Ally’s #14: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The first 74 pages of this book were a bit ho-hum and I wasn’t quite sure where it was headed. Then on page 75, the author serves up the most delicious looking carrot that keeps you chasing for answers right up until the end.

The three main characters are Mikael Blomkvist, Henrik Vanger, and Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist is an investigative reporter who suffers a major blow to his writing career and magazine company. Vanger is the elderly head of a centuries-old family corporation. Despite his age, he’s still as sharp as a tack and is eager to have the biggest mystery of his life examined by the unemployed Blomkvist in hopes of securing some answers before he dies. Forty years prior, Vanger’s niece, Harriet, vanished from the family estate without a trace, and Vanger suspected foul play within the family.

Salander’s character deserves a paragraph all her own. She’s a teeny, tiny, anorexic looking 25 year-old in the body of a 14 year-old boy. She also sports a punker look, with jet black hair, oodles of tattoos, and a fair number of piercings. You can tell right off the bat that she’s a deeply scarred and extremely guarded individual. While we never get too much information about the experiences she went through as a child, we do learn that she has been declared mentally incompetent by the state, a verdict handed down not because of her lack of mental aptitude, but because she refused to cooperate with any psychiatric evaluations. In fact, she’s the most gifted computer hacker in Sweden, has a photographic memory, and can process an insane amount of information in a very short amount of time in her job as a free-lance private investigator. As Blomkvist’s investigation begins to intensify, he and Salander team up to nail both the Vanger family fiend and the business mogul who trashed Blomkvist’s reputation. They are quite the dynamic duo.

At the beginning of each section, Larsson offers a statistic on sexual abuse against women in Sweden. It wasn’t until I got 3/4 of the way through the book that I realized the significance of those statistics. Not only is Salander  attacked, but Blomkvist’s investigation of the Vanger family leads to some seriously, seriously, disturbing secrets that have been perpetuated for 40+ years.

What threw me for a loop, though, was the double-message the author seemed to give. On one hand, he seemed to glorify–if not deify–sex and promiscuity among the characters in the story; yet, on the other hand, makes a huge statement about abuse against women. I challenging to explain why it bugged me, but it did.

Off to read the next book in the series…I’m hoping it’ll shed some more light on Salander’s past!

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