Being brutally honest about books

Showing posts with label crime. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crime. Show all posts

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Review: The Girl in the Spider's Web (Millennium #4) by David Lagercrantz

The girl with the dragon tattoo still has it.


She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.

Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . . 
Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist are back to kick arse in this book, a continuation of the Millennium trilogy that's written by a different author. Lisbeth is back to her usual tricks, but in this book we see that she kind of has a caring side as well. It's really nice to see her protective streak for another human being.

This book is fast-paced, probably more so than the original series. Almost all the action happens over 5 days. That's not even a week! And the book is 430 pages! That's a lot of action in not much time. It's exciting, it kept me hooked.

We meet some new antagonists, victims, and other supporting characters in this one, but we also revisit old characters from the original trilogy, such as the people at Millennium magazine and Officer Bublanski's team. I thought this was well done as we get to see Lagercrantz's take on Larsson's characters as well as some original characters. I guess you could liken it to fanfiction.

Speaking of which, you can tell it's a different author and translator, but it imitates the style of original trilogy pretty well. It's similar enough that the writing style doesn't jump out and say, "Hey, I don't fit in with the other books!" but at the same time it's also not quite as dry as Larsson's style.

The book explores themes such as surveillance, artificial intelligence, and how journalism has changed. None of it made me comfortable, and it's not meant to. If this book taught me anything, it's to question everything. It also makes you wonder how ethical is surveillance? AI? (I'd say not at all. It's terrifying stuff.)

There's a tiny bit of LGBTQ representation in this novel. Lisbeth's bisexuality, established in the original trilogy, is mentioned again. There's also a flirtation between two supporting female characters. But neither of these things are important to the plot, which is fantastic. They're queer women just because. They get on with their jobs and their lives and their sexuality doesn't define them. I want more of this in books, please.
There's also an autistic child in this book. I don't know enough about autism to know if it's a respectful portrayal or not, so I'll leave that for others to analyse. But there's autistic representation either way.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl in the Spider's Web. It isn't a necessary addition to the Millennium series, but it's an entertaining and exciting one. While it has a cute ending, there are definitely loose threads to be tied up in the next book, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye. I'll be reading that one for sure. What should I do while I wait for its publication later this year?

Add it on Goodreads

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (Millennium Trilogy #3) by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millenium, #3)
 Date finished: 11 October 2015

I just finished the last book of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, and I'm worried that I'll never be able to enjoy anything I read ever again. I feel that no other book will compare in complexity and intrigue. It's by no means a perfect book but it is one of the most fascinating and gripping reads I've had in a long time. 

The story picks up right from where The Girl Who Played with Fire ends, which is a good thing, because the previous book ends on a cliffhanger. The plot is complex, even more so than in the prequels, and takes you on a real journey of ups and downs - just when you think it's going one way, a single piece of information discovered by a character turns it around. The result of Lisbeth's trial (what I consider the first of two climaxes of the novel) is more or less what I expected, although the chapters from the trial are still necessary for us to see the extent of the deception inside the Swedish Security Police.

As with the rest of the series, the writing is very dry. I won't go too much into that because I'll just be repeating what I've already said in my reviews of the first two books, but we are spoon-fed a lot of information. I felt exhausted after reading an almost 20-page explanation about one character and the Section, only for him to be virtually killed off a couple of chapters later. We don't even see the characters working that out on their own, we are just given the dump of information, which interrupts the flow of the story.

The ending is nice. The plot is resolved in the epilogue and the last chapter, but in the last page and a half of the epilogue the relationship between Lisbeth and Blomkvist, the two protagonists, is finally resolved as well. The characters themselves don't change much, if at all, but because the series focuses more on an amazing plot than character development, that doesn't matter. In any case, Lisbeth remains amazingly resourceful and Blomkvist just as clever and confident to the point of cockiness as she does. It's only while writing this that I'm realising how similar they are.

Since this is the last book in the series, I didn't like that there new characters introduced, adding to the long long list of minor characters. One of them is a blonde police officer whose role seems mostly to fall in love with Blomkvist and show up his one flaw: his inability to commit to a woman. Although she does get some cool police action.

This book and the series in general includes very cool use of technology, most of which goes over my head, but it's impressive. However, the series is dated, confined to its early to mid 2000s setting because past events are always given a specific date, and it's possible that in ten years it won't be relevant anymore.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest is a great conclusion to the memorable Millennium trilogy. The series is not for the faint-hearted, the common theme being violence towards women and violation of their rights, but it's like nothing I've ever read before, and I would recommend it to readers over 16 who enjoy the crime genre. Now, another author has written a sequel, , and while reading the reviews I considered not bothering with it, partly out of respect and partly because of other things people have mentioned, but I decided that I will read it, if only for the purpose of reviewing. So my adventures with this series are not over yet!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

The Girl Who Played With Fire (Millennium #2) by Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played With Fire (Millennium, #2) 
Date finished: 31 May 2015
I just finished reading this, and wow! This is a great sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and does not disappoint at all. The only reason it took me two weeks to read is because I'm spending less and less time reading books these days. If I'd spent time reading it last weekend, I probably would have ended up finishing it then because it is one of those books that once you get past a certain point you don't want to put it down.

As with the first book in the series, I wasn't a big fan of the writing style. Larsson definitely tells instead of shows, and as a result the writing is very dry. It's not so terrible that it prevented me from enjoying the book, but if the style were different I would give it five stars, as the writing is the main issue I have with these books.

