a mere mystery and into the level of social commentary. All of the warnings about the novel’s graphic nature may be counter-productive as they limi the people who otherwise would pick up the book and incidentally learn about the rate of abuse in Sweden and other countries. I think this is a book well worth reading, if one can disregard the ‘hype’ and approach it as one would approach any other mystery novel.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Length: 600 pages
Further Reading: Instead of a book, this reminded me a bit of the made-for-netflix TV show shot in Norway: Lilyhammer. You won’t find a detail-oriented mystery in this show, but it does have that lovely Northern European feel and culture.