The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Steig Larsson

The BookDepository

Translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland

I’m confused. Please could someone explain why everyone raves about this book; why it has sold millions of copies around the world and why people are describing it as the best crime novel ever. I just don’t understand it – I found it to be just average, with quite a few flaws.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo does have a reasonably complex plot, with several different threads running parallel to each other, but the basic premise involves solving a murder, which remained a mystery for almost 40 years.

My main problem with the book was that I guessed the ending very early on. In my view, a fantastic crime novel will leave little clues along the way, continually leading you to think one thing, then doubt yourself and guess again.  This book failed to do that – I just found my initial suspicions becoming stronger, until I was disappointingly proved right.

I also found the pace of the book to be slow. The beginning especially, contained far too many facts. I found myself becoming bogged down in the details, so was unable to find the reading experience enjoyable in several places.

I have heard a few people mention the negative portrayal of women in the book, and have to agree that this is another flaw. The original Swedish title can be translated as Men Who Hate Women, so I can see why it was changed for the international audience!  The poor treatment of women in this book was a minor problem, but I think that reading books like 2666 recently has dulled my sensitivity to these issues and other people may be far more offended than I was.

I did find the writing to be of a good quality, and the translation was excellent, but the plot was a big disappointment. It contained nothing ground-breaking, or particularly clever – it was just an average crime novel, no better than the thousands of other ones produced each year. Am I missing something? What makes this book so special?



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  1. Alessandra says:

    I did NOT like this, either (and the Italian version is actually titled Men Who Hate Women), but not because I had already guessed the ending, or because of the negative portrayal of women. There is WAY too much blood, violence, and gore for me. Not to mention the rape scene(s) which made my stomach turn. Ugh.

    1. Jackie says:

      Alessandra, I’m pretty used to violence and gore now, so that didn’t bother me really. I just expected an amazing plot, and I’m afraid it wasn’t there. It is good to know I’m not alone in not loving this book though, so thank you.

  2. Sandy says:

    I will agree with you that the beginning was slow, but I think necessary to build the history of our protagonist. One I got through that, I was mesmerized, particularly with Lisbeth. In recent reading history, I don’t remember such an interesting personality, such an enigma. As far as the crime portion of the novel, I guess I was not necessarily so hung up on the ultimate discovery of the perpetrator (it seemed pretty obvious) but the process of it. The pacing, the character development, the clever sleuthing…I just don’t see this kind of thing with the normal crime novel. It definitely set itself apart from the masses. I’m sorry you didn’t like this!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Thank you for explaining it to me. I agree that Lisbeth is an interesting character, but I’m not entirely convinced about how realistic her range of skill are. Perhaps this will improve over the rest of the books.

      I didn’t think the sleuthing was that clever either – in fact the tracing of the photographs etc was far too easy/convienient. In real life that sort of thing would take years of fruitless, tedious searching. That bit did annoy me a bit.

      I think that basically I’m just not a fan of crime novels – I’m just too fussy about these things!

  3. I’m relieved that I had no inclination to read this as you have confirmed my suspicions that I’m not missing anything. I don’t read a lot of crime fiction anyway and certainly not a lot of modern crime; the last I read was In the Woods by Tana French, which everyone also raved about, and I enjoyed it but I didn’t think it was anything special.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I have a copy of In the Woods too, but do suspect that the same thing might occur – they are OK, but nothing to rave about. I still plan to read In the Woods soon, but will be very wary of all crime books in future – unless you endorse them!

  4. Simon S says:

    I sort of want to read this (like I did with Twilight) because I feel I need to read for myself what the fuss is about as it sells a stupendous amount every year. Your lacklustre feelings are the same I think as Kimbofo’s (who I think though I may be wrong, didnt even review it as she couldnt see the point) and that makes me think it won’t be my cup of tea. I have heard amazing things about it too so I think I will just see when the mood takes me to read this as I have it on the TBR, its been there yonks.

    1. Jackie says:

      Simon, I know exactly what you mean – it wouldn’t matter if you’d told me that I wouldn’t like this book – I’d still want to know for myself.

      I still haven’t read Twilight yet, but really want to, as it is mentioned so often. I hope that I enjoy that more than this.

    2. kimbofo says:

      I enjoyed the book and have the second one in the queue — I just never got around to reviewing it because I read on holidays and by the time i’d got back I’d kind of forgotten the whole plot. I wouldn’t say it was a brilliant read, but it’s an enjoyable one and I like the Lisbeth character: strong, fiesty, intelligent but damaged.

