Tag Archives: mystery

Book Review: Studying Portal Fantasies and Asexuality and Solving Murders in Every Heart a Doorway

Standard

Click to visit the publisher's page for links to order, summary, awards list, reviews, and author's bio.

Being asexual can feel like being one of the Whos of Whoville during the trial of Horton the Elephant, shouting desperately “We are here! We are here! We are here!” but feeling like no one can hear. This is only the second book that I have read with a character that identifies as asexual. The protagonist in this actually uses the word asexual to refer to herself and her orientation, which the other, Felicity Montague from Mackenzi Lee’s Montague Siblings does not. And it’s such a relief. It feels like someone hears. Even if it is only one kind-hearted elephant with ginormous ears and the rest of the jungle still can’t hear and refuses to believe.

I was a little disappointed that Nancy, the asexual character in question here, is marked as an outsider and considered a suspect by her peers for her association with the dead.  I would have enjoyed more I think a story about an asexual character who is liked and accepted by her peers—as much as Nancy’s social exile is here not related to her asexuality.  And I did enjoy Nancy’s story apart from her asexuality.  I just wish in a way that the two stories—that of her asexuality orientation and what that means to her and that of her disassociation from the land of the living—hadn’t been found in a single character.

It was the knowledge that the protagonist describes herself as ace that got me to pick up this book, though it had been recommended to me on the basis of its concept before.

It recommends itself well. The eponymous wayward children are those who have visited other worlds and have returned and are struggling now with how to live in our world. That is a unique concept. And I enjoy the idea of exploring what happens after most plots end, after the world has been saved, after the villain has been slain.

But this is a weird book.

It will not be for everyone.

Beyond increasing asexual visibility, I’m still trying to decide if it is for me.

I enjoyed it.

But I didn’t love it like I expected to do.

I didn’t fall in love with McGuire’s prose the way that I expected to do.

This is a book that seems partially a murder mystery, partially a bildungsroman, a school story specifically, partially a study of portal fantasies as a genre—all while refusing to settle into a genre itself. There’s only a little magic in this world. We visit none of the portal worlds for more than a glimpse.

I did enjoy the murder mystery, but I didn’t get wrapped up in the whodunit the way that I expected to do or the way that I wanted to do. I didn’t feel drawn to guess or invested in guessing I think because I felt like I lacked information as characters were slowly added to the novel even after the murders had already begun.

I liked the characters, but I didn’t really feel as though I got to know any of them as much as I would like to do. This is a series, and it seems like later books might more fully explore some of the characters to which we are introduced, but not Nancy and not Christopher as far as I can tell who were some of the more intriguing to me, Nancy because I want to savor time getting to know other aces and Christopher because I found his world and his magic intriguing, which seem to be closely tied to the Land of the Dead found in Mexican mythology.

I did like and enjoy getting to know Kade whose coming out as transgender got him expelled from his world and his childhood home in this world, though not before becoming a hero and the goblin prince.

Jack grew on me. I look forward to getting to know her better, but I’m not sure that I want to explore with her her High Reason, High Wickedness world, which is where the next book heads.

I am glad that I read this. I am debating still whether or not I will continue the series.

****

McGuire, Seanan. Wayward Children, Book 1: Every Heart a Doorway.  Tor/Forge-Tor.com, 2018.

This review is not endorsed by Seanan McGuire, Tor, or Forge. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Review: Sheep Investigate Humanity and a Murder in Three Bags Full

Standard

9780767927055Set in rural Ireland in the 1990s, I never would have suspected this to be a German work. Admittedly, I’m not overly familiar with German crime novels or rural Ireland in the 1990s, but I had always suspected this to be an Irish import because there are a few puns here that I assume work better in English than in German—Miss Maple a nod to Miss Marple but named for the syrup that she steals from George’s pancakes; Ramses the Ram—but also because of the intimate portrayal of the setting.

This is a book I read and enjoyed ages back now—probably in 2007, almost a decade ago (isn’t that terrifying). It’s traveled with me since, but it’s only now that I returned to it, caught between books and not wanting to get sucked into anything too gripping and confined only to what I could reach without displacing my cat.

And I enjoyed it at least as much. It was almost good that that long time had passed because I’d forgotten important details like the identity of the murderer—though I was surprised what details I found myself however vaguely remembering.

