Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is one of the best mysteries I read in 2008 (and I read a heap of mysteries). The girl of the title, Lisbeth Salander, is memorable, troubling–and delightful in spite of it all. She’s a young, tattooed and pierced hacker with a dark past who gets interested in an investigation the other main character, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, is pursuing. Set in Sweden, this mystery will keep you riveted from beginning to end. It has that great combination of convincing characters (with unexpected talents and tastes) and a fast-moving plot full of twists and turns. Lisbeth is a little reminiscent of Kathy Mallory, the complex creation of Carol O’Connell (and if you haven’t tried O’Connell, go back and start with the first one, Mallory’s Oracle). The bad news is that Stieg Larsson, after submitting three manuscripts to his publisher, died in 2004. So these great characters will have no more that three outings. I’m already waiting for number two.
I’ve just been reading dancingbadger.com on Carol O’Connell. This is an excellent commentary on the great Mallory series. Both Larsson and O’Connell have created deeply wounded women who are avengers. These are not women with soft hearts; they’ve had to take care of themselves in a world where women and children are often brutalized when they’re noticed at all. Both write the polar opposites of the romance genre, and therein lies their appeal, I think. They acknowledge the world’s dangers and posit women of intelligence, independence, and cunning who cannot afford to rely on anyone for their safety. Yet Mallory and Salander are profoundly human, with flashes of generosity and kindness.