Tag Archives: mystery

Great stories from Sweden

I haven’t posted recently, because, among other reasons, I’ve been reading. I just finished Steig Larsson’s  “Millenium Trilogy” (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc.)

I have to tell you, I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure I was going to, especially after starting The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It takes a long time for Larsson to get down to the “good stuff” in the first novel. Once he gets the main plot rolling, it’s great, but it just takes him awhile to get there.

As I wrote in an earlier post, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is basically a murder mystery involving a family with many dark secrets. The main protagonists are Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and Lizbeth Salander, a socially odd girl-genius with a mysterious past.

Book two, The Girl Who Played with Fire, involves the same main characters, including Blomkvist and Salander. It focuses much more on the compelling Lizbeth Salander;  her mysterious past; her evil, Soviet defector father; and the acts and plots by the secret police that explain a lot of why Lizbeth is who she is. It grabbed me from the first chapter and didn’t let go.

And if you like The Girl Who Played With Fire, the third book in the trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is nearly a seamless sequel. The same plot and characters just continue to the third book without missing a beat.

In The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Lizbeth is hospitalized from injuries she sustained in the climax of the previous book and is charged with a number of crimes. The story revolves around Mikael’s and others’ efforts to free her and uncover the conspirators who are trying to get her recommitted to a mental hospital.

The entire series is great. The plots and the characters are fairly complex, but that is part of the attraction of the stories.

Two suggestions…

1.) Don’t worry too much about the Swedish geography. I guess it would be nice to know where all the various locations actually are, but not knowing does not diminish your appreciation of the stories.

2.) ­­It wouldn’t hurt to stick a note card or sheet of paper in the book you are reading and jotting down the names of some of the main characters. There are a bunch of them, and they all have Swedish names that tend to look and sound a lot alike to this American eye and ear. It might help keep track of the good guys and the bad guys.

There are a few scenes in the trilogy that are fairly graphic. Just beware.

Bottom line – It’s a great three-book series. It will keep you up at night because you won’t want to put it down. I recommend it strongly.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I may be one of the last people to climb on board the Steig Larsson bandwagon. His “Millenium Trilogy” has been on the bestseller lists for some time, but for some reason they didn’t grab my attention. I’ve had “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” sitting on my “to read” shelf for months. Finally, last month I broke down and read the novel and I’m glad I did.

The story is essentially a crime mystery with a number of side plots, placed in Larsson’s home country of Sweden. A discredited financial journalist is hired by the aging patriarch of an old, rich industrial family to investigate the mystery of what happened to his teenaged granddaughter who went missing, and was presumed murdered, one day in the 1960s. However, the rest of the family are lead to a believe that the journalist, Mikael Blomqvist, has been hired simply to write a family history.

Blomqvist is assisted by the brilliant, but seriously odd Lisbeth Salander, aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lisbeth is an absolute freak, but an extraordinarily compelling character.

As they delve into the family and the mysterious disappearance, they find all kinds of bizarre stories. That family had some serious issues!

I thought the story started slow. I was nearly 100 pages into the book before things really started to pick up. However, once they got going, I found myself staying up and reading much later than I should on work nights to see what was going to happen.

My advice – Don’t give up on the book too soon. Give it 100 pages. You won’t be disappointed.

I am really looking forward to the next two books in the series.

 

Another winner from John Sandford

If you are looking for a Christmas present for a reader, try “Shock Wave” by John Sandford.

I make no bones about it – I am a big John Sandford fan. His  reading his latest cop-thriller, “Shock Wave,” is outstanding.

Sandford has written about a thousand books, but his two primary series are both crime-police-mystery oriented. The Lucas Davenport “Prey” series takes place in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. The main character is Lucas, a brilliant, rich, good looking, sophisticated, etc. cop. His other series revolves around state crime investigator Virgil Flowers, who works for Davenport, but investigates in the rural parts of Minnesota.

Sandford’s plots are good, but his characters and dialogue are even better. With only a few exceptions, even his “bad guys” are engaging and frequently charismatic. Virgil is definitely the kind of guy I’d like to hang out with, even though the opportunity only comes in a book.

In “Shock Wave,” someone is planting bombs in small town to prevent the construction of a new big box store there. Virgil is trying to figure out who it is.  The plot is compelling and moves along. It gets “two thumbs up.”

I won’t tell you who the guilty bomber is, but here is a hint; Sandford’s antagonists are usually engaging and frequently charming.  Figure it out for yourself.