      1. Jackie says:

        kimbofo, I agree that it is enjoyable. It is a good hoilday read, but nothing special. I did like Lisbeth’s character, but it is interesting to hear that you forgot the plot so quickly – I think this just proves how forgettable it is.

      2. Simon S says:

        Hahaha, I completely got that wrong sorry Kim didnt mean to misquote you… see I said I might have been completely wrong and I was!!! I blame discussing it in a pub frankly hee hee.

  5. Jenny says:

    I’ve been leery of this one as I had heard that it is full of violence against women, but it did seem everyone else who read it absolutely loved it. Nice to hear a dissenting voice! :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, If you have a probelm with violence then you probably shouldn’t read this. I’ve read worse, but it probably isn’t for you.

  6. Dot says:

    I didn’t really get what the hype was about either! The beginning is so, so slow, and I personally didn’t think that the ending made up for it! Lisbeth was an interesting character but I have no desire to read the next one!

    1. Jackie says:

      Dot, The beginning was very slow. It is good to hear that I’m not the only one with these thoughts. I really can’t decide whether to read the rest of the series. The hype made me buy the second, but I’m not sure I want to read it now. Hopefully someone will come along and tell me whether it is worth the effort.

  7. Nadia says:

    I just got this as a gift in a book exchange and was excited to read it because of all the great things I had heard about it. However, after reading your review I am a bit hesitant to pick it up now. Especially if the true translation for the title is THE MEN WHO HATED WOMEN. What is that? Yikes! Anyhow, I will read it at a later date. Thanks for the honest review! Cheers!

    1. Jackie says:

      Nadia, Sorry to put you off your book! I think I am in the minority with my views, so I’m sure it is still worth giving it a try. I hope that you enjoy it.

  8. Annabel says:

    I read it and mostly enjoyed it, but agree it does have flaws and I worked out the ending too. I’m sure I’ll read the other two volumes though (eventuallly) if only to find out what happens to Lizbeth who was an interesting character.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, It is good to know that I’m not the only one who guessed the ending. I still can’t decide whether or not to read the other two. Perhaps I’ll wait and see what you think of them!

  9. Stephanie says:

    I am reading it now–I am about 220 pages in, so not even half way through. I did have a bit of trouble with the first 50 pages or so. It was just so dense and I had trouble concentrating, but now I am loving it. For me, it is pretty different from what I generally read, so it’s refreshing. Plus, I think it is a book my boyfriend may actually like, so I am hoping he will read it when I am done.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, It is great when you can share books with your boyfriend. I hope that you enjoy talking about it and you find the end OK. I look forward to seeing what you think of it.

  10. Nymeth says:

    I’ve been on the fence about this book for ages. I’ve seen some rave reviews, but others, like yours, make me wonder if it’s really worth my time. It sounds like there are plenty of mysteries/thrillers out there that would be safer bets for me.

    1. Jackie says:

      Nymeth, I know what you mean. I know there are books out there which I will enjoy, so deciding to read something which I may not is a tough choice. Perhaps it is worth sitting on the fence a bit longer?!

  11. Zee says:

    Oh thank heavens I’m not the only one asking “What is the hype about”. I’m about 150 pages in and am considering giving up. I’m reading it in Swedish and a minor point, the title translates to “Men Who Hate Women” hatar is the present tense. Not that it makes a difference but hey…:)

    1. Jackie says:

      Zee, Thank you for pointing out my translation errror – I have fixed the post now. It is nice to know that I’m not alone in wondering what the hype is about. At 150 pages I think you are over the dense bit, so it should improve from now on. I hope you enjoy the ending a bit more.

  12. I actually couldn’t tell you specifically why I liked it so much. I guess I read so many mysteries with shallow characterization and simple plots, that this seems like heads above the rest. Also, I did like the next two better than the first.

    1. Jackie says:

      rhapsodyinbooks, I often struggle with crime novels which have poor characterisation, so was pleased that this one wasn’t like that, but I thought that a book which has been raved about so much would have a great plot too. It is good to know that the next two are better. I might get round to them one day.

