And the Plot Thickens

I just finished Stieg Larsson’s second book of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl who Played with Fire and I found his second book more entertaining than his first. I am not going to offer any hints about the plot in the second book as I have a few friends reading it at this time and I don’t want to ruin it for them (Bob revealed a key detail about the ending to book two in one of his blogs some time back, thanks Bob).

All I will say is the plot in the Larsson’s second book continues to revolve around the two main characters he developed in his first book, Lisbeth Salander and Michael Blomkvist and murder is involved. The thing I like about Larsson’s writing style is the way that he skips around from character to character giving their perspective on the events that are unfolding in the story line. Book two ends with a cliff hanger wanting you to get book three ASAP.

Larsson was not your typical lifetime writer, beginning his fiction writing at age 48 when he was bored while on vacation. He planned on writing ten books in all with proceeds from the book going towards funding his retirement.

He was a workaholic and a non-stop smoker who went to the office one day and found the elevator was out of order so he climbed seven flights of stairs and eventually collapsed in his office after having a heart attack at the age of fifty – damn elevator !

It is only my humble opinion, but Larsson truly had a gift and was a wonderful author and I will be very sad when I finish book three knowing there is nothing left from him to read.

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Dragon Tattoo

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Prior to my vacation my book consultant (and wonderful friend), Heather told me she was reading a book called the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and that it was really really good. A few days later she told me that she was one hundred and fifty pages into the book and said that she had it all figured out and didn’t want to waste her time reading the rest of the book (644 pages).

This sounded intriguing (by the way Heather has a way of making everything sound intriguing) so I got my hands on a copy of the book and started reading it towards the end of my trip. It’s a story about Mickael Blomkvist who is a publisher for Millenium, a political magazine in Sweden.

Mikael has gotten himself into some trouble based on a article he wrote for his magazine and decides to take some time off from his job because of a pending prison sentence. While off he accepts an offer from an elderly gentleman, Henrik Vanger, a multimillionaire CEO who wants him to write an autobiography about his life and while doing so hopefully solve the mystery behind the disappearance of his niece some forty years earlier. Mikael partners up with a female research expert named Lisbeth Salander in an effort to solve the mystery. I will not tell you any more about the story except that I couldn’t put the book down.

After doing a little research on the internet I was happy to see that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first in a trilogy of books written by author Stieg Larsson, but sad to see that he died in 2004 and that his books became best sellers post humorously. Upon reading more about the author it seems that in real life he was witness to a gang rape of a fifteen year old girl and never forgave himself for not helping her, thus the theme of sexual violence against women in his books.

So check it out if you are looking for something interesting to read and by the way I will bet all of my money that there is no way that Heather figured out what happened one hundred and fifty pages into the book, no way !

The Girl Who Got To Be Too Unbelievable

I just finished the last volume of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, and I have mixed feelings about them.  I thought the initial book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, was excellent.  I liked the second volume, The Girl Who Played With Fire, although I thought it was not as strong as the first book.  I also thought the last volume — The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest — was the weakest of the three.

I liked the first volume because it was deliberate in its pace and different in its approach to storytelling.  It took a while to get into the story, and the author didn’t seem to care that he was taking his time introducing you to characters, major and minor, and giving you their back stories.  The character of Lisbeth Salander was fresh and different, the bit-by-bit relating of the horrible incidents and tragedies in her life was like finding successive clues on a treasure hunt, and the overarching tale of the redemption of journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his discovery of the secrets of the Vanger family, with the eventual assistance of Salander, was an interesting plot line.  In the first book, although both Salander and Blomkvist have unique talents — as a computer hacker and reporter, respectively — their characters are believable and their actions and accomplishments are within the range of possibility.  And I liked how the telling of the engrossing story also helped me learn a bit about Sweden and its history and culture.

Unfortunately, as the story progressed through the second and third books it became increasingly unbelievable and, as a result, much less interesting.  Lisbeth Salander somehow acquires the skills of a master spy and action hero who survives being shot in the head and buried alive.  The middle-aged Blomkvist is revealed as a super-sleuth and awesome sexual athlete who apparently is irresistible to every woman he encounters and is able to fight off contract killers.  By the middle of the third book, the story has become a pretty standard trial drama where the outcome is foreordained and the only question is when and how, inevitably, Salander will confront and defeat her equally superhuman but evil half-brother.

I understand the buzz about Larsson’s books, and I applaud any series that has the mistreatment of women as one of its principal story lines.  I do find myself wishing, however, that Larsson had stopped writing after the first book.