Context: 2009 became 2010 while I was reading this.
I don’t read thrillers as a rule so, when I unwrapped this book on Christmas day, I was intrigued to see if it would break the rules. I was inspired to read on the front cover that this was the winner of the British Book Awards Crime Trhiller of the Year last year and that, according to no less than Philip Pullman, it was supposed to be “Several cuts above most thrillers.” In fact, right at the end of the book, I came across a page that stated that this book was “destined to be regarded as amongst the best crime novels ever written.”
Er… hang on. Let’s not get carried away with our omniscience shall we? So, now I’ve read it, what did I think?
Not all that much to be honest. Sorry to say it but that’s how I felt. For a start, it’s not about a girl with a dragon tattoo. She’s just one of the characters and not the main one either. Her dragon tattoo is only one of many and is hardly ever mentioned. I think Larsson just couldn’t think of a title actually.
It’s really about an industrial dynasty, a long-established society family in Sweden that, as most families of such ilk, harbour a terrifying catalogue of secrets. Blomkvist (who is the main character), a recently discredited editor of a magazine, is hired by the patriarch of the family to look into the disappearance of his niece thirty years ago.
The main reason I don’t enjoy thrillers is that you know exactly what’s going to happen right from the start. Thrillers are as predictable as Disney and Larsson follows the script to a t. Despite Blomkvist facing innumerable difficulties and impossible puzzles to solve, a nice blend of skill and serendipity means that everything works out fine in the end.
This is strange as it’s the first in a trilogy and with everything so nicely done and dusted, there’s not much incentive to go on and read the second book. The publishers, realising this, have stapled a five page taster from the next book onto the end of this one.
Now, as I say, I’m not an expert on thrillers and so it’s difficult for me to place this within the genre. What I can say though was that, although I didn’t have any difficulty getting through it, I didn’t feel thrilled at any point. I could easily put it down and do something else. I didn’t feel like I needed to isolate myself from the world in order to dedicate my whole being to it as I do with truly gripping writing. In essence, I expected more.
The characters are okay, but morally the book is all over the place. The only way to explain this is to adopt a Scandinavian license for sexuality. The girl with the tattoo has a deep hatred for anyone who abuses women sexually and is quick to point out that people who do such things are evil. But then she sees nothing wrong in having multiple sexual partners of either orientation and at one point confesses that she doesn’t see why people should criticise her for fulfilling her own sexual desires her way. Anyone else smell a bit of a contradiction here? It’s hard to see on what basis the good guys are good guys and the bad guys are bad guys when you have no moral reference and that undermines the whole ethic of the novel for me. After all, it’s supposed to be a novel about criminality…
Anyway, if this is, as Pullman and the publisher claims, among the best ever written then there’s no point in me reading any more then. My rule stays intact.
It happened every year, was almost a ritual.
She tossed Elvis into a skip.
rubbish | poor | mediocre | okay | good | very good | excellent | superb