Book Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

This month, I’m reading some modern classics with focuses on non-American, non-British cultures. I’ve thought about reading Dragon Tattoo for a while, but its rather tense and pretty sexy/violent/rapey premises have put me off. That’s why I’m only getting around to it now.

The Book

51l2b3fbhymlThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Author: Stieg Larsson
Amazon Link

I usually like thrillers and mysteries, but this one has seemed pretty sordid. I usually use this as a bit more intro, but I’m going to go ahead and say here that yes, this book is sordid. There is a lot in here that those with prudish sensibilities or disdain for senseless violence wouldn’t like. Overall I suppose the book is ok, but dude. Like thirty million trigger warnings need to be on this.

Non-Spoiler Review

I was surprised, in a good way, by this book. It still wasn’t and will never be a book I like, but it far exceeded expectations.

Usually, books with extensive and graphic scenes aren’t my favorite. And, to be honest, I think this book could have done with a lot less graphic violence and sex being on-screen; if you look at my review of The Alienist, you’ll see a book that talked about a lot of similar subject matter but didn’t have quite the same level of on-screen sex or violence. I found Dragon Tattoo’s unabashed violence, always against women, to be somewhat tasteless.

That being said, I was very pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t completely useless, and it didn’t feel like something written by a voyeuristic creep (like violence against women usually feels). I thought Larsson actually did a clever job critiquing the flaws of Swedish culture, especially how they hide behind liberalism and societal issues to give excuses to those who commit violence. I thought it was really intriguing how he wove Swedish Nazism in (and yes, I looked it up after – Swedish Nazism is a thing).

Overall, was it a great book? No. The mystery was solved with what I found to be pretty stupid clues. Blumqvist and Salander were fairly stereotypical characters, as was the villain. That being said, it was far better than I thought it would be, and I wouldn’t trash anyone for saying they liked it.

1/5 Discoball Snowcones

1 Discoball Snowcones


The overarching plotline of finding a murderer in a case 40 years cold was interesting. Salander and Blumqvist, the investigators, did work together well, and there was always palpable tension building.

That being said… zooming further in on old photographs shouldn’t be the way to solve a crime. Suddenly realizing that you put a wiretap on the badguy months ago shouldn’t be the way to catch a crook. The clues were too easily gathered, and it didn’t quite feel believable.

Lastly, the fact that Martin Vanger was this crazy serial rapist and killer who was highly active for 40 years and never got caught?! That was just… nuts. Even immigrants should have families, and someone should have started noticing that pretty women working for the Vanger corporation were going missing.

These plot holes were serious issues, but I also don’t think they were the point. I think the point was to critique Swedish capitalism, Nazism, and lack of serious progress towards women’s liberation and respect of women’s rights.

Next week:

Next week I’m going to be reading Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Feel free to stop by as I ride my global train of books to Nigeria!

16 thoughts on “Book Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

  1. D. Wallace Peach says:

    What an interesting review. I don’t think I would have appreciated all the graphic sex and violence though I’m glad it wasn’t entirely voyeuristic. And big plot holes make me cringe. I have a hard time sticking with a book that isn’t logical. 🙂 Happy Reading, HRR. 😀

  2. Priscilla Bettis says:

    I remember commenting to Dear Husband during the movie about a plot hole, but it was minor, and I brushed it off. I think the film was cleaner plot-wise. I really enjoyed the movie but couldn’t get into the book because the prose kinda turned me off. (Just a style-preference thing. I realize others really liked the book.)

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      A lot of times movies cut out a lot of things, and that either makes the plot holes glaring or it covers them up well. Seems like this one did an ok job!

      And yeah, the prose is weird; I wonder how much of that has to do with the translation from Swedish?

  3. AK says:

    I only read this first book in the series and was a bit surprised that it took off the way it did. As you say, the way they solved the mystery felt clunky and thrown-together, and I generally didn’t like the writing style (hard to pin that down exactly, especially because I can’t say how much of it was the translation vs. the Swedish original since I can’t read that.)

    At least it did shine a light on some problems that seem to exist in Sweden. Maybe could have done it in a more artful way, but it was all right.

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      I agree with pretty much everything you said here. I also wonder if it read well in Swedish, and I wonder why *this* was the book everyone decided to translate from Swedish to English and then enjoy. I know there’s a weird fascination out there with dead women – maybe that’s it?

    • H.R.R. Gorman says:

      From my read, it seems like a pretty easy book for *other* people to like. The tension was always very high, and the overall goal was awesome. Salander and Blumqvist were very interesting, and I think that helped too. But it was just too much for me, and the plot holes were… pretty glaring.

      I don’t blame your mom for liking it, is what I’m saying. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.