Wednesday, December 16, 2009


As with many translations, the unfamiliar, unpronounceable proper names interrupt the flow of the prose. For example, the main character's name in this Swedish novel is Blomkvist, which doesn't exactly roll smoothly off my English-speaking tongue. His female business partner and frequent lover is often referred to by her last name of Berger, but there is also a male character whose first name is Birger. The names of places are even more inscrutable. Still, the storyline is quite addictive, although it becomes somewhat gruesome and less engrossing in the second half. It's a good, old-fashioned mystery that reads like it was inspired by Dashiell Hammett. It also reminded me of the game of Clue, because the crime was committed on an unreachable island with a limited group of suspects. Blomkvist is a journalist whose reputation has been tarnished by a conviction for libel. Eighty-something-year-old Henrik Vanger has hired Blomkvist during his self-imposed sabbatical to investigate the disappearance of Harriett, Vanger's brother's granddaughter. The plot also made me think of the movie Blow-Up, because a photo becomes key to the investigation. Blomkvist hires Lisbeth Salander, an anti-social computer hacker with a photographic memory, as his assistant. Lisbeth has skeletons in her own closet and a personal vendetta against men who abuse women. In my imagination, she looks like the main character in the movie Run Lola Run. Perhaps this is part of the reason that this book is so popular; it conjures up striking visuals of the characters and the chilly Nordic landscape. Plus, there are enough evildoers—Nazis, rapists, corporate sleazeballs, etc.—to fill several novels.

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