The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family.

He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history.

But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a book I was hesitant to read for a long time. When it was released a massive hype and media storm surrounded it; this made me reluctant to buy it, I was scared that this novel would not live up to its expectations and my hopes for a brilliant thriller. However! Despite this, a friend convinced me to read it after she said she could not put it down and so, I read it, and the verdict is that I LOVED it! The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the most incredible, thrilling and exhilarating novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading and along with Gone Girl and Jane Eyre, it is a newly found favorite read of mine. Stieg Larsson’s skill not only as a writer but a storyteller floored me – upon finishing this novel all I could do was sit back in shock and amazement at what a brilliant book I had just read. In my reviews, I like to write a brief description of this book, and although the majority of you will know all about this excellent book, I am still going to write a summary for the readers who are yet to experience this glowing read!

Our story begins in 1966 and follows the mysterious Vanger family. 16-year-old Harriet Vanger, daughter of the CEO of a family-run business (which can only be described as a wealthy empire) known as Vanger Corporations, goes missing from the family’s small island community and is never seen again. No trace of Harriet, not even her body was found. Harriet’s disappearance has always troubled her great-uncle, Henrik Vanger. Henrik has never moved on past Harriet’s disappearance; he desperately wants to know what happened to his beloved and most favorite family member.

The disappearance of Harriet has become Henrik’s obsession over the last 40 years; he has pondered over and over again about what could have possibly happened to Harriett. Sadly, Henrik soon concluded that someone had murdered Harriet but not just anyone… somebody in the Vanger family (now we have ourselves a family mystery book lovers!). Although Henrick believes Harriet was murdered, he nor the police have ever been able to think of a motive or find any potential perpetrators; therefore, he has no idea who to suspect.
Flash forward 39 years and it is now 2005 and Henrik is still obsessed with Harriet’s disappearance. Henrick’s time is running out to find the answers once and for all; He is an ill man with ailing health, he is growing older and sicker with each passing day, so soon, his obsession soon turns to desperation. In his desperation, Henrik decides to spend his riches on hiring an investigator to investigate Harriet’s disappearance so that he can indulge in his obsession one more time… once and for all before his time runs out.

 

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At this point in the novel, we meet the protagonist of the story, Mikael Blomkvist. Mikael is a forty-something-year-old financial journalist and editor of Millennium magazine; a magazine which he co-founded which prides itself on investigative journalism. Blomkvist, however, and the magazine have suffered a significant blow recently, and he has been convicted and found guilty of libel against one of the most prominent entrepreneurs in Sweden: Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. It is crucial for me to mention Hans-Erik Wennerstrom because he and this subplot plays a considerable part in the latter part of the novel.

Mikael, with his name in poor-reputation, wants to keep a low-profile (understandably so!) and so, he pretends that he has been fired from the magazine to save it from further scrutiny from the media as well as the vicious Wennerstrom. Henrik Vanger is a man of many talents, one of those talents is scouting the right man for the right job. Henrick has been following Mikael and his career for a long time, he admires his journalistic skills, and when he learns of Mikael’s leave of absence, he sees this as an opportunity to hire Mikael and his resourceful knowledge to solve Harriet’s disappearance.
Henrick soon arranges a meeting, and upon Mikael and Henrik’s gathering, the reader learns that Mikael’s father worked once for the Vanger Corporation and Harriet herself had babysat little Mikael a few times. This, unlike the Wennerstrom snippet, is not an essential part of knowledge to the story. However, it does add another depth to this novel, and it helps with Mikael’s later decision.
Henrik jumps at the opportunity of hiring Mikael, and so he makes him a proposition. The proposition is that he come and live at Henrik’s estate with a year-long contract accompanied with an enormous sum with the ‘pretext’ of writing a history of the family – an autobiography of Henrik. I am sure all of you lovely readers can guess by now that this pretext is false and instead, his real mission is to discover what has happened to dear Harriet.

After much convincing and reluctance from Mikael, he finally agrees to take Henrick up on his offer, even though he knows that this is a troubling case as well as a challenging, delicate task and so, he needs help. Now the reader meets the second protagonist of the novel, Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is a brilliant, quiet, secretive young woman who excels at her ‘job’ as a masterful, genius hacker. Lisbeth is a woman with a troubled past and an even more troubling present; she is typically a closed book, but she sees something in Mikael. Somehow, he earns her trust and frankly, it takes her by surprise. So begins The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo as this enigmatic duo team up to discover the truth about Harriet’s disappearance.

Book lovers, I am so sorry for my very long synopsis! I get carried away when writing a review of a book I love. It is a novel I am madly in love with; it is mysterious, haunting, twisted and suspenseful… all qualities I love in a mystery! The secrets the reader uncovers will shock you to your core; already I would have to implore you lovely readers to read this book if you have not yet. It is too brilliant to be missed!