Told mainly from the perspective of a flock of sheep whose reclusive shepherd is found dead in their pasture on page 1, this novel winds its way through the sordid histories of a small and insular town—romantic rivalries, past and present sins, rumors of drug runners among them—as well as the sheep’s own histories and prejudices and superstitions. The sheep in their sheepiness only comprehend so much of the human stories. Their misunderstanding, partial understanding, and incomprehension give the human reader time to reflect on the actions and beliefs of the human characters and all human characters by extension, to see them with an outsider’s eye as sometimes confusing or incomprehensible, while laughing at ourselves and at the sheep.

The depth of Swann’s immersion into sheepy thinking and culture was perhaps one of the more impressive aspects for me of the story.

The story rollicks between quaint and racy all while alluding to famous works of literature from Agatha Christie to Shakespeare to Emily Brontë.

For example, “A play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king!” the sheep cry—or no, they don’t, but like Hamlet they concoct a play in the hopes that their dramatics might bring about a confession or an arrest—“justice” they actually do bleat repeatedly throughout the novel. Miss Maple, the cleverest sheep in all of Glennkill, concocts a play wherein Zora as George dies spectacularly, Maple plays the killer, and Mopple the Whale brings forth the clues to the killer’s identity that the sheep hope that the humans might understand.

I was amused this time around to discover that the sheep in the corner is not only a flip book illustration set but a barometer of the level of danger the sheep feel at any given point in the text.

I’m not sure how well I can judge this book as a crime novel or a mystery; I read so few books in that genre, but as a work of fiction, I do really enjoy it. It’s so wonderfully different, and it kept me guessing, and it kept me thinking both about the plot and about humanity and reality.

****

Swann, Leonie. Three Bags Full. Trans. Anthea Bell. New York: Doubleday/Flying Dolphin-Doubleday, 2006. First published 2005 by Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag-Random.

This review is not endorsed by Leonie Swann, Anthea Bell, Doubleday, Doubleday/Flying Dolphin, Wilhelm Goldmann Verlag, or Random House.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

It seems that Penguin Random is now the US publisher.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Book Review: Five Big Stars for The Blackthorn Key!

Standard

blackthorn-key-9781442388536_hrKevin Sands’ The Blackthorn Key, starts with the words “Let’s build a canon.” A promising beginning.   One that had me reading the paperback of this book—newly out—as I walked it back to its place in the store. Then when I got home I remembered that I had a sample of the book, and read the first two chapters through, and debated more seriously still purchasing the paperback.

Then I went on a road trip, and having recently been reintroduced to audiobooks by a friend who started me on Huck Finn, I decided to go to the local library and see what audiobooks I might be able to bring with me to make the hours pass—and I found this book. The first leg of my trip was 4 hours to the first stop and another 6 hours to the second stop. I spent a good bit of that time (the whole recording is 7 hours and 21 minutes) in Restoration London with an apothecary’s apprentice and his best friend, the baker’s son, Tom.

When I’d reached my first stop, I was raved to the friend that I visited about the book that I was listening to, telling her to go and buy the thing, even though I was only maybe two or three hours into the story. Getting into the car when we had to part ways was not as hard because I knew that Chris, Tom, and the mystery into which they’d been thrust were waiting for me.

By the time that I arrived at my final destination, I was raving to my mother, telling her about the whirlwind adventure I’d just been on, and how the dark back roads of Pennsylvania hadn’t seemed so long or so lonely with this book for company.

The codes and charts and solved puzzles were harder to understand in audio form, but that was my one rub with the reading itself. Lines like

img_0725aloud are just as perplexing, but… lengthier. It’s the sort of thing that the eyes can glaze over and gather the gist, but a reader has to take time to say. And a chart such as

img_0724

is equally lengthy and confusing. Mind, the printing of the chart in this Find Your Hero Chapter Sampler is actually more confusing for its set up than was Panthaki’s reading (A 22, B 23, C 24, etc. is how it was read in the recording), but that may have been fixed in the final layout.

Otherwise, it took me maybe only a few minutes to be on board with Ray Panthaki, a London-born, British actor (producer, writer, director, Renaissance man), as a narrator, who was subtle about the voices that he gave the characters, for the most part, but who did provide me with voices, which helped to liven the dialogue I’m sure and also helped to keep straight the various characters when dialogue tags were not something I could see for myself. No one seemed overblown and no one stood out unduly from the crowd, which is, I feel, one danger in narrating with voices.

