Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A book a week in 2010: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The hype around the Millenium series (named after Millenium magazine the main protagonist is editor of) has been extraordinary. It has it all. Critical acclaim for the bleak and tense prose; strange and compelling characters; a plot with more turns than a turkey twizzler; the tragic, sudden death of the author only months after he'd finished the final part of the trilogy; and the ensuing battle for his estate between his family and partner.

Then there's the film. Already released in 2009 in Swedish to commercial success (grossing $100 million worldwide according to Wikipedia), an English language production is rumoured to be in hand.

The crusading business journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, is commissioned to write the history of the dysfunctional family of Henrik Vanger, head of a sprawling family business dynasty now on the wane.

Well, that's the cover story. In reality he's using his journalistic skills to investigate the murder of Henrik's niece many years ago; a mystery that Vanger has never been able to let go of. Mikael teams up with the strange, prickly and intriguing Lisbeth Salander, a private detective like no other, with her own dark, family secrets. Together they discover that the Vanger family are not all they seem, and there are many who would anything to cover it up.

If you liked the Swedish film Let the Right One In, there's a good chance you'll like this book. It's not perfect, but the slow build of tension and the level of detail in describing each scene produces a particular Scandianvian feel: hyper-realism, grim, depressing, whatever. I haven't seen the film or read the sequels, but on the basis of this, I'll get round to it.

Here's the trailer for the film.

And here's the trailer to Let the Right One In.
I'm spoiling you.
This. Is. Brilliant.
In fact, it's so good, it's taking over the end of an unrelated book review.


  1. I can totally see the connections between the two now - for me I think it is because of how stark they both are, that's the only word I can use to describe it.

    Sweden to me is slightly bizarre in that it is a developed country, but they seem very old fashioned to me. I felt in the book that people were absolutely outraged that someone should have piercings and tattoos, yet over here we are getting used to the sight of them.

    As I said before, the story really made this book for me; the writing was a little to cliched and simplified for me, but that could have been the translation I suppose.

  2. Stark is a really good word for it. It's the flat colours, darkness and stripped back description of things that make it brutal while pragmatic - if that makes sense?! A contradictory culture: one of the most liberal in many ways and yet small 'c' conservatism... ooh, sounds familiar!

  3. Just read that Daniel Craig is to star in the US adaptation of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo...