I’m generally not a fan of mysteries, as they tend to overemphasize plot at the expense of characterization. Stieg Larsson’s 2005 thriller, however, showcases complex relationships among the cast of characters, in particular the two leads, the brilliant yet awkward Lisbeth Salander, who is also the novel’s title character, and unlucky but determined journalist Mikael Blomkvist.
Mikael and Lisbeth are hired to investigate a decades-old mystery involving a wealthy Swedish family. The more they find out, the deeper in trouble they find themselves in. The pace is perfect, a steady stream of action that never bogs down or goes too fast. The mystery is intricate, but not overly byzantine, and the resolution is satisfying.
The subplots involving the two characters are just as compelling, and complement the main action well. Mikael seeks redemption for a libel case he has lost, while Lisbeth struggles with sexually exploitation and assault. The experience is like having two good side dishes along with a very good entree; instead of overpowering the meal, the sides make you appreciate the entree more.
After completing the audiobook, I realized that I probably would have enjoyed more as a reader than a listener. The performance by Simon Vance is good, although there was one section that drove me absolutely bonkers: during a long email exchange, Vance reads the full header of each message, with the To and From (including the full email address of each, including the domain name) as well as the Subject, complete with the RE:. “Enough already!” I screamed at my car’s speaker after the third or fourth message. It was an unnecessary and distracting part in an otherwise solid reading.
Overall, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is an outstanding novel, and is a perfect companion on a long road trip, even with the excessive reading of the emails.