  13. Steph says:

    I still haven’t read any of these books, though recently I’ve read/heard things that suggest that fans of Tana French’s books (which I would consider myself to be) would enjoy them. But I’ve also heard that they have very negative portrayals of women, and having flipped through the first few pages, I agree that the beginning seems bogged down in information overload (of course, I can’t easily dismiss a book for not hooking me with the first few pages, even if the best books always do!). I know I will wind up reading this one just so I can make up my own mind and see what all the fuss is about, good or bad. I am hoping that having now read both some very positive and some very negative reviews of the book will help me approach it with the appropriate expectations!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, I’ll be interested to see what you think of this book. I wouldn’t worry about the negative portrayal of women. Bad things happen to women, but it isn’t ever glorified and endorsed. I wonder if I’ll enjoy the Tana Woods books, or if I just have a problem with most mysteries.

  14. Violet says:

    hmmm…I would be disappointing after reading so many pages and finding the book just okay. I still want to read it thought, hopefully I’ll like it more than you did. I don’t read many crime novels so I’m hoping I don’t have a lot to compare it with

    1. Jackie says:

      Violet, Welcome back to my blog! I’m pleased that I made the effort of reading all those pages. It wasn’t a bad book and at least I now know what everyone is talking about and can start a good discussion about this book. I know how you dislike chunksters, so this is probably not the best crime book for you to try.

  15. She says:

    Hmm, I think I might put off reading this for a little while longer. I agree though, a fabulous mystery novel should have an ending that is totally surprising! I guess that’s why I love Agatha Christie so much, I at least can never figure out who did it. :)

    Sorry it didn’t live up to expectations!

    1. Jackie says:

      She, I agree – Agatha Christie is amazing for producing unpredictable books. I really should read a few more of her books – it has been ages since I last read one.

  16. Dorte H says:

    I agree that there are flaws and that it would have suited the trilogy if the author had had the chance to do some editing before he died. I still think the books are remarkable though, e.g. for the character Lisbeth Salander (a grown-up Pippi Longstocking is what the author intended), and even though it it contains violence against women, the message is very strongly AGAINST any kind of violence or abuse of women.

    1. Jackie says:

      Dorte, You’re right. It is so sad that Larsson died. I’m sure that he could have improved them, but also that he didn’t live to see his success.

  17. claire says:

    I have no desire to pick this book up, so it’s good to know, from your review, that I’m really not missing anything. The premise (and the first lines) do not interest me at all.

    1. Jackie says:

      Claire, I do enjoy a good mystery, so the premise did appeal to me, but I think you are right to avoid it – I don’t think it is your sort of book.

  18. Isabella says:

    I really enjoyed this book. I’ll definitely read the 2nd and 3rd, when they’re available in paperback. Yes, there’s quite a lot of misogyny, but as Dorte points out, that’s kind of the point of the message. (The title was changed for the ENGLISH audience; the meaning of the Swedish title holds in French, and, so I’m told, in other languages.) I used to read quite a lot of crime thrillers, but gave it up, for the most part, when they all started to seem the same. TGWTDT stands out for the freshness of it characters, definitely the severely damaged Lisbeth, but Michael as well with the journalistic angle (the detail was a plus, for my taste). I was definitely more interested in what happens to these people than how the plot turned out per se (something I find true also in the novels of Fred Vargas).

    1. Jackie says:

      Isabella, Perhaps my problem is that I don’t read many thrillers, so am comparing it to literary fiction books, which almost always have the great characters. I often find that I don’t enjoy crime books for that reason, so can see that this one at least has that going for it. Thank you for commenting!

  19. mee says:

    I’ve been sitting on the fence with this one too. I would probably listen to it instead of reading it (you know, now that I have found audio books :)

    1. Jackie says:

      mee, I have heard that this book is fantastic on audio – perhaps I should try the second book that way?

  20. Jo says:

    This one had never appealed to me, despite reading lots of good reviews. But I do like that fact about the translation of the title, even if I never intend to read this! I think I just like to know facts like that!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, I enjoy trivia too! I hope you find it useful one day!

  21. Like you, I guessed the ending quite early on, and like you, again, I was quite annoyed with the detail-overload in the first few chapters. However, I did actually enjoy the book (although the writing was too detailed and there was too much product placement for my liking), and I found Lisbeth to be a perfectly fascinating character. In fact, I think that’s the main reason as to why I enjoyed the book – she’s not your average run-of-the-mill protagonist.

    After this, I’m not sure you planning on reading the rest of the trilogy, but the second book does focus on her a lot more, and talks of “all the evil” which is what has resulted in her being who she is at this point in time. Again, the book isn’t great by any measure (i.e. it’s not a “must-read”), but I did enjoy reading it.

    1. Jackie says:

      anothercookiecrumbles, It sounds as though we had similar reactions to this book. I didn’t notice any product placement, but perhaps I’m just too used to advertising in our society.

