Friday, January 23, 2009

Serial Killer Redux

Much to my surprise (really), the audiobook I listened to post Heartsick turned out to be another:
  • Book by a first time author
  • Book with a sequel
  • Book about a serial killer
The details of this book were unknown to me as I began my listen. I purchased the book because of the number of times it appeared on the best of 2008 lists. But I remembered no details. And this somewhat accidental book has confirmed (alas) my reluctant disappointment with Heartsick (Reader as Goat ).

The book I just finished: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, a book translated from Swedish. (Literally translated from Swedish the book would be called Men Who Hate Women. This is a first of a triology called in English the Millennium triology. All of this I’ve learned since finishing the book (Stieg Larsson bio).

Larsson died at age 50 of a massive heart attack. He was a well known journalist, whose own bio shares plots with those of his hero Mikael Blomqvist, also a journalist. At Larsson’s death three books were completed, another almost, and ten addition books sketched out in some form. He wrote in his evenings, only worked to get the books published shortly before his unexpected death. So the three completed books were published in Swedish after his death. The book I listened to was publishd last summer in English. The second in the triology was just published in UK, scheduled in US for the summer.

Here are some of the things that this Goat liked about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:
  • Set up as a pretty traditional mystery. A girl went missing long ago. On a small island cut off because of an accident. That means the cast of suspects is very small and finite. And the ground has been gone over again and again for 40 years. Yet something new does eventually turn up in a surprising but believable (at least I was willing to suspend disbelief) way.
  • Our hero is new to the country side. So you learn lots about the Swedish country side as well as the city as he goes back and forth and contemplates his surroundings.
  • There is a somewhat strange second character set loose in the narrative, the girl with the tatoo. Odd girl. Almost autistic. Perfect memory. A hacker. Maybe a stereotypical character. But what is she doing in this narrative. We know that eventually we’ll find out.
  • Okay (now I’m being a little bit of the spoiler) about half way through this turns out to be about a serial killer. But that’s over pretty soon.
  • And then we still have to solve the original mystery of the missing girl.
  • And finally we move on to the story we started with--a big bad industrialist and how we’ll bring him down.
  • And before we’re done we have to set up some loose ends to make us want to find the sequel. For both journalist and odd girl.
  • And by the way the odd girl manages two extra plots about abuse and sadism as well as high financial intrigue in offshore accounts that are a bit ancillary to the main plot. Besides figuring out who she is is almost a book.
  • Not to mention figuring out who Mikael Blomqvist is.
Why did I like the book? A certain resistance to the ending. Blithe overplotting. Too much story at an almost leisurely pace. And to give me all this in the outback of Sweden--not quite the Orient Express or the Library.

Who can resist? Not me. I just ordered (from Amazon.UK since I can’t wait until July): The Girl Who Played with Fire.

Not sure if this is another serial killer. Stay tuned.

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