Imagine someone wrote two books. The first book was a crime thriller. One filled with twists and turns, long-held secrets uncovered, lots of characters with complicated interconnecting back stories, gruesome crimes and clever detective work leading the heroes (let’s say it’s a kind of buddy cop thing) to solve the case.
Now imagine the second book, which has the same pair of lead characters, is about financial intrigue. It’s also a thriller but it’s more cerebral, it’s about fraud and misdealing, it’s about politics and journalism and perception. It’s about manouvering information and people into the right postion to either commit, or solve, white-collar crime. It has elements of a spy novel, heist story or computer hacking cyber-punk.
Now take the two books and… Oh I know you think you know what I’m going to say but no don’t intertwine them, simply jam them together. Chop the second book in half and stick the pieces either side of the first.
Now you’ve got something a bit like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s not a bad book. I definitely enjoyed it – but this structural oddity is responsible for all the things I didn’t really enjoy. Like the way it’s slow to get started. Or the fact that there’s long complicated sections of exposition very early on about the financial stuff. Or the fact that when you think you’ve just come to what must surely be the end of the crime thriller you’ve still got 100 pages to go and it switches back to the other story with corresponding drop in pace.
I think I preferred the central crime story because even though it’s not the kind of thing I usually read – too much gruesome detail – it was at least page-turningly gripping. Also it had some clever detective work. How the case is solved with the help of various old photographs and the conclusions drawn from them was genuinely fascinating and ingenious. The other story felt slow, unnecessarily complex and outstayed its welcome.
If this was a stand-alone book I’d probably avoid any more by the same author. However it’s part of a trilogy and clearly there’s an ongoing element to the two main characters relationship with stuff still to tell. I’ll be honest and say that I’m intrigued enough to want to follow that.
Because in the end the most interesting thing about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the girl with the dragon tattoo.
7/10 – enjoyable in a what’s-going-to-happen way for the central 2/3rds of the book.