There’s been a lot of talk in the mystery community about Swedish author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Book 1) , THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE (Book 2), and THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST (Book 3). I think it’s safe to say if Larsson had been American, the Millennium Series would never have seen print. His books—all tell, head hopping and unnecessary minutiae—don’t play by American rules. That said, I find the series a refreshing change from the the repetitive plots, action opens, snarky humor and close POVs that pervade 99% of homegrown mystery/thrillers. That alone was enough to keep me turning the pages. I believe novelty is behind the success of the series—not great writing.
Summarizing the THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST would be unfair since it’s the last in the series. Consider this more of a recommended approach. Don’t read the third book if you haven’t read the first two. If you pick up the THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and don’t like it, just put it down and forget the series exists. If you’re engaged by the story, read on. I find the MC, computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, intriguing. She doesn’t engage in a lot of “female think” which appeals to me.
If you’ve read any of the trilogy—regardless of whether you hated or loved it—don’t miss Nora Ephron’s send-up in the New Yorker, “The Girl Who Fixed the Umlat”. Priceless!
Next up is STORM FRONT (The Dresden Files, Book 1) scribed by Jim Butcher. Maybe some of you watched the Dresden Files on SciFi—you remember, back before the channel metamorphosed into Syfy? I thought the show was a lot of fun. In fact, I enjoyed it enough to give the books a try. Harry Dresden is a down on his luck Chicago based thaumaturgic gumshoe with a wizard’s license. He finds the lost and occasionally consults with the police on crimes where magic is suspected. This time out it’s the murder of a couple who were found in flagrante delicto with their hearts ripped out. STORM FRONT was a quick, easy read with engaging characters and an original premise. While I liked Harry, Bob, the libidinous air spirit who occupies a skull in Harry’s basement, stole my heart. Great literature? No, but who cares? It was great entertainment. STORM FRONT was Butcher’s first book and I understand his writing is stronger in later efforts. I intend to find out.
Final book for the month is CATCHING FIRE, Suzanne Collin’s follow up to her wildly successful THE HUNGER GAMES. In book 1, Katniss Everdeen foils the Capital Gamemakers, pressuring them to allow both her and fellow District 12 Games participant, Peeta, to survive the “there can be only one” fight to the death that is the HUNGER GAMES. I don’t want to give away any of CATCHING FIRE’s secrets, but will say there is discord brewing in the Districts and Katniss is the rallying point.
Although slower than THE HUNGER GAMES, CATCHING FIRE digs deeper into character and into the political climate of dystopian Panem. I found it interesting and a nice breather from the breakneck pace of the first book. In THE HUNGER GAMES, Katniss came off as rather dim and insensitive when it came to Peeta’s feelings for her. In CATCHING FIRE, she is struggling to understand her own feelings, both for Peeta and for her best friend Gale. Overall, I found CATCHING FIRE a deeper more compelling read and talk about a cliffhanger ending!