Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson ****

I got this audio book on recommendation from my sister. It's the first in the series by Stieg Larsson, a Swedish author who unfortunately died before finishing the series. In it we are introduced to a large, rather confusing cast of characters. (Made more confusing by the similarity of names, all Swedish of course)

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist and editor of The Millennium, a monthly magazine. He is sent to jail for libel over an article he has written about the Wennerstromm affair - a large, international financial fraud scheme. Even though the court found his article libelous, he knows he is on to something bigger and scandalous, and he doesn't want to give up on the research. After he is released from prison, he is hired by an elderly gentleman who wants Mikael to find out the truth about the disappearance of his niece Harriet decades before. Vanger promises to help him with the Wennerstromm research as an incentive.

Meanwhile, and my memory is a little clouded, somehow Milton Security becomes involved and Armansky, the director of the firm, uses his best researcher, Lisbeth Salander, to do background research on Blomqvist. (Oh yeah, I just remembered - Vanger hired Milton Security to do a background check on Blomqvist!) Lisbeth is the title character in all 3 of the novels in the series - she's young, extremely intelligent with incredible hacking skills and resources, extremely anti-social and had a horrendous childhood. She was institutionalized as a teen, and is still considered mentally ill and must report to a guardian. Blomqvist and Salander manage to meet (again, cloudy recall) and she helps him in his research, both on the Wennerstromm issue and finding what happened to Harriet, who was presumed murdered.

It's an extremely engaging set of mysteries that takes Mikael on a rather wild ride, uncovering shocking and rather gory family secrets along the way. Salander herself isn't truly revealed until the last part of the book, when she uses sleuthing methods to bring down Wennerstrom, almost just because she can.

The narrator is the wonderful Simon Vance, who appears to be able to pronounce just about anything, and brings a completely different (British Isles) accent to all the Swedish characters, as well as other accents to characters like Armansky. Except for keeping up with all those names, it's easy to follow Vance's narration as a result. Just when you think the mystery has been solved - the plot thickens to mud, and you are off again on another journey!

I'm now about 1/3 of the way through book 3, and it gets easier and easier to keep up with the characters, but harder and harder to follow the intricate web of the mystery! In fact, I was slack-jawed at the part I listened to last night - it came out of nowhere, and although earlier I had thought it could happen, how it happened was a complete shock! I can't say for sure until I'm finished, but it seems there is one underlying mystery across all the books that have nothing to do with Harriet Vanger or the Wennerstrom affair.

My sister commented that after she finished book 3, she was sorry to see it end and she would miss Salander. I'll have to comment on that after I'm done, since I have so much more to go!

It's a great 4 star read for me, a mystery/thriller/suspense type book.

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