Once in a while, it’s good to get yourself a ride. And if it’s thrilling, that’s all the more a reason to hitch one.

It’s been a while since I read a good crime novel. One that would have a protagonist worthy of admiration because he/she can do almost anything and a storyline that keeps you at the edge of your seat and makes you go “wow” when the climax descends on you. I had resorted to TV shows to do those things for me. Until? Until David Fincher refused to release his movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in India. Reason being the Censor Board of India asked for some cuts in the film that Fincher was unwilling to make. I’ve seen his movie Fight Club after I read the book of the same name. I was thoroughly impressed by how he gave the book the respect it deserves on screen. His adaptation of the book was nothing short of impressive. So, I thought before I could get myself a copy of the movie, I’d get myself a copy of the book!

Honestly, I got through the first 200 pages of the book solely on the fact that: 1) David Fincher made a movie out of it, and 2) the book had a certain standing in the “reading community”. It took Larsson a while to build up the characters and churn the story to a level where it then starts getting frothy and jumpy. Somehow, I would take away points for his writing; I didn’t think it was a spectacle enough. His writing was a little bland as far as I am concerned. What pulls this book through is the story and the pace it picks after 200 pages have been licked off.

The story opens with an old man receiving a frame with a pressed flower on his birthday. It then moves to a journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who is your protagonist for the major part of the book, being convicted for libel and defamation against a certain financer Wennerstrom. Enter the girl with the dragon tattoo, Lisbeth Salander, who is an expert investigator. Of all character sketches, I think Salander’s character build-up and description hits you right where it should; the rest are a little sketchy. I’m assuming Larsson spent extra time on her because he named the book after her. After Salander, enter Henrik Vanger (again) who hires Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance of his brother’s granddaughter Harriet. For convenience sake let’s call her his granddaughter. Henrik Vanger is the ageing old man who received the flower at the beginning of the book, remember? he has been obsessed with Harriet’s disappearance for 30 years and he wishes that Blomkvist gives it one last go before Vanger dies. From here, the story goes a little uphill. When Blomkovist, amidst a lot of apprehension accepts the job of “trying” to find out what happened to Harriet, Larsson gives us a tour into the past of the HUGE Vanger family. Which, frankly, I could do without. What didn’t help was Larsson’s writing, because for most parts I didn’t care who was whose son and who married whom. I skimmed through it. You ask me who Birger Vanger was and I’ll look straight through you. This is where I relied on the two outlined reasons for still reading the book. Meanwhile, Salander has her own story going on parallel to Blomkvist’s investigation; her job, her expertise at her job, the problems with her guardian, and her introvert nature are all fascinating. If it wasn’t Blomkvist doing the investigation of the main plot of the book, you could just read Salander’s portions and be happy. Only, you can’t!

After the Vanger family has been described, the plot has been fleshed out and Blomkvist begins to make breakthrough with his investigation, the book picks up pace. Thankfully, Salander joins him, and after that I dare you to put it down after that. You can’t. This is the point when the mystery begins to unfold one layer at a time and Larsson’s story vindicates all the time you spent over the first 200 pages of the book. The story gallops up and how! You begin wondering what happened to Harriet after all? Which of the Vangers killed her? Why would anyone want to murder a teenager? What secret did such a huge family hide in its bosom? And finally, when you do discover what really happened, it makes you cringe. It also makes you heave a sigh of relief that Henrik Vanger’s obsession with Harriet’s disappearance was not in vain after all, and it has come to a logical end.

Larsson has a very good story in this book and only if his writing supported him a little, I’d give it a 4 on 5. But I’ll take away half a point for the writing and give TGWTDT 3.5 on 5. Read it for a really good ride. It’s worth the while.

– Sameen

P.S: After reading, you can catch Fincher’s movie, which I shall do in a while. Just like Larsson doesn’t disappoint, I’m sure even Fincher won’t.

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