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, and this story is set a little late in history for me to gravitate towards it (I tend to say—and it’s not entirely a joke—that my knowledge of history ends right around 1600), but there was plenty to keep me entertained and engaged, sitting—especially those last few hours as the mystery raced towards its reveal—on the edge of my seat and clinging to the wheel in front of me: action, mystery, politics, heart-wringing circumstances inflicted onto characters that I grew fairly quickly to care about, magic (or science; here apothecary, potions-maker, woodswitch, and alchemist are all only so many steps from one another—and that is all addressed in the text), the uplifting story of an orphan escaping abuse and poverty to find love and riches and purpose, loyal friends, children getting the better of adults…. Now that I’m listing them I see that those are a lot of the same elements that make Harry Potter so enjoyable.

And I know from working in a bookstore and trying to help customers find books to suit school assignments how difficult it is to find historical fiction—or mystery for that matter—for that 8-12 range. I am going to hope that most teachers will accept this as historical fiction. Certainly I learned some about the time.

My one reserve about the text itself is that Sands doesn’t shy from gore or cruelty or torture. That’s fine but maybe not for the youngest of ears. In Barnes & Noble, this book lives in a section marked for ages 7-12. The audiobook warns that it’s recommended for ages 10-14. I know some 10 year olds who would be squigged out by some of the more gruesome injuries inflicted on the characters. Parents, use caution. As always, I recommend reading the book before or with your child. Know what they’ll be able to handle, and be ready to talk to them if they need reassurance or have questions.

*****

Sands, Kevin. The Blackthorn Key.  2015.  Narr. Ray Panthaki. Compact discs. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2015.

This review is not endorsed by Kevin Sands, Ray Panthaki, Simon & Schuster, or anyone involved in the production of the book or audiobook.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Book Review: Nothing Dazzling About the Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

Standard

In probably a rare moment of wisdom, common sense, and listening to my body, I’ve dropped the graduate class that I was taking.  I plan still on reading some of the required texts—on my own time when I feel in the mood to do so—and I will, if I review those books here, still tag them as being part of Giving Voice to the Voiceless.  I may also do some of the writing exercises.

Josh Berk’s The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin is the last book that I read on the syllabus’ schedule before my giving my notification (so to speak).  The book chronicles the extraordinary events that happen in the public high school of a small, Pennsylvanian coal-mining town shortly after Will Halpin transfers from his local deaf school because of what he describes as deaf culture politics (for wanting to be part of the hearing culture as well as the deaf, he is shunned).  On a class field trip, Pat, the star quarterback and son of a wealthy casino owner, is killed when he falls down a mineshaft.  Will’s friend Devon, the only person with which Will really communicates at a school that largely doesn’t understand sign language or the ways in which they can help Will communicate and understand, pulls Will into a Hardy Boys type investigation.

As a child, I read more Boxcar Children books than my mother cares to remember, and The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin became reminiscent of their plots—tracking down clues by somewhat dangerous means, often by defeating suspicious adults.  Written for an older audience and being a stand-alone instead of a series, Hamburger Halpin was less about kids overcoming adults than The Boxcar Children, and dealt more with the peer group and finding one’s place among it.  Hamburger Halpin also delved deeper into more adult and teen themes and ideas (I’m literally talking about sex, drugs, and rock and roll) than The Boxcar Children ever did.

[SPOILERS] As Will teases Devon when Devon comments:

“[…] I can’t believe that everything turned out exactly like a Hardy Boys book.

“HamburgerHalpin: except for the part where the quarterback had a sex liaison with one of his educationalists

“Smiley_Man3000: Oh yeah.

“HamburgerHalpin: and then the prom queen got knocked up and pushed him down a coal shaft

“Smiley_Man3000: Well there is that, but…

“HamburgerHalpin: and then the police arrested frank” (244-245) [END SPOILERS]

As Will relies heavily on technology (instant messages on computer and handheld devices) to communicate easily with Devon, The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin may quickly become outdated.  I would have said that its references to Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys would have made it feel a little dated already, being uncertain that today’s kids still read these series with any regularity, but I actually did have a giggle of three girls come to me this week to beg to be shown where to find Nancy Drew.

