Monday, March 22, 2010

156 (2010 #21). The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

by Stieg Larsson
translated from Swedish by Reg Keeland
read by Simon Vance

This was the choice of my local book club for March. I'm not much for mysteries, but I had heard good things about this book.

Set in Sweden, the main characters are Mikael "Kalle" Blomkvist, 40-something, an investigative journalist and publisher of Millennium magazine, and Lisbeth Sallander, 24, an antisocial, brilliant researcher and computer hacker. As the story begins, Blomkvist has been convicted of libel of wealthy industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. In order to save his magazine, takes a job in far north Sweden with another wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger, to try to find out what happened to his great niece, Harriet, who disappeared in 1966. Henrik believes she was murdered by a member of his extensive family, because almost all of them were present on (fictional) Hedeby Island for a family business meeting, and access to/from the island was blocked by a major accident on the single bridge to it. Salander comes in to the story because Vanger's lawyer hires the security firm she freelances for to investigate Blomkvist. When Blomkvist learns about this, he teams up with her and they use her special skills to solve the case and get revenge on Wennerstrom.

Neo-Nazism and violence against women are major themes in the book, with a statistic about the latter in Sweden at the beginning of each of the four parts of the book. I enjoyed the "dialogue" that took place through e-mail exchanges in the book, and the way Larsson brought in his background as a photographer by using details in photographs to help solve the case.

This book is the first of three in the so-called "Millennum Trilogy." Steig Larsson, a journalist and editor of the anti-racism Swedish magazine Expo in real life, delivered the manuscripts for the three books to a publisher shortly before his death in 2004 at age 50 from a massive heart attack. Besides the Kalle Blomkvist nickname for Mikael, Larsson also stated in an interview that Swedish children's author Astrid Lindgren also influenced the development of Lisbeth Salander - he imagined her as a grown-up version of Pippi Longstocking:
"What would she have been like today? What would she have been like as an adult? What would she be called? A sociopath?" Larsson told book store industry magazine Svensk Bokhandel in the only interview he ever did about his crime fiction. "I created her as Lisbeth Salander, 25 years old and extremely isolated. She doesn't know anyone, has no social competence."
I found Salander to be an especially intriguing character. Mikael Blomkvist fits the Swedish stereotype, sleeping with three women in the course of the story, including a long-term affair with his married boss Erika Berger (with her husband's permission!).

I would not, however, listen to another audiobook in this trilogy read by Simon Vance. His British accent was disconcerting with the Swedish setting - especially the Cockney-like accent he gives to Salander.

[This audiobook was borrowed from my university library, and goes back tomorrow.]

© Amanda Pape - 2010

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