‘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!
Title: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Originally published: August 2005
Author: Stieg Larsson
Original title: Män som hatar kvinnor
Followed by: The Girl Who Played with Fire
Genres: Crime Fiction, Mystery
No. of Pages: 465
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