I just finished reading “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Stieg Larsson and thought I would give my thoughts.
It is the story of a journalist (Blomkvist), who seemed to me entirely believable despite having high moral principles, who has been duped into printing a libellous story by a Swedish billionaire who has gained his fortune by criminal means while pretending to be legitimate. Blomkvist is sent to prison for the story and is then hired by another eccentric retired industrialist to hunt for somebody whom, he claims, killed his grand-daughter many years before. He gives Blomkvist a dossier he has collected over the years and the promise of rich rewards including secret information which will uncover the gangster’s criminality.
The book is advertised as a gripping page-turner but on several occasions I got really bored with all the tedious and apparently irrelevant details. Having heard it was a good book I persisted and and skipped forward. I’m glad I did because when Salander comes to help Blomkvist, things start to get interesting.
Salander is the girl with the Tattoo. She claims to be Sweden’s best hacker, and uses this skill to obtain information for a security firm. Her personal life is a mess, and is a ward of court. She hates authority and the police and has almost no morals (the exact opposite of Blomkvist in fact). The character is believable, although I am not sure I believe that anyone whose personal life is so disorganised could be mentally well organised. A well organised person tends to want their home well organised too. Disorganisation is just too inefficient and wastes time.
With her help, three quarters of the way through the story, we find out who the murderer is and I felt bored again. He takes Blomkvist prisoner and I did not really care if he killed him or not. Luckily I kept reading, or at least skimming, and I’m glad because this turned out not to be the right murderer, and the hunt for the real one went on.
The security aspects of the story were thought provoking. For example at one stage Salander says “it takes thirty seconds to download a programme from the Net that can crack Word’s encryption protection”. That had me running to the Internet to check. There are programmes which can crack open a password-protected Word document by brute force, trying millions of different passwords a minute. But in fact if you chose the right encryption method and a suitable password, Word is pretty secure. For details see:
I have to admit that as a result of reading this, I changed the password and encryption method of my important documents.
I had a number of niggles with the book. Not just the boring passages. The author (or at least the translator) writes time as 8.00 instead of 8:00 and spells program (meaning computer software) as programme.
But in general it’s a 7/10 book. I like the rapid switching between very brief scenes as both characters conduct their own lines of investigation. That keeps the action moving, and makes up for the boring parts.