Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Book 2, Denise Mina et al. (2013)

Friday, December 27th, 2013

A bit of a letdown for old fans.

three out of five stars

(Trigger warning for discussions of rape.)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Book 2 is the second and final volume of the comic book adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I won’t rehash the book’s plot here, except to say that it’s equal parts murder mystery, rape revenge, and social commentary. Wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger hires disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist to solve a decades-old mystery: the disappearance of his niece Harriet from the family’s isolated estate on Hedeby Island. Meanwhile, a young woman named Lisbeth Salander – the eponymous “girl with the dragon tattoo” – is struggling to deal with her new court-appointed guardian, Nils Bjurman, a “sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist.” Lisbeth and Blomkvist’s paths converge when Vanger hires Lisbeth’s employer, Milton Security, to dig into Blomkvist’s life.

The problems I had with the first volume carry over to the second one as well. In her attempt to boil a long and complicated story down to a more terse comic book format, the changes introduced by Mina often distort a character’s personality and motivations – or alter specific scenes and plot lines – in fundamental ways. For example, Lisbeth doesn’t join Blomkvist’s investigation until after he and Pernilla decode the mysterious strings of numbers found in Harriet’s notebook…thus uncovering a prolific serial killer (or team of them) that’s been hunting down “sinful” women for decades. As a result, Lisbeth’s contribution to cracking the case is diminished significantly; her awesome talents almost seem inconsequential here.

Exhibit B: When Blomkvist is attacked and kidnapped by the serial killer, he’s trussed up and suspended from the ceiling with an elaborate rope and collar getup: arms stretched tight above him, wrists tied to the ceiling, with a rope securing his ankles behind his back “hog style.” While there is a rope around his neck, it’s more of a leash – not a noose, like in the book. While no doubt painfully uncomfortable, Blomkvist is in no immediate danger of expiring. Thus, when Lisbeth comes to the rescue, she’s not presented with the Sophie’s choice of saving Blomkvist from death by strangulation or pursuing the serial killer (though she unties him first anyway). This climactic scene lacks much of the tension and suspense present in the original.

If you haven’t read the books, the comic book adaptation is an interesting enough story. But longtime fans like myself are likely to be disappointed by the many changes and inconsistencies. That said, I haven’t cancelled my pre-order of The Girl Who Played With Fire, Book 1; I’m still holding out hope that Mina will have better luck with another book. Fingers, crossed.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Book 1, Denise Mina et al. (2012)

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Not nearly as engrossing as the books…

three out of five stars

(Trigger warning for discussions of rape.)

Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy gets the graphic novel treatment in this adaptation penned by Denise Mina. The first of two volumes (each book is to span two graphic novel collections) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Book 1 covers the first book in the series. A murder mystery slash rape revenge story, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is not for the faint of heart: there’s quite a bit of violence (including violence of a sexual nature) and not a little sex and nudity. (I prefer to think of the series as The Men Who Hate Women Trilogy; after all, the series’ focus isn’t independent journalism, but MISOGYNY. Consequently, rape – or the threat of it – is present throughout the series.)

Book 1 covers the events of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo from the time Henrik Vanger summons disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist to his estate on Hedeby Island, to the sexual assault and brutal rape of Lisbeth Salander at the hands of her court-appointed guardian, Nils Bjurman. By the end of this collection, Blomkvist has begun to serve his jail term for slandering businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström (another hater of women) while Lisbeth exacts revenge (in an equally brutal fashion) on her rapist. I won’t delve into the plot any further; I assume that, if you’re reading this, you’re already a fan of the books. (No? What are you waiting for?!)

(More below the fold…)