At this point in my review, I believe it is essential to write about Larsson’s inspiration for his novel but I warn you, it is incredibly harrowing. Larsson’s inspiration for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo comes from a tragic and unsettling incident a young Larsson witnessed at the tender age of just 15. Larsson spoke of how he stood by as three men gang-raped an acquaintance of his named Lisbeth. Larsson, days later, was racked with guilt for having done nothing to help her and begged desperately for her forgiveness…she refused. The incident he said has haunted him for all of his life and in part inspired him to create a character named Lisbeth Salander who is also a rape survivor in the novel. This inspiration is heartrendingly sad, and I was shocked when I read about it. I think readers who know this, will gain an even better understanding of Lisbeth and that is important considering she is the focus of the novel.

The crime elements within these pages are terrifying, and unlike anything I read before and again, I can’t mention it without referring to Larsson’s other line of inspiration. Larsson’s crime inspiration for his novel comes from the murder of Catrine de Costa. Catrine de Costa was a 28-year-old Swedish prostitute who was murdered and horrifically had her body dismembered and placed in separate plastic bags all over Sweden. What is worse is that the killer was never found and ‘him’ setting those bags all over Sweden was a horrible twisted game he was playing with the police.

Larsson as a writer certainly had a very unusual, but an incredible way of thinking and learning about his inspiration for this novel will bring you closer to it and help you understand it better. I just wish poor Larsson was alive today so I could pick his brain about all things The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo could be labeled as only a ‘crime mystery’ however I think differently. I believe that this novel is so much more than a generic piece of crime fiction; it could never be generalized because it is special, unique. Larsson managed to add depths and layers to this novel which I have never before have come across with a crime novel.
Instead of being ‘just a crime mystery,’ it is the story of a woman’s survival, a story of crime, a story of disordered personalities as well as family relationships. It is more than a mystery, it is an entity of its own, and so I do hope that you lovely readers read this excellent book.

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Lisbeth Salander, where do I start? Lisbeth has to be the most incredible protagonist in the history of publishing. Lisbeth is an introverted, intricate, intriguing young woman; she is a woman who has a fantastic narrative, it grabs you from the first page and hooks you to the last. Lisbeth is not only an intriguing woman; she is a survivor, she has been surviving her whole life. She has survived the horrific state care system she had grown up in; in which she experienced unspeakable acts. She is surviving the prejudices which have sadly been placed upon her throughout her life. She is a remarkable woman for this alone but even more so because she has been surviving all by herself, with no help or support system. Lisbeth is a strong, authentic, poignant character and one of my favorite protagonists of all time.

As a lover of literature, I have to give praise to Larsson for writing such an exceptional novel. His writing will engross, enthrall and entertain you from the very first sentence; ever since the first sentence I was hooked. From that moment onwards I knew it was going to be an unforgettable read and it was! Larsson was a gifted writer; his words held such power over me and the millions of other readers his words touch.
It is tragically sad that Larson never knew the success of his Millennium series and what a critical read it became – especially for survivors. I am sure the majority of you know of Larsson’s fate, but in case you do not, I will enlighten.

Larsson had always only ever been a Journalist and Nazi specialist; however one day he decided to put pen to paper and write a book series. He walked to his publisher and handed his three manuscripts up front, but sadly, just a few days later he tragically died… he never knew the success of his novels, and that is so incredibly sad to me.

The next few paragraphs in my review are going to contain a few spoilers so if you do not know what happens in this book and do not want to be spoiled, then please skip to the spoiler-free sections which will be highlighted!

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Book Review

Spoiler – Having finished reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and learning of Martin Vanger’s true nature; I can’t help but see the shocking resemblance between him and his father’s gruesome crimes (but also the inspiration of the true-life murder of Catrine de Costa). As I am writing of how grotesque and immoral Martin’s crimes were, I have to mention that the crimes in this book are equally, if not more grotesque than the crime of Catrine de Costa; which is still a very shocking thought to me.

The crime in this novel could surpass that of a real-life horror show. If you do not mind reading about gruesome murders and crimes and in fact, have an interest in them then, of course, this is a book which you would revel in because the crimes were so disturbing that it makes your head spin with thoughts and feelings which you would not typically be accustomed. This is yet another reason why I loved this novel because as a lover of psychology and criminology alike, I was in my element!

At this point, I feel that I should write down my thoughts on the ending, not the conclusion but the ending and climax of the Vanger family saga and Martins murders. When Mikael was taken captive and strung up like a carcass by Martin, my first thought was ‘Yes! Now, this is going to be intense’ and intense it was! The conversation was raw, enticing and thrilling; so thrilling that I wanted it to last longer!

Spoiler Free – To summarise my thoughts on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I would say that this exceptional novel is a steady, streamlined, thrilling, gripping read which is distributing and creepy at the same. If you adore compelling mystery crime novels, then this indeed is the book for you and I have no choice but to give this incredible book Five Stars!

Thank you so much for reading my review book lovers! I appreciate it so much. I truly adore talking with all of you lovely readers so please do comment below and let me know all of those wonderful thoughts of yours! Let me know whether you have read this novel but also let me know if you haven’t and whether you would like to; I hope my review would have convinced you! If you have not read the book but have seen the movie then let me know your thoughts and whether you liked the movie or the TV series; I would love to know! If you have read the rest of the series too then please let me know whether they are worth me picking up! Thank you so much again!

Goodbye for now book lovers,

P.S. Here is a preview of the book for all of you lovely readers to enjoy! Please have a read of the preview and if you find that you have loved what you have read then all you need to do is click the Buy on Amazon button and it will take you straight to the book on Amazon USA! If you are in the U.K. then below I have attached a link to the book for the Amazon U.K. website. Thank you so much again for reading book lovers, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this book!

Amazon U.K.Book Depository / Publisher; Penguin Random House

*Update – As this novel is now a movie I feel the need to quickly divulge my thoughts on it! I personally thought that the movie was insanely good and a perfect adaption of the book. The director David Fincher has a habit of adapting novels incredibly well, as we saw with Gone Girl which is one of my favorite books and movies of all time! I thought how the story was told was incredible and Fincher really captured the grim, cold setting of Sweden. The casting too was superb, especially Rooney Mara for Lisbeth; she was just amazing and I really implore all of you to watch the movie also! Thank you so much again for reading book lovers!

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1,800 comments

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Completely agree with everything you’ve just said! I ADORED this book! Like you I was a little hesitant to read it, but after the first chapter I was completely hooked and couldn’t stop until I’d finished it! I’d highly recommend his other works too, if you haven’t read them yet. Great post! xx

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I agree with everything you just wrote! I love this book, it has so many layers and it’s such an incredible reading experience, I really liked it a lot 😀

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It is so great! I thought the plot was incredible and especially Lisbeth, I loved her. But you are so right the book has so many different depths and layers which makes it such an amazing reading experience! (:

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Fantastic review!

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I adore the Millennium series! There’s nothing like an amazingly written, chunky novel to get my blood pumping. I just picked up the fourth volume recently and while I’m super excited to read it based purely on my need to know what has happened since the third book, I’m hesitant because it’s not Larsson. Though, I’ve heard that David Lagercrantz leaves it open for a few more books. I can’t wait to see what you think of the rest of the series!

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I couldn’t agree more! Chunky amazingly written novels are the best kind of novels. I am so excited to finish the rest of the series but to also read the new book by David Lagercrantz. However it is so sad to me because I just wish it was Stieg Larsson’s new novel and not Lagercrantz. So I am interested did Larsson leave the 3rd book open to another book? Well actually that is a silly question considering there is another book!

Larsson did a really amazing job of wrapping up the main plot of the first three novels but still leaving enough questions to involve a fourth book and actually had an incomplete manuscript that was left in the possession of her girlfriend at the time of his death. However, because they weren’t married so had no right to his work. There was some drama, if I remember correctly between her, the publishers and his surviving family that retained the rights when he passed. I believe his editor wanted to finish what he had started but the family refused? Apparently the fourth book doesn’t involve anything from those manuscripts since the girlfriend is still in possession of them. It’s really unfortunate, so I’m hoping the next book does Larsson justice.

Oh no that is such a shame. I had not heard of any of this so this is all brand new to me but also very interesting. I don’t see why the family and his girlfriend would have refused to have his work published. He of course started writing his manuscript because he wanted to write further and continue his story. It is just such a shame how we won’t have his original story. I just hope that when I do finally finish the series and read the newest book that it is up to the same quality that is Larsson’s incredible writing but truthfully I don’t believe any author will ever compare to Larsson because he was so unique in his own right and individual. I only wish he was still alive to wire more books! Thank you for talking to me about this though it is so interesting to learn of this! (:

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Great review of the book. Love your visuals to add depth to your writing. You are very ambitious. Amazing how many of us out there love books.

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Hi John,

Thank you so much for your kind words! I appreciate this so much. I love this book community and am amazed at how many book lovers there are! I love when we can all talk. Thank you again John!

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Oh my god. I never knew these things about his book. Everyone (or at least most of the bookish people I know) raves about this through & through. I’m never a fan of reading books with heavy mentions of rape but I’m willing… so so willing to check this out AS SOON AS POSSIBLE now. Thanks to you, really. I’m especially intrigued by Larsson’s inspirations and this female MC, Lisbeth. Give me a good strong survivor anytime and I’ll go with a smile!

Awesome review you wrote there! (Though I skimmed slightly when you mentioned about the ending so that I won’t be spoiled accidently).

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This is such an incredible comment thank you so much. I truly love talking to fellow book lovers so I love this! You MUST check this book out because it truly is ripping. I too stay away from ‘survivor stories’ but going into this book you don’t realise it is one. It is not just one thing it is multiple things because it has so many different depths and layers! When you read it you must tell me your thoughts! (:

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Whoah! How nostalgic. Looks like I’ll never be too busy not to pay your site a visit. Thanks for this! <3 I think its always amazing to see updated write ups, insights and whatnot about books/stories and authors we like.

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Hi Magsi,
Thank you so much for your incredibly kind comment I appreciate it so much! I hope you have a lovely day.

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I’ve been intending to read this book for ages and your excellent and thorough review has made me move it a long way forward on my TBR list.

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Hi Millie,

Thank you so much for your kind comment! I am so pleased that my review could convince you to read this book. It is exceptional and I think you will love it! Thank you again Millie.

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