The plot in this novel is even more exciting than the first book. Without giving too much away, someone who was... dealt with in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo comes back for a short time, and has a connection with certain new antagonists in this book, but it's okay because someone else deals with him more permanently. The uncertainty for the reader of whether Lisbeth Salander committed the murders is thrilling, making you want to keep reading because you just have to know whether she's innocent or guilty. (Although your gut instinct is probably correct. Mine was, but there were moments of doubt.) What's also exciting is not knowing who Zala is and dying to find out. ("Dying to find out." Heh. Watch me laugh at my own joke. You'll get it when you read the book.)

The first part of the book is mostly set in the Caribbean, which is refreshing. It's interesting for Lisbeth's character development, but actually redundant and not necessary to the plot as a whole since all the action happens after she returns to Sweden. Maybe Lisbeth's time in Grenada will come up in the next book, but it is largely a waste of words in this book.
While the first book focuses on Blomkvist, Lisbeth is the central character in The Girl who Played with Fire. I liked her in the first book, but I really loved her in this one. A strong independent woman who hates men who hate women? You've got my interest. By the end we learn much more about her past, so her motives for anything now make sense and it's easier to sympathise with her. She's one of those vulnerable-strong characters who deserves nothing that people have done to her, but you don't feel the need to wrap her in a blanket and tell her it's okay because you know she can deal with it. (And her ability to do that is actually addressed just before the end.) I would love to read a character analysis of Lisbeth Salander, because she's so original and awesome.

One problem I did have with the characters is that there are too many. When you have the suspect (Lisbeth), the journalist and his magazine (Blomkvist and everyone at Millennium), the police, the security firm that the suspect used to work at, and the bad guys, it's hard to keep track of everyone. It's also hard to remember who's who when most of the time the characters are referred to by their last names, but sometimes their first names are used so you're not sure who you're reading about. There are also a couple of characters who make lots of homophobic and misogynistic remarks, which makes you hate them, but that's the point. And they get called out on it, if I remember correctly, which makes it bearable to read.
The Girl who Played with Fire is just as dark as the first book in the series, and just as thrilling. While it includes some of the same themes of misogyny and rape, it's also about prostitution rings and the media's tendency make a huge story out of little information. It's definitely worth reading if you liked the prequel. I just have one word of warning: this book ends with one hell of a cliffhanger. Enough to give me, who usually keeps her emotions on the inside, a physical reaction. So if you hate cliffhangers as much as I do, it's probably best to have the next book nearby, ready for when you finish this one. I know I'll be getting my hands on The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest as soon as I can.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium #1) by Stieg Larsson

Date finished: 7 April 2015

Swedish crime novels are not something I have much experience with, but I very much enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I didn’t intend to read it when I did, I just happened to see it in my school library and decide to give it a go. I thought it might be a bit violent and have more adult themes than I’d be comfortable with, but that isn’t the case. Clearly this is not for a younger audience and I wouldn’t want to know about kids under 16 reading it, but I didn’t find it as gruesome as I’d expected.

The writing style is quite difficult to read, enough that I struggled to get into the book at first, but after a while I got used to it. The writing is complicated and confusing to begin with, but after a few chapters I got the hang of it and found myself captivated. Even if the style is heavy and makes this book hard to read – it took me a week to get through, and not only because the book is 533 pages long – the story itself is so gripping that it’s unputdownable.

The plot is unlike anything I’ve read before. There are lots of twists and turns; just when one thing gets solved, something else happens to complicate it even more. The storyline is very original, even though from the blurb it sounds like just another unwilling-male-ends-up-solving-crime-with-female-sidekick plot. The crime the protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist is hired to solve, the disappearance/murder of Harriet Vanger forty years ago, ends up much bigger than the characters or you as the reader expect, and solving it is an epic adventure in itself. Then there’s the other storyline about his rival and how Blomkvist triumphs in the end (I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it is a great victory).

The characters are fascinating, especially Lisbeth Salander, who is a very flawed and unusual character. At first I only liked her because she’s one of the main female characters, but she grew on me, especially since she gets wicked revenge on Bjurman, her rapist, but also because she gets just as involved in investigating the crime as Blomkvist. I think she’s the most original part of the book, she’s just that interesting. I especially like her character growth – she warms to Blomkvist during the novel, especially at the end (but that would be spoilers!) without losing her edge. She’s not your usual heroine, which is what I love about her.

I also liked Blomkvist, the protagonist. He’s a fleshed out, realistic character whose past is not that of your usual hero – it’s neither overly shadowed nor ridiculously innocent – but he’s still likeable because he has his own reasons for doing things but also has a moral code. Even though he’s a forty-something financial journalist, I was able to relate to him more than Salander, the young hacker who hates and distrusts everyone.

The main setting, Sweden, was new to me, and therefore refreshing. However, some cultural things got in the way of my reading, such as the currency – I had no idea how much a million kronor is, for example – and place names I couldn’t pronounce. Normal things like this took away from my enjoyment of the novel, as they were just too foreign.

There are some mature and/or disturbing themes in this book, such as misogyny, polyamory, rape, and sadism. These things aren’t generally all included in the same book, but they provide the basis of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and give it depth and darkness. I feel that the school library should probably have put a stamp inside the cover, warning that it’s suitable for a more mature audience. Just because I was fine with reading about these things, doesn’t mean other people my age or younger would be.

Although this book didn’t immediately hook me, after persevering I just had to finish it, and I appreciated the rollercoaster it took me on. If you want something dark and original to read, I would recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I’ve never read anything like it, but I enjoyed it enough to want to read the next book in the series now.
I'm Alexandria, a 19-year-old reader/writer/blogger from New Zealand. I love language, history, and sci-fi. Hi! I'm always around if you want to talk, which you can do via comments, the contact form, or Facebook.

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