By Chet Yarbrough
By Stieg Larsson
Narrated by Simon Vance
Steig Larsson’s invention of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander reincarnate Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Salander is considerably more fascinating than Watson but this detecting duo solves mysteries and murders with computer hacking acumen and idiosyncratic action as interesting as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
Unlike Sherlock Holmes, Blomkvist makes a living as a magazine editor and investigative journalist. Unlike Watson, Salender is a private investigator with a photographic memory and Asperger like symptoms that make her oddly asocial but incredibly focused and obsessively detailed.
Larsson creates Blomkvist and Salender in a way that draws one into their lives; i.e. vicariously experiencing their pain, frustration, fear, revelation, revenge, and satisfaction. Blomkvist and Salender are fascinating characters, far from perfect but unquestionably inner directed with their own sense of morality. Larsson pictures good and evil as blurred human qualities. Great wealth can exaggerate the worst of man as shown in the history of the Vanger family. Failure to act when you know evil is being done makes you an accomplice as well as a witness.
Harriet Vanger’s mother knows of her husband’s evil but chooses not to act. Great intelligence leads to revenge as easily as it leads to justice in Salander’s treatment of a sadist. Blomkvist has an affair with a married woman, a Vanger relative, and his investigative partner; all of which have ethical reasons to avoid romantic involvement. The Vanger patriarch uses Blomkvist’s troubled life to unethically con him into researching the disappearance of his niece, Harriet Vanger. Human greed and imperfection permeate Larsson’s characters just as they do in real life.
The underlying theme of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is violence of men against women. Extreme forms of misogynist violence are depicted in Larsson’s mystery. Part of the book’s appeal is Lisbeth Salender’s “analysis of consequence” and deliberative action; i.e. her judge, jury, and executioner’s method of revenge. Salender is shown to be a person that can take care of herself.
There is something for every bibliophile in Larsson’s book. There is mystery, suspense, intrigue, well-developed characters, and a good fiction writer’s skill in suspending disbelief. There are believable consequences for bad actors in Larsson’s story and a satisfying denouement. This is an excellent mystery nicely narrated by Simon Vance. Any fan of fiction will be pleased with Steig Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.