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The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

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I know we’re not in the throes of a scorching August, nor is it time for winter hibernation, but here are three books to get totally lost in. It’s the trilogy written by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” (in that order).

I normally don’t lean toward spy/espionage/counter-intelligence/double-agent stuff, but Larsson’s books are such well written whodunnits, they’re impossible to put down.  Between the three books, we’re talking about more than 2,000 pages of intense reading, so the bookworms out there can isolate to their heart’s content.

The movie “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was well done and intriguing. So are the books. The trilogy follows the tortured life of feminist heroine Lisbeth Salander through seedy tattoo parlors, computer hacking adventures, and serial murder plots, to love-gone-awry scenarios, revenge/vengeance plots, and national security issues.

The books are guaranteed to keep you on the seat of your pants and turning the pages.

Translated from Swedish, the books are quite readable and entertaining, although, like Russian novels, names can get confusing. To compound the head scratching, there are several people with the same last names, or similar names, as in “Berger” and “Birger.”

Good grief.

But the time it takes to sort people out is well worth it. I suggest taking notes on characters.

Relevant to what’s going on today with security breaches at the NSA, Salander mines data effortlessly on individuals, corporations, and countries; even top-secret, classified information, the implication being that there is no is no such thing as privacy or secrecy. She could be the female version of Edward Snowden.

At the risk of giving away the ending, I will say this: I was disappointed in what I thought was an original story line that turned out to be the retelling of an ancient plot that’s been with us since people began telling stories.

From Frankenstein to Star Wars, the archvillain turns out to be heroin’s father, and the arch-archvillain is a half brother. Really. Then, of course, there’s the “boy-gets-girl-in-the-end” theme that almost never happens in real life, but readers and movie goers like to think it does. 

It satisfies the schmaltz factor. I would think that a talented writer like Stieg Larsson could come up with something a little more original. But he plays to his audience. To add to the mystery of the story line, Stieg Larsson is mysterious himself.

He wrote the three books, delivered them to his publisher, and then died. Too bad. More writing like that and I would think a major book award would be in the offing.

Being a Kindle (electronic book) fan, I’ll admit that I made a trip to Barnes and Noble to purchase the three-book set. I was craving the feel of real books in my hands. Plus, I wanted to be able to pull the 2,000-page collection out to recommend or loan to friends — something otherwise hard to do with electronic books. 

By the way, we don’t have to worry about books (or newspapers, for that matter) disappearing. Electronic books will never replace books, same as books-on-tape did not replace books, or television and radio did not replace newspapers. They all have their place. It’s called “media.”

All three of Stieg Larsson’s books have been national bestsellers for good reason. If you want a well-written page turner, this is it. But don’t plan on getting much else done. If you’re a slow reader like I am, savoring every word, find a comfortable place to veg, and be entertained and enlightened.

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