After two cinematic recreations, both a Swedish and American version, and jumping to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list, it is hard to ignore the success of Stieg Larsson’s controversial novel “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”
The first of three books, “Dragon Tattoo” is a political thriller wrapped in a mystery novel and tied off with a romantic bow. It follows magazine publisher Mikael Blomkvist as he works to solve the murder of the daughter of a wealthy family. At the same time, a ward of the state and super-hacker, Lisbeth Salander, works to bring down corrupt corporations. Eventually their paths cross and they end up trapped in a cabin for the Swedish winter where they manage to help each other in their endeavours while also starting to fall in love. Something about two people stuck with only each other for warmth…
That’s just a general, over simplified summary. In reality, Larsson is able to weave an intricate story where every event seems independent and yet ends up connected like some giant web. He includes one storyline of a magazine who’s editor has been framed and then moves seamlessly into a story of a hacker who is trying to escape the clutches of the state. He follows this with murder, Nazism and con artistry and just when you think things cannot be more confusing the last piece falls into place and the whole picture appears spread out before you.
More interesting than the story itself is the events in the author’s life surrounding the book. When he was 15 he witnessed the rape of a young girl and forever wished he would have tried to help. Because of this he wrote “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” which was published in Sweden with the title “Men Who Hate Women.” At the beginning of each section, Larsson includes facts about the abuse of women in Scandinavian countries. There are grisly rape scenes within the book. A serial killer targets young women. Everything about the book is almost a method of penance. A way for Larsson to try and make up for standing by when he could have helped.
Yes, “Dragon Tattoo” is an exciting thriller, but what makes it truly great is the connection of the author. He is able to create a masterpiece that contains almost a sense of necessity. As if it was something that had to be written. And it is therefore something that has to be read.