Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson

A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue….

It’s about the disappearance 40 years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden…and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.

It’s about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance…and about Lisbeth Salander, a 24-year-old, pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age, who assists Blomkvist with the investigation.

This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism – and an unexpected connection between themselves.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland. Book 1 in the Millennium Series. Audiobook is narrated by Simon Vance and runs 16 hours and 19 mins. Published by Books On Tape, September 2008.

Triggers: Animal death, rape.

I’ve been trying to think of how to sum up my review for this book for a few weeks. Every time I think about it, I try to summon up what emotions this book made me feel. Over and over, I just keep coming up with…..


Yep. That’s right. A big Ol’ MEH.

Don’t hate it, but I definitely didn’t love it.

I’ve talked before about the wrestling term “over booked.” Basically it means when WAY too much is going on in one story, that really doesn’t have anything to do with anything, and instead of dialing it back, the booker (writer) just keeps adding in more gimmicks / characters / pointless cliches or controversies. Adding more and more, never stopping, until eventually you end up with a long drawn out story that should have ended a while back.

That is pretty much what this book felt like to me. Good grief, it just kept going and going! Whhhhyy? Like, side stories had their OWN side stories, for crying out loud! New characters were introduced – constantly!- that had nothing to do with anything and were pretty much never seen again. Dude, calm down with the character introductions!

This book is a longish book that felt about 500 pages longer then it actually was. Why? Because everything was detailed to DEATH. Every single mundane thing was described and 98% of the time it had nothing to do with anything! Seriously, I don’t need 3 pages talking about how a character is making a sandwich, ok? It’s called editing, people, and it felt like this book had ZERO editing. I understand this book was put out after the author passed away, but that is no excuse to cut out some of this stuff. Every. Single. Time. Someone fixed coffee, in way too much detail, I didn’t know if I wanted to rip my hair out or start playing a drinking game. Each time someone tediously fixes coffee, take a shot. I get it, the characters like coffee. I like coffee too. But I do not need to see the characters laboriously fixing or drinking coffee CONSTANTLY. It got super ridiculous! The over explanation details and the lack of editing in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo drove me bonkers.

This story happens within one year. For a majority of that year, it feels like literally NOTHING happens. I mean, unless you want to count how Mikael Blomkvist sleeps with just about every female character in the book? *shrug* But, really, that is kind of it! Mikael fixes a sandwich. He takes a walk. He stares out the window. He thumbs through a magazine. He has coffee. He has sex. Repeat. Oooookay. Got it. He has nothing to do. I do NOT need to read everything and everyone he does while he has nothing to do and no leads. Streamline that shit! We GET IT! Mikael has a lot of time on his hands. It felt incredibly BORING by what seemed like an extreme lack of real story. Instead of solid plot development it just felt like a boat load of filler.

Speaking of real story… I really liked the plot with the missing Harriet. However, it didn’t really feel like this was a story of the missing girl. Yes, the main characters did have a missing person mystery to solve, but there was so much time and space dedicated to stories that have almost nothing to do with anything except for a few crumbs. I don’t care about all these tiny side plots. Sometimes it felt like they were never completely followed up or explored properly. Sometimes it felt like they lead nowhere at all.

I also didn’t really care for Lisbeth Salander. I liked that she was a bad ass chick, and good for her standing up for herself. It was also cool what a diverse character she was. But…I don’t really care. Her story is not what made me want to pick up the book and it wasn’t very interesting to me. What the hell happened to Harriet?? Lisbeth’s story felt like a totally different person wrote it or it came from a completely separate book. I get the parallel between the two stories of Lisbeth and Harriet. But, I wanted the mystery story, not the revenge story. Also, Lisbeth just came off as unlikable.

