The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I bought this because the cover looked cool and it seemed to be receiving some critical acclaim. I’m a fool for the cool cover/rumors of critical acclaim combination. I’m pretty sure I saw a study last year that said cover design does matter even for electronic book purchases (I read the Kindle version). I can attest to that.

And you know what, I nailed it, because this book is absolutely insane. Call it dumb luck or whatever. It destroyed me for about 3 days; messed up my life man. When I read the last words I uttered, “frickin’ insane, man.” It just tugged at me in a million different ways.

This book was originally published posthumously in Swedish and is the first in a trilogy by Stieg Larsson. Needless to say, I’m fired up about reading the others. It’s a crime novel and a mystery novel, definitely not paced as quickly as a thriller.

It takes place in Sweden (mostly Stockholm and a fictional coastal community) around 2003 (seemed to be after Iraq war started, not sure though). It’s a complicated story so I won’t get too deep into the plot lines. There are really two main plot lines but they work well together.

** PLOT KILLERS FOLLOW **

One plot line ends about 3/4 of the way through the book. It feels kind of strange because there is a clear build-up but you know it can’t be the only climax. However, the other plot line is solid so my interest didn’t wain in the slightest. And like the two plot lines, there are two main characters. One is a financial reporter who just botched a huge story but stumbles onto another, potentially larger story. The other is a tattooed hacker who eventually pitches in to help the reporter blow the story wide open. Despite their age difference, there is great chemistry between the two and I’m anticipating how their relationship changes in the next two books

It was pretty original, both the story and the characters. It felt fresh to me. I really liked the way Larsson switched between the two main characters (who don’t actually meet until about half way through the book) and loved the way he orchestrated their first meeting. There were a lot of memorable scenes that I’m still batting around.

Larsson also has a few quirks in his writing style. He clearly has some “brand” names that he loves and incorporates them into the narrative. He mentions, by name, the authors who the reporter reads for pleasure, dropping names like Elizabeth George and Sue Grafton. And he’s also an Apple fanboy, mentioning the iBook and the Powerbook extensively. Also, instead of describing an email simply as encrypted, he’ll say “PGP encrypted email.” Here’s an example, after the “tattooed hacker” loses her computer:

The loss of her computer was depressing but not disastrous. Salander had had an excellent relationship with it during the year she had owned it. She had backed up all her documents, and she had an older desktop Mac G3 at home, as well as a five-year-old Toshiba PC laptop that she could use. But she needed a fast, modern machine. Unsurprisingly she set her sights on the best available alternative: the new Apple PowerBook G4/1.0 GHz in an aluminium case with a PowerPC 7451 processor with an AltiVec Velocity Engine, 960 MB RAM and a 60 GB hard drive. It had BlueTooth and built-in CD and DVD burners.

Just seems oddly detailed. And here is a passage where Larsson discusses the tools used by the financial reporter to keep notes:

The family was so extensive that he was forced to create a database in his iBook. He used the NotePad programme (www.ibrium.se), one of those full-value products that two men at the Royal Technical College had created and distributed as shareware for a pittance on the Internet. Few programmes were as useful for an investigative journalist. Each family member was given his or her own document in the database.

He even puts the URL and everything in there. I checked it out, it’s for real. Being the dork that I am, I found these details oddly comforting.

I usually try to space trilogies out over two to three years, but I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that with this book. I’m going to grab a few series books (Burke, Grafton) over the next few weeks then probably catch up with Larsson’s number two this summer.