Title: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Author: Stieg Larsson
Publisher: Quercus; UK film tie-in ed edition (7 January 2010)
Price: Rs. 198 on Amazon.
When I looking to read more thrillers, my dearest friend Sreesha suggested this book. Almost instantly I placed an order and within a minute the book was on my kindle. I started it with zero expectations. When a book is translated into English from Swedish, you do expect it to not have much of finesse. And if the original title of the book meant 'Men who hate women', then your interest would automatically tend to pique. This is what happened to me too. But then the story shook me to the core.
The book is divided in to fours parts and each part talks about the atrocities that the women of Sweden have had to face. In fact, actual statistics are mentioned.
There are three parallel tracks in the book. First follows the life of Mikael Blomkvist who is a financial journalist. Second is about Lisbeth Salander, a private investigator. Third is about the Vanger family. Mikael Blomkvist is the co-owner and publicist of the Millennium monthly magazine and is currently on trial for publishing a story defaming billionaire industrialist Hans Erik Wennerstrom. He is convicted and expected to spend some time in prison. Henrik Vanger the head of the Vanger family and ex-CEO of the Vanger corporation gets in touch with Blomkvist and tells him that he can help him get even with Wennerstrom if he does an assignment for the Vanger family. Henrik Vanger receives a pressed flower in a frame on his birthday, every year. This was a ritual set by his grandniece Harriet, who disappeared thirty six years ago during a Vanger family gathering. But the flowers still show up every year, and Henrik is convinced that it's Harriet's murderer who is sending him the flowers year after year. Henrik has been obsessed with the disappearance of Harriet for all these years. Henrik Vanger entrusts the curious case of the missing Harriet to Blomkvist and gives him a years time to find out what happened to her.
In order to do this Blomkvist has to spend a year on Hedeby Island with all the Vangers. With the help of a few photographs he manages to get some clues about what could have happened to Harriet. This involves deep disturbing secrets of the dysfunctional and toxic Vanger family and its members. When Blomkvist asks Frode, the family lawyer of the Vanger family for additional help on the case, Frode directs him to the very person who did a background check on Blomkvist before he was hired by the Vanger family; Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth Salander works as a researcher and computer hacker for Milton Security and is excellent at what she does. She is as disturbed as one can get and battles demons of her own. With piercings and tattoos, it is an easy guess that she's the girl with the dragon tattoo. Due to her troubled past, she is considered legally incompetent and is under the care of a legal guardian. When her guardian Holger Palmgren suffers a stroke, he is replaced by Nils Bjurman who expects sexual favors from Salander in return for money. Her own money.
Blomkvist and Salander come together to investigate Harriet's case. Blomkvist has a good friend and occasional lover in Erika Berger who is the co-owner of Millennium. But Salander develops a liking for Blomkvist and they end up in bed soon. This doesn't stop them from focusing on the task at hand. Thanks to a clue deciphered by Blomkvist's daughter they figure out that Harriet's disappearance might be linked to a series of serial killings all across Sweden over the past forty odd years. When they dig deep into the history of the members of the Vanger family, they bring up buried secrets and not everyone is happy about it.
What exactly happened to Harriet? What happens to the Blomkvist-Wennerstrom issue? What happens to the girl with the dragon tattoo? This is what the book is all about.
When I posted on social media that this is the book I'm reading, I got a lot of comments saying that I'm in for a very good time. A few pages into the book and I actually believed them. The intertwined stories blend together really well keeping the mystery at the core. The writer does a good job in introducing all members of the Vanger family and giving us a rough blue print of Hedeby island. The presence of way too many characters did take a toll on me and I was struggling to catch up. I did predict what would have happened to Harriet much earlier and although the circumstances were different, my prediction was right. The language used is good and reading does seem effortless in spite of the 542 pages this book has.
As characters none of them stay with you and you will thank the author for this. Salander is someone whom nobody can identify with, unless and until you have a dark history of sexual violation. Blomkvist could have been more enigmatic and charming, than what he is shown to be. I did not understand his relationship with Erika at all. She's married to a painter who is okay with the fact that his wife continues to sleep around with Blomkvist. In fact they even plan holidays in a way that they can share her. Every family does come with its share of shitty secrets, but this one was quite something. The violence, the rapes, the sexual assaults, the crimes, the brutality - all on women are described in vivid detail and is disturbing and will leave you shaken. The book troubled me so much that I couldn't sleep for a couple of days. So does that mean that this book is bad? No.
The mystery is brilliant and the characters though eccentric weave a wonderful story among themselves. Although it is a long story, every loose end is tied convincingly. I will be picking up the rest of the Millennium series soon, but after a while. I need some time to get this book out of my system.
Verdict: The most disturbing book that I've ever read. And I've read 'Red Dragon'! If you do not mind some disturbing yet realistic content, do go for this one.
Rating: 4 out of 5.