Author: Stieg Larsson
Why did I read it? Why did I not read this sooner? I must admit to having seen the books promoted for a few years now, but I never got past the cover (shame on me for judging a book by its cover). I also read rave reviews about the European films, but still ignored it. Then the BBC did its Nordic season, focussing on the Scandinavian countries, from travelogues, through myths, modern day fiction and crime writers; Stieg Larsson was featured in this season of programming, and I learned quite a bit about him and his Millennium trilogy. Although intrigued, it was not enough to tempt me to deviate from my planned reading list.
Over the winter break 2011, I watched an amazing movie for the upteenth time, and found myself moving on to enjoyable European movies, and reading blogs about the current movie version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but I knew that those that had seen the European version were much more enamoured with it. I am one of those people who prefers to read a book before watching the film, so when my monthly book club download came up, I decided to go with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Audiobook, Unabridged.
Synopsis: Mikael Blomkvist is part owner of Millennium, a magazine focussing on the financial world of Sweden. Blomkvist publishes a damning exposé on a financial hot-shot, Wennerström, but finds himself convicted of libel, facing three months in gaol and possible financial ruin. Blomkvist resigns from his own magazine, Millennium, after being lured by the (retired) patriach of a family-run, industrial company, Henrik Vanger, to investigate the murder of his niece, Harriet, 40 years ago by an unknown member of the Vanger family.
Vanger’s lawyer does his due diligence on Blomkvsit before hiring him through Milton security’s top investigator, Lisbeth Salander. Salander is 24, tattoo-ed, pierced, asocial, legally-declared incompetent and under the care of a guardian; Salander works alone, but Blomkvist needs a research assistant, and after reading the exceptional report Salander did on him, he finds her, and together the delve into the labyrinthine world of the Vanger family in search of a murderer.
What did I like? All of it. This audio version is 18 hours long and I have just spent two days listening to it, almost non-stop; unable to walk away from the story. Larsson is an exceptional storyteller, adept at weaving together varying threads, explaining the intricate details of the financial world, subtlety exposing the psyche of his characters using delicate shades, and hooking his audience along for an extraordinary roller-coaster ride. There is brutality in this book, but Larsson keeps you glued with descriptives that allow the reader to fill in the detail from their own experience. This was important for me, as there are times when I cannot read certain passages relating gruesome scenes, the author seeming to relish in extreme exposure, a kind of salaciousness that often makes me squirm. Larsson avoids this with great skill, while still managing to pack a punch; it helps that the book is punctuated with statistics about the brutalisation of women in Sweden.
The Vanger family is extensive, running through generations and, although I did not have a hard copy with the family tree provided, I was able to follow the extensive research into the family, and the various relationships without issue. I found myself fascinated by the various characters, the exceptional, and the seemingly plain. I had already come across the resolution of the main mystery in my research on the movies and book, and the financial world bores me, but this did not stop me being drawn into Stieg Larsson‘s creation and finding myself desperate to see it all through to the bitter end; I found myself addicted to characters, the story, the environment, the pace. It’s rare for me to be captivated from the start of a book, many authors trying to capture the reader by starting with an action scene but failing, whereas Stieg Larsson had me from the first few paragraphs. I would say intrigue is his forte, because, as the book moved along, I found myself glued to the iPod. Now, I use my iPod in the car and on the speakers at home, but I’ve never used it in public, with the headsets until now. I could not step away from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo , it invaded my life. Everywhere I went, everything I did, I had the iPod on and was listening to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; it became my focus.
The story never felt rushed, but I found myself urging it on, desperate to learn what was to happen next. In this regard the audio version helped add to the tension, with pauses inserted between various paragraphs, not just the chapters, building a sense of urgency in me. Saul Reichlin narrated the version I downloaded from Audible and he did his utmost to give each character their own voice. On the whole, it was good narration, with clear diction, and good sound quality.
What didn’t I like? Two audio issues: Saul Reichlin failed to distinguish who was speaking in a few discussions which occurred between Blomkvist and Salander, leaving me confused, disappointed and having to rewind to try and untangle the mess. There was an editorial error in the penultimate chapter of the audio version where turning over Tape 17 is mentioned. Apart from these quibbles with the audio edition, I can honestly say there was nothing I disliked about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Well, not exactly true: I don’t like the fact that, under the terms of my Audible account, I have to wait until next month to download the second part of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and another month again to download The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. I’m not sure I have the patience to wait for the next instalment.
Would I recommend it? Yes! To every adult reader and I would recommend they read it sooner than later. I regret not having picked up these books when they first appeared on the shelves as recommended, or when the European films of the trilogy were widely lauded, or even as friends recommend the American film version of the first book. For anyone remotely curious about Swedish culture, the workings of the media, the financial world, lovers of crime fiction, intrigue and those who are interested in the inner workings of the human mind, read Stieg Larsson.