Note: this review was originally posted in Goodreads on August 25, 2011
I start the review with that word not because I was impressed by this novel but because I’m shocked it became such a hit. Really, what does this novel contain that has attracted so many people to it? I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free.
Let me begin right now by admitting that I did enjoy it, at least at some points. As soon as the two main characters got together the whole “mystery” that was the focus of the story for a while switched into another gear and blasted off. But…
…but, well, the manuscript needed some serious editing. The structure of the story is a mess; on one hand you have the Harriet Vanger investigation which masks as the main plot. When that is solved and done you have Blomkvist’s vendetta against Wennerstrom, which should have been a nice epilogue but instead took a life of its own and hijacked the novel. Not that it came out of left field, since Larsson took great pains to set it up at the beginning to then abandon it completely for the duration of the Vanger mystery. My theory is that he had two story ideas and then just decided to merge them into one overcomplicated plot. Had he stuck with one it would have made for a bearable novel; two was just lousy and forced writing (reminds me of Spiderman 3 and the stupid decision to have three underdeveloped and badly written plots involving the three villains).
To make matters worse the way each plot is solved is absurd. Vanger’s seem at first like Blomkvist was pure genius (with the help of Salander, the english title’s proclaimed main character) until you give it a bit more thought and realise just how many convenient incredible coincidences were needed to crack the mystery. In Wennerstrom’s case, the plot required the mastermind of a worldwide network of crime and financial evil (one that spun an incredibly complicated web of companies and subcompanies to cover his tracks) to be so utterly stupid as to have all the necessary evidence against his empire stored in one place – his personal computer. I know I promised no spoilers but that was so ridiculous I had to bring it up. Even stupider is how this empire crumbles without any sort of retaliation whatsoever against Blomkvist, not even a “fuck you”. Yeah, that was another spoiler.
I won’t mention the whole “men hating women” theme that gives this novel its original swedish title, except to agree that it was brought more for shock value than for an actual statement. No, the statement here was political, against all those evil financial reporters that don’t do their jobs and the corporations that oink oink their way into greed to the ruin of many good people’s lives.
What I will mention to conclude this review is that, even though I liked Blomkvist as a character and hero, he was too much the James Bond around women for my taste. None could resist this sexual marvel, not even the cold hearted and rebellious girl with the dragon tattoo. I have the feeling this was really how Larsson himself fantasized of being.
I initially gave The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo three stars out of five, because even at the end I was convinced I must have made some sort of mistake and really liked it a bit more than I felt I did.
But nah, two stars is my judgment.