Decided after the poignant and literary but somewhat slow-paced Independence Day that I needed a book where something actually happened, darn it. Well, for anyone who's missed the hype around the books and/or the movie, Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008) more than fit the bill.
Summary: "The disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden, gnaws at her octogenarian uncle, Henrik Vanger. He is determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder. He hires crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist, recently at the wrong end of a libel case, to get to the bottom of Harriet's disappearance. Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old, pierced, tattooed genius hacker, possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age -- and a terrifying capacity for ruthlesness -- assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, an astonishing corruption at the highest echelon of Swedish industrialism -- and a surprising connection between themselves."
Opening lines: "It happened every year, was almost a ritual. And this was his eighty-second birthday."
My take: Hold on to your hat, folks. It's not often that a book surrounded by this much hype manages to impress and entertain me, but Dragon Tattoo certainly did. Lots of interesting characters, all worthy of varying levels of suspicion. There's the 82-year-old Henrik Vanger of the opening line; principals Blomkvist and Salander ... but also a host of supporting characters, ranging from Blomkvist's publisher and occasional lover, Erika Barger; Harriet's brother Martin, who took over as CEO of Vanger when Henrik retired; Henrik's seemingly devoted attorney; Salander's own boss; Harriet's inscrutably nasty mother; and many other curious members of the Vanger tribe. True to form, you wonder early on how all these threads -- Blomkvist's libel conviction; Harriet's disappearance and presumed murder; Salander's questionably-ethical sleuthing skills -- will tie together, and the answer mostly works. Without spoiling it, there is a particular romantic pairing I don't approve of -- and more importantly, that doesn't seem to add much to the story -- but otherwise, you can bet I'll be lining up for The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, stat.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.