Actually….. NOBODY was really that likeable in this book. :/ Everyone just felt like varying degrees of jerksticks. Are we not supposed to like them? Was that the point? Having a book full of unlikable characters just drains my energy and motivation to finish the book. If I hadn’t been intently working on a large painting while listening to this book, I probably would have stopped and just DNF’d it. >.>

I don’t mind a book that is long. What I don’t love is that I know it will take me about a month to read it, so I’ll still grumble about it probably. BUT. I hate when the book is super long and there is not forward momentum. I’m not saying it has to be like a Micheal Bay movie, but… there needs to be SOME sort of action! The pace felt so slow. So much down time! It just kept going and going without really going anywhere 80% of the time. How is that even POSSIBLE?? :/ This audio was only 16 hours!! It felt like 30. D: Seriously! We finally make it to the end, the crimes are solved, happy ending…. there is another hour of audio to go! Ok, yes, I wanted to know the answer to this one last mystery, but the way it was written…. Geez. Again, detailed to death! We don’t need every tedious, micro detail involved with the finally reveal. Stop spinning our wheels and get to the point a little bit quicker, please. This drawn out pacing (especially the ending) with very little tension or suspense, again, felt like more filler. The very end mystery could have been wrapped up a lot faster but, again, it kinda felt like there was a lot of filler in there. I do not blame the author because this was clearly not a finished draft when he passed away. But OMG please, someone, trim up this book!

I found The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo very boring. I don’t understand why so many people are gaga over it? Just about everyone and their brother has read it and raved about it, giving it extremely high ratings and praise. Is it because the author died so suddenly? Maybe people just bought into the mega hype this book has surrounding it? It did have amazing PR reps. *Shrug*

ALSO! Animal death! 😡 I was super annoyed by this. I did not care for how the animal was graphically killed when basically there were no other human characters killed off during the course of the investigation. I mean, if the whole book had a high body count, or ANY body count (I’m not counting all the murders that happened in the past. Only the present!) at all, it wouldn’t have been as bad. But that it was the only thing killed? Agh! It felt like the animal was put there strictly to be a token shock value, predictable kill to give you the feels. * Eye roll* You have a bajillion human characters out the wazoo, but noo… we can’t weed them out. Oh, I know, let’s kill the one cute animal in the story. OOOOOKAY. So predictable! UGH. As soon as that animal made it’s first appearance, it was like “Oh. Yep. I know why you are here. *Drags pointer finger across the throat*

I know I just spent forever saying how much I hated this book. Well, there are a few things I do like about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo…

If someone trimmed about 200 pages, give or take, off of this book, you have a pretty interesting missing person family drama mystery. I was so curious as to what had happened to Harriet and who had been sending her uncle creepy flowers every year on his birthday. I was dying to know! I really enjoyed this part of the book. It was sad that it was buried in all this other convoluted side plots, info dumps, characters galore, and filler. Lisbeth’s story seemed to just take over the whole book, leaving all the other stories feeling unbalanced. It felt like we got way too much info dump on Lisbeth, way too soon. To me, it felt like her mystic was taken away too soon because of that. Her story drowned everything else. I don’t know, people… it just felt like there were a lot of unnecessary info dumps throughout this novel, basically about everything. Trim it up, make Lisbeth’s big story a totally separate book, and it feels like this book could have been better.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo did a decent job at keeping things unpredictable. Even though the killer was up at the top of my suspect list the whole time, the author had so many red herrings that I did start to doubt myself. It’s always nice when a mystery has plenty of suspects to keep you on your toes, even if you are pretty sure you know how did it.

When I finally finished this book, I looked up the author. After reading all about how he was a journalist who went after some pretty messed up people, how he was a huge feminist and activist for many causes, the ultra jumbledness of the plot starts to make a lot more sense. I think he just had way too many social commentary ideas in his head, all at once, that he wanted to talk about. Instead of just picking one or two to go after, he just crammed everything into one story. You can feel his passion about a lot of important subjects. He clearly had a lot of deep emotions around these subjects. Cool. Right on. But, dude… space it out. Not everything under the sun has to be in book 1! The story just got way too muddy, with waaaay too much being added. Like, the focus of the book was too scattered, you know? Instead of laser focusing on the main point, we were just bouncing around everywhere yet somehow going nowhere.

I was not a fan of The Girl with the Dragon tattoo. Way too much info was thrown at me, when a lot of it just felt unneeded. I didn’t like how slow the pacing was and how for a good chunk of the book it felt like no progress was made at all on the mystery of Harriet, which… was the only part of this book that I cared about. I like the Lisbeth is a strong female lead character with a lot of diversity in her corner. I did not like how her part of the story dwarfed everything else in the book. To me, it felt like the Lisbeth stuff (pre her joining the missing Harriet case) should have been a separate book altogether. Meh. Book 1 left me mildly entertained. Mostly just frustrated with a side order of mega eye rolls. Definitely not entertained enough to read anything else in the series.


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