      I already have a copy of the next book, so I’m sure I’ll get round to it one day, but there’s no rush!

  22. Jenners says:

    I haven’t read this yet but I plan to because I’ve heard such raves about it! Now I’m even more intrigued to see what I think about it after hearing your thoughts.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I often find that a less than raving review makes me more interested in the book too. I look forward to finding out what you think of it.

  23. Karen says:

    I quite enjoyed this book (apart from the amount of graphic violence portrayed against women) but I do not read a lot of crime books and I am usually VERY dense about guessing plots etc… so maybe that’s why it worked more for me.

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, It is interesting that some people think their love of crime fiction meant that they enjoyed it, and others the fact that they don’t read many!!

      It seems as though this is a polarising book, but I’m pleased that you enoyed it.

  24. I’ve heard such mixed things about this book! I have it, so I suppose I’ll read it eventually, but I’ll try to keep my expectations lower.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jen, I think that having low expectations will help. I’ll be keeping an eye out for your thoughts on this one.

  25. Beth F says:

    Put me on the side that loved it. I loved the writing and I loved Lisbeth Salander. Maybe because I listened to it instead of read it? Anyway, I gave the book a B+ and I’m looking forward to reading the other two. I usually forget the details of books soon after I finish them, but I can still remember parts of this book — and not just the violence. The mood, the island, the sense of place….

    Or maybe I’m simply not as sophisticated at most people.

    Or maybe it’s just that I am a fan of mysteries, so I had a head start going in.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I think that listening to it must help – I have heard that it is great on audio. I’m not sure about the other reasons – I’m sure you’re sophisticated!

      1. Beth F says:

        I wasn’t particularly worried about my sophistication!

  26. Amy says:

    I am late to comment on this but I wanted to because I found your opinion …refreshing to be honest! I keep reading raves about this book, so much so that I was really beginning to think there might be a spell around the book! lol But seriously, I think your less than raving opinion is only the second I’ve read that this isn’t the best book ever written and the first was a NYTimes article wondering why such a big deal is being made of this book. I haven’t read it yet, kind of obvious I guess!, and I wasn’t sure I wanted too. Now I think I will eventually just to find out what I think about it.

    Thanks for your honest assessment of this book!

    1. Jackie says:

      Amy, Thank you for your kind words. It is good to know that NYT agrees with me!

  27. Bellezza says:

    I completely agree with your review. I was so terribly disappointed when I finished this book. Sure, the plot was complex and even interesting in certain places. But, overall, the book was not the book I thought it would be from reading all the praise. It’s so nice to find someone who feels as I did!

    1. Jackie says:

      Bellezza, It is nice to know that I’m not the only one disappointed by this book. I agree that there were a few fantastic sections, but overall it just didn’t live up to all that hype.

  28. Care says:

    I’ve been bouncing around reading reviews of this (Zee sent me) and I just realized that when my mom loaned it to me, she couldn’t remember ANYTHING about it. which doesn’t say much for it, perhaps? The best-selling phenomena is often intriguing, yes? Maybe posts like yours actually fuel the hype and thus more people read and then it just spirals into amazing sales success.

    1. Jackie says:

      Care, I think your mom is right – this book doesn’t have a lasting impact on you – a good reflection of its averageness!

      I am often intrigued by best-selling books, but this is mainly because I see nothing but praise for them. I don’t think my post will do much for this book – it has already taken off too much for me to have any impact.

  29. Karen says:

    I loved this one and will most definitely finish off the trilogy at some point. I’ve passed it on to a friend and she read it and immediately went out and bought the two follow on books – she is an avid reader like I am but she had not come across the hype for this one so was unaffected by it.

    I enjoy mystery, crime, thriller and any other label this type of book might fall under and I enjoyed this one more than most. The characters were interesting, flawed but likeable and I’m looking forward to picking up with them again with the next book. I liked the unsual slant to the story and I liked reading about a different location for a change.

    I’m quite surprised that a review erring on the negative has put other commentors off reading it for themselves. Different books will suit different readers, as much as I am interested in what others think about books they have read, I only allow my own experience to put me off reading an author. I do agree with Dorte H higher up the comments that if the author had lived to participate in an editing session then there might have been some overall improvement made.

  30. TheGirl says:

    Become a fan of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo film on Facebook for your chance to win screening tickets or a trip to Sweden, and find out more about the film – in cinemas on March 12th!


  1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo « Ardent Reader

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