Book Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Title: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Originally published: August 2005

Author: Stieg Larsson

Series: Millennium

Original title: Män som hatar kvinnor

Followed by: The Girl Who Played with Fire

Genres: Crime Fiction, Mystery

No. of Pages: 465

‘The Girl WithThe Dragon Tattoo’ is the first book in the much acclaimed Millenium series by Swedish Journalist, Stieg Larsson. The book marked the posthumous debut of Stieg Larsson. The author presented his publisher with three completed books of the Millenum series before he died of heart attack in 2005. The books were an instant success.

The original Swedish title of the book is “Men Who Hate Women.” And in my opinion, it is a much relevant title than the catchier but less relevant ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ because the novel is about men who do unimaginable horrid things to women. So here comes a clear warning: If you can’t handle explicit violence against women, don’t read it.

The disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired by a rich old man Henrik Vanger to write a chronicle about his extended family while secretly working to discover the truth behind the sudden disappearance of Henrik’s grandniece Harriet in 1966 during a family gathering at the Vanger estate on Hedeby Island, when the island was temporarily cut off from the mainland by an accident on the bridge. Vanger believes that Harriet was probably murdered by a family member. During the course of investigation, Blomkvist is joined by Lisbeth Salander, a freelance investigator who also happens to be one of the best hackers in Sweden.

The investigation itself is pretty fascinating as Blomkvist is investigating a disappearance that took place nearly forty years ago and it seems like an impossible thing to solve the case which the police had already given up. Henrik Vanger has been obsessing about the case ever since and has independently conducted thorough searches of the island in hope of any clues. The Vanger family is equally interesting, creepy and mysterious. Things pick up once Lisbeth joins the investigation with Blomkvist. The book not just deals with murder and violence against women but it has a lot going on: money laundering, shady business dealings, dysfunctional family secrets, religious fanaticism, extramarital affairs, creepy perverts and what not.

Since Blomkvist is investigating a probable murder, so I had expected some violence. But I just wasn’t prepared for the intensely graphic violence. There’s a lot of content dealing with assault, rapes and torturous murders which was real scary. And then there is sex which is not consensual and the sexual sadism will probably make you very uncomfortable. It certainly made me uncomfortable. I was so disturbed after reading the book that I couldn’t sleep at night. Never had any book disturbed me so much before!

The book talks about sexual abuse but also talks about the choices a victim can make. One character suffers abuse as a child and becomes an abuser himself embracing it as a way of life. The second character suffers abuse but runs away to live a sheltered life faraway. The third one suffers abuse but confronts it and returns it with a vengeance, making sure that the abuser doesn’t dare to repeat the act ever again. The author gives a deep message here. Most of the crimes against women happen because the victims choose to remain silent than raising their voice against it.

Yes, I found the book too disturbing but still it was a compelling, entertaining and unabashedly thrilling read. I just wish that certain content was toned down a bit. Will I recommend it to others? Yes if one is looking for an engaging fast-paced mystery… No if you find explicit content repulsive!
© 2018 Shaloo Walia All rights reserved

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18 comments

  1. I saw the original movie and it was excellent even though I had to keep reading subtitles.

    Being a rape survivor this is not something that you discuss. There’s a stigma attached to rape. The woman is blamed.
    You live with the guilt and shame forever. I was assaulted back in the 1970s but I kept my mouth shut .

    Even with this current #MeToo campaign and films like India’s Daughter.
    Things are still bad for women worldwide.

    1. This is a really sad scenario. The victim lives in shame & guilt and is scarred for life but the culprits go scot-free band probably continue to destroy many more lives. I wish the society changes its mindset…and more importantly, we raise our sons to be good human beings who respect women.

  2. Excellent review. I both loved and hated this book. It was spell-binding and fast-paced; the content was so very difficult. The same truth is that the kinds of behaviors portrayed in the book happen all over the world; keeping our heads buried in the sand does not make them go away. Shedding light helps reduce the stigma for victims/survivors to be more open. Thank you for the review and comments.

    1. I also feel the same way about the book. I really wondered if people with such sick mentality actually exist! And I so wish that it’s just the writer’s figment of imagination but the sad truth is that such monsters do exist lurking in the shadows waiting to strike.

      1. Where I live (in Michigan) there was a man who was a very successful businessman and community leader–who had a dungeon and was just plain sick (in my opinion). He had his wife murdered. It was so shocking, but made this book more of a cautionary tale.

        1. Gangrape followed by torturous murder of a 9 years old has recently sent my whole country in a state of shock and public outrage. Definitely there are such monsters who put humanity to shame. The author has chosen quite a sensitive and disturbing subject for sure.

    1. I agree.. It’s gripping enough and that’s why I am reading the third book in the series inspite of the disturbing first.

    1. The book was quite disturbing for me but that didn’t deter me from reading the next ones in the series 🙂

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