Friday, March 20, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Persistence. I always approach translations with a high degree of caution. What can be beautiful writing in one language becomes clumsy in translation. After a friend recommended The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I exercised that caution and approached this sprawling almost 500-page mystery with caution. What I found inside overcame any concerns about translation problems. The stories of two central characters are presented separately and then merged, within the structure of trying to solve a forty year old missing persons case. Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist recently convicted of libel, and is heading for jail, placing his periodical in jeopardy while he is absent. The title character, Lisbeth Salander, works as an investigator for a security firm, and uses her prolific hacker skill to find out everything about anyone. Her lightweight body and multiple piercings and tattoos disguise her skills and talents from those unwilling to look beyond appearances. Lisbeth has a photographic memory that serves her investigative role well, but she struggles with personal interactions and in relationship with others. The action accelerates when octogenarian Swedish industrialist Henrik Vanger employs Blomkvist to write a history of the company and the Vanger family, provided he also examine and investigate the forty year ago disappearance of Henrik’s neice, Harriet. Blomkvist asks Lisbeth to work with him to investigate the case. Along the way, they find violence and evil, and uncover family secrets that Henrik Vanger would just as soon keep quiet. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is Steig Larsson’s debut novel, and it will be followed by two others. To the dismay of readers and friends, Larsson died in 2004, so these books will be his first and last.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)

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