Will’s deafness really only served, for me, to make him a good lip-reader, and therefore a good partner to have when watching surveillance tapes.  Otherwise, Will’s deafness just gives him a reason to have a difficult time in school (any number of other reasons would have served) and a second reason (in addition to his weight, with which Will actually seems surprisingly comfortable, so props to Berk on that point) to be outcast at school.

Neither plot nor prose wowed me, but Hamburger Halpin may interest fans of kid detectives when those readers reach their teens and will be good to recommend for teen mystery readers, though the first 116 pages are given to a bildungsroman and investigation of life for a deaf teen rather than to a mystery and whodunit.

There was something more genuine and interesting about the bildungsroman and Will’s perspective on everyday life than the mystery for me, but I gave up my Boxcar Children obsession long ago and have not adopted another detective series since unless you want to include Harry Potter (which I don’t think that I would).

**1/2

Berk, Josh.  The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin.  New York: Ember-Random, 2010.

This review is not endorsed by Josh Berk, Ember, or Random House, Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Review: The False Prince is Aptly Titled

Standard

Just a touch of vague spoilers.

A friend of mine has been telling me to read Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The False Prince, first in The Ascendance Trilogy, since before it was published.  I wish that I had listened sooner—though I suppose that since I did wait, I will have a shorter wait between books, which is a boon.

A high fantasy set in a kingdom on the brink of a civil war, one man has a plan to avoid the war by training a prince for the throne—a prince culled from orphanages around the kingdom.

The narrator and de facto protagonist Sage is a wonderfully entertaining (so snarky) and terribly unreliable narrator.  This is a plot of plots, secrets, and lies, trust and distrust, and Sage embodies all of these.  He will deny having done something—something we’ve not seen him do—only to reveal later that somewhere between the narration he has done exactly as he has told the other characters that he has not; he reveals to the reader and the characters only some—and not all of it is true.  This book finely uses red herrings, the author and the protagonist working together to mislead and misdirect readers and characters—and mislead both successfully.

What is stunning is that Sage comes off as relatively open about his history and thoughts.  I didn’t feel misled till he began to reveal what he had hidden.  I should have suspected he was working between the lines from the number of knives and knickknacks that he pilfered without telling me, but I was not clever enough to take these as foreshadowing.

Though Nielsen hints at larger stories and more developed characters behind several of side characters, especially Mott, whose history I hope to see revealed in sequels, and Amarinda, Sage spends so much time veiling his own history and keeps others at such a distance that these characters lacked the detailed backstories that I hoped for them.  I hope sequels will remedy this.

The plot, scraped bare of all the complexities of its narrator and its characters, is an exciting one in its own right: stop civil war by committing treason, learn the lie or die.  Nielsen manages to make two weeks of lessons in a confined setting go by quickly, mostly by utilizing Sage’s snarky wit and practiced nonchalance.

I have a difficult time placing this book at an appropriate reading level and am glad to see it surviving despite that difficulty.  In its length and its protagonists’ need to find his place among a group of peers and in society, it is middle-grade.  A few of the more brutal lessons and its “or die” plot that leaves the reader thinking two young teens will be killed before the end of the novel push it towards a teen reading level, as does the inferred questioning of the established order and morality.  Plus, Sage is fifteen, a little old for the first book of a typical middle-grade series.  Barnes & Noble places it in the teen section.

I suspect that as this series goes on, it will become more firmly teen, politics and romance taking even more prominent roles.  Sage is a character I’m not willing to confine to one book.  I look forward to seeing him again.

****

Nielsen, Jennifer A.  The Ascendance Trilogy, Book 1: The False Prince.  New York: Scholastic, 2012.

This review is not endorsed by Jennifer A. Nielsen or Scholastic Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Review: A Storm of Swords’ Charged Questions

Standard

Click to visit the publisher's site, for links to purchase, synopsis, excerpt, author info, and reviews.

Though A Storm of Swords, where finally some of the unanswered queries of A Game of Thrones are answered, is the longest book of George R. R. Martin’s that I’ve yet read, I feel like this book more than it predecessors in A Song of Ice and Fire, A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings, was missing important scenes.  Martin would show me what had happened somewhere then have someone explain it after the fact.  I’m not sure if I appreciate this tactic.  While it’s nice to be surprised, the questions like “What did you say to get him to agree to this?” go unanswered.

