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Victims Aren’t We All

February 19, 2010

Most engrossing winter reading this year goes to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (for me and like I intrigued? Oooh! guess fifty million other people over Christmas). But anyway, that was a hell of a weird book. A self-aware ‘locked-room mystery’  and a corporate crime thriller, written in the days before the housing bubble’s burst made villains of wall street. Of course this is set in Sweden, but the targets are the same, big big financial crime. But what made this book an extra strange stew was how it stirred in the most modern metaphorical storytellling symptom of our age, I guess you could say, the serial killer.

Almost good, one more thing was needed… this would have been a pretty dry, but compelling book of chilly crime in a chilly clime if it wasn’t for the addition of the titular character. And she is… strange. Something else. Actually, she’s the most fantastical element of the book, as the financial villains and actual serial killers and kidnappers roaming the land and popping up in unexpected positions of authority seem to be the stuff of news everywhere. No, the Girl with the Dragon, is that extra spice, an avenging angel, a mystical pixie, a magical hacker, a goth-bisexual, super-competent deviant sidekick to the Mikael Blomquist, a 40 something investigative journalist who plays the role of detective in this novel. Which is fine. If you want to write in a fantasy stand in Buffy-the-vampire-slayer in Enron land, taser-weilding, motorcycle riding vehicle of vengeance, then go to it! Be my guest! It makes sense, might actually be a burgeoning genre of these fantasy figures out there, slightly superpowered stand-ins who can exact justice on our corrupt world etcetera.

But my question is, and here’s the thing, why make her a stand in for the victim too? Cause that’s exactly what happens in this book. And frankly, it’s a little shocking. Kind of disgusting. Voyeuristic? Unnecessary? Does it make the reader feel complicit in the degradation of the character. Well you keep reading, so, yeah. I guess it does.  Not sure if this is just some super sophisticated European understanding that I’m missing. And, you know, given that the series has two more books, and you can’t set up tension now without imperiling your characters so I’m just going to guess that it’s gonna happen again.  To be fair though Larrson does throw a similar curveball of misery to his lead reporter too.  But he was never really outlined as a victim as such as much as the Girl–it’s not part of his inherent backstory.

Just leaving me to say… What’s up with that!… and that this is still, a crazy, compulsive, current zeitgeist tapping crime novel– more so than just about anything else anything people are putting out these days.  And frankly with so many bullshit CSI procedural cop shows populating the airwaves these days, I’m glad that one writer at least was aiming their sights in the right direction. The real enemies! Financial crime. It’s bigger than all of us, but we just don’t have the perspective pulled back far enough to realize it.   Goddam shame the author didn’t stick around to see how it was recieved.

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