Sunday, December 13, 2009

Page 1: Two Good Reads

I have always been an avid reader, and thought it would be fun to share my take on various books I have read. Much of my reading is pretty eclectic, but there are always favorites. Two recent books are The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson. The third book, according to Amazon, is coming out next year on May 25th. The title is The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. The author submitted the manuscripts for this trilogy shortly before his untimely death. All I can say is if these are the quality of books he would have gone on to write had he lived, we are all the poorer for it. If you like crime novels, an inside look at computer hacking, mystery, plot twists, and a very unconventional heroine, these books are for you.

Both books take place in Sweden. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo introduces a unique heroine, Lisbeth Salandar, and uses a parallel plot line to follow her as well as the male hero, Mikael Blomkvist. Mikael is a writer who is sued for slander and loses. After the trial, when he is at a very low point professionally, he is offered a job by an industrialist, Henrik Vanger, who lives a few hours north of Stockholm. The offer is for Mikael to write a Vanger family history, but that is just the cover. The real task for Mikael is to find what happened to Henrik's niece who disappeared nearly forty years ago. The pace picks up quickly and Mikael and Lisbeth team up to solve a mystery that puts both their lives at risk.

The Girl who Played with Fire continues with the same main characters, Lisbeth and Mikael, but reveals much more about Lisbeth's background that was only briefly touched upon during the first novel. Lisbeth is the prime suspect in the murder of a journalist and grad student completing her dissertation on the sleazy side of Swedish life, the sexual exploitation of women. They are completing a book for Mikael's magazine that will name judges, police and others as important players in this exploitation. Mikael is convinced of Lisbeth's innocence, but has a difficult time proving it. Lisbeth proves to be as resourceful and unpredictable as she was in the previous book.

If you have not read these books yet, I would strongly urge you to read them in order. You don't have to, obviously, but I think you will appreciate them much better. Get ready for a modern Sweden that has a real dark side including neo-Nazis, biker drug dealers, sexual exploitation of women and conniving capitalists. Gee, it sounds a lot like the United States! You won't be able to put either book down until the final page.

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