But none characters were caught in limbo, biding their time.  We have crossed the bridge (A Clash of Kings) to the new board—and the game has gotten deadlier.

The teams in this game are almost constantly evolving.  My list of the major teams and players consists of at least six different remaining claims to a throne in Westeros, with a vigilante group that will only cause carnage, a wild card who might greatly improve the chances of another team, and a would-be-king that is in training and cannot rejoin the game till he has leveled up.  Some of these characters I enjoy and I respect the majority of them for being fully formed, but I think that it’s the intrigue and world-building that holds me enthralled.  There is a definite element of whodunit, though perhaps because I am beginning to understand Martin’s style, I was able to guess more of the major events and “turns” of this book than I have been of others.

I finally believe that Martin will kill everyone I love—and I hope that will prevent me from establishing any more attachments, but it’s not looking good on that score.  I have a new ship and though they’re separated for now, I’m holding on.  Maybe they can be reunited when this is over—except for all those pesky vows of celibacy (why is it that the best ships in this series involve the supposed-to-be-celibate?).

My growing belief that the one monotheistic religion in the book worships a deity whose powers seem very sinister makes me somewhat uncomfortable.  I cannot decide if Martin is intending to imply anything about the Abrahamic God with R’hllor.  The preaching of R’hllor’s followers seems somewhat Christian at times—till Melisandre births a demon shadow.  Parallels between those who worship R’hllor and Christians certainly exist; they both follow religions from the East, monotheistic with a good/light versus evil/dark theology, and both burn the occasional “pagan” church or nonbeliever (ignoring the darker deeds of our past won’t erase them).  I am currently taking this series as one written from the Druidic perspective.  Westeros becomes a place where all English history and legends can exist at once:  The War of the Roses coexists with Robin Hood and the coming of Christians to the shores of England, and these “Christians” are inflamed with this deadly fervor of the Crusaders.  Westeros’ legends include parallels to Greek and Roman myths.

I am willing to continue, taking this as a work of fantasy and assigning the misdeeds of R’hllor and his followers to the characters themselves while accepting that Martin may be asking me to examine the history of Christianity.

****

Martin, George R. R.  Song of Fire and Ice, Book Three: A Storm of Swords.  New York: Bantam-Random, 2000.

This review is not endorsed by George R. R. Martin, Bantam Books, or Random House, Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Film Review: A Game of Shadows of the Canon

Standard

I am not a Sherlockian, but I have read some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the Great Detective, and one of my dear friends is surely a Sherlockian.  Seeing the movie the first time, I squeed in the theater to recognize lines from the stories in the script of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  These lines made the film seem to me to be a good adaptation of Conan Doyle’s stories, though (I’ve checked with my Sherlockian friend) the film’s plot has nothing to do with anything that Conan Doyle ever conceived.  The film’s is certainly an exciting plot, but outside of the realm of Conan Doyle’s original works, where, yes, Sherlock is an internationally renowned detective and a drug-addict and boxer as this film series has portrayed, [SPOILER] but not perhaps the bullet-dodging hero who delayed World War I, any more perhaps than Moriarty is an international arms dealer. [END SPOILER]  Perhaps one of the greatest differences between Conan Doyle’s original characters and Ritchie’s interpretations of them is that in Conan Doyle’s stories Holmes and Moriarty are playing a game, the goal of which is to outwit the other, while in Ritchie’s movie, [SPOILER] Moriarty is motivated by desire for power and wealth, and Holmes is motivated to save the world from Moriarty and avert world war; he does not as is said at his funeral “play the game for the game’s sake.” [END SPOILER]

I saw the 2009 Sherlock Holmes film but once and that last year, but to my remembrance, this sequel focuses more on the characters and their relationships to one another than did the first film, which was more focused on the mystery to be solved.  The “bromance” of Holmes and Watson, which, believe it or not, is canon, is greatly played up in A Game of Shadows.  The enmity and similarities between Holmes and Moriarty are fantastically rendered on film and in the script.  Holmes, Watson, and Moriarty are all interesting by themselves, but to see them all together on film is fascinating.

Tension is kept reasonably high through the film, with exciting exploits, gun battles, daring escapes, and a cross-countries race against time.

