June 7th, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Yes, I know all you cool kids read this book a couple years ago, but I just heard about it when the International Herald Tribune did a review of the third book in the trilogy last week and since the English language bookshop in town doesn't really understand English books enough to recommend books to anyone it was the first I'd heard of it.

Anyway, like whoa, is this book amazing. If, like me, you are just hearing about it now, do yourself a favor and go out and buy it. I did all 600 plus pages in two days because it's just impossible to put down.

The main "trick" of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is that is easily demonstrates what's wrong with the Scarpetta/Karen Slaughter/Kathy Reichs/Dan Brown fiction that dominates the genre today:

You need to keep it simple.

The current trend is to make the central puzzle really complicated. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo throws that out the window. The central puzzle is an old fashioned Agatha Christie locked room mystery.

During a 12 hour period when it's impossible to leave a small island a 16 year old girl disappears. What could possibly have happened to her?

Because the question is so basic it frees the writer to explore the characters and string out the clues step by step in a rational order. And, as one character remarks early on "when you figure it out it will probably be something obvious."

As it goes on you start to realize how empty all of Dan Brown's riddles and games are and how empty many of the popular crime heroes have become.

The other good thing is that the two main "detectives" are flawed, realistic human beings. They aren't like Lucy Scarpetta who is a fucking ninja superhero. They have reasonable skills, make mistakes and figure things out the way a normal person would - which makes it much easier to identify with them.

Finally, there is the world they inhabit. It's dark and cold and treacherous with a constant sense of doom around the corner.

All in all a masterpiece - and I just hope the next two books keep it up and don't fall apart at the seams.