Because Holmes knows his opponent, which is not unheard of in Conan Doyle’s original stories, there seems to be less mystery in A Game of Shadows, but the mystery to be solved—what is Moriarty’s plot—is still the driving force of the movie’s plot.  The film gives you all of the puzzle pieces and then lets you tag along as Sherlock puts all of those pieces together.

Now, I’ve said a lot without actually giving any opinion.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film.  It was exciting.  The unexpected lines, delivery, and actions made it humorous.  It was at times touching in the way that only “bromances” really can be.  The film was intellectually stimulating while still satisfying that desire (that is not purely masculine) for explosions, high-speed chases, and adrenaline.

What I most disliked was the feeling that I was missing several years of Holmes’ and Watson’s relationship.  I ought to rewatch the 2009 film because my Sherlockian friend tells me that I’ve forgotten the romantic subplot between Watson and Mary, and remembering that, I might have felt less of a gap and enjoyed it still more.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  Dir. Guy Ritchie.  Warner Bros. Pictures.  2011.

This review is not endorsed by Warner Bros., Guy Ritchie, anyone in the cast, or anyone involved in making this film, nor anyone connected with the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is an independent, honest review by a viewer.

Book Review: The Mystery of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Uncovered

Standard

Minor spoilers ahead.

Behold, I do read adult literature!  And Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is definitely adult literature.  Here I include a warning that I wish that I had myself received:  The book contains several detailed, visceral rape scenes and deals with sadists.

The statistics at the beginning of each section suggest to me, though, that Larsson is writing to give a voice to the voiceless women who are abused, sometimes sexually, by men, and give a reason beyond the mere, unfortunate “sex and violence sell” adage that writers are often forced to remember, needing to make enough to cover living expenses with their writing, for the frequent discussions of grotesque torture of women.

The characters are almost as a rule promiscuous, but the consensual sex scenes are handled with more grace and are less imposing, sometimes implied by a mere phrase.

It is the financial crimes with which the book is also interested that suggest to me that Larsson does not intend his book for even a teenaged audience.

A good friend, coincidentally a teenager, proving that a writer’s intentions do not dictate his audience, recommended Stieg Larsson’s book to me and even handed me her copy to keep me from having an excuse to avoid it.  Interested, I took her rather forceful suggestion.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has won national and international fame.  I remember seeing advertisements for the book in Tube stations while I was abroad in London in Spring 2010.  Sweden already boasts a 2009 cinematic adaptation of the story.  MGM is set to release an American adaptation December 21, 2011 with a high-profile cast.

The real pull of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I found, was the mystery of the disappearance of Harriet Vanger that financial journalist Mikael “Kalle” Blomkvist finds himself investigating, and which becomes more and more tangled as Blomkvist digs deeper into the records of the day of her disappearance.  Larsson succeeded in drawing me into the case with intriguing, often distressing clues dropped with the proper length of pages between to keep me from getting bogged down in the many parallel plots: Blomkvist’s relationships, Salander’s life and relationships, the dark secrets and unlikely lives of the colorful Vagner family, the fate of the magazine Millennium of which Blomkvist is co-head, the fate of the Vagner Corporation, which is similarly in peril….  All these Larsson manages to weave together with the story of the investigation into a complicated and many-layered narrative.

The plot, for me became truly gripping when these plots begin to intersect, when Blomkvist discovers Lisbeth Salander, a young PI who specializes in less-than-routine background checks.  Once these two minds unite in a single cause, the mystery of Harriet’s disappearance begins to unravel more rapidly, and the Vagner family, some of whom resent Blomkvist’s investigation, take notice and go on defense.

Ultimately, I was surprised by the mystery’s outcome, and, frankly, I doubt that many would foresee its conclusion.

Beyond plot, Larsson triumphs with the colorful Vagner family, a motley group who are at turns laughable for the eccentricities but are always intriguing for their dark secrets and often forceful personalities.  Salander, the title character, too is a triumph, a strong, well-researched personality with many eccentricities that make her stand out.

****

Larsson, Stieg.  The Millennium Trilogy, Book One: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Trans. Reg Keeland.  New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard-Random, 2008.

This review is not endorsed by Stieg Larsson, Reg Keeland, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, Vintage Books, or Random House, Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.