Yesterday the The Times Books section lead story was entitled 'Monster hit , the extraordinary story behind the literary sensation, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' and the entire cover devoted to a photo of a girl with a tattoo that appeared to be borrowed from the cover of a John Burdett Bangkok novel. You can read the full article here.
The on line article does not include some of the print version side bar comments such as:
'The ballyhoo is fully justified.' Marcel Berlins, The Times
'Swedish crime fiction like the country, has both class and social conscience. It was only a matter of time before it produced its own War and Peace.'
Sydney Morning Herald
'It doesn't get better than this.' Gefle Dagblad, Sweden
It almost makes it a pleasant change to come back to earth and read a dissenting voice such as this over the top quite vicious review from the Charleston City paper. The ballyhoo is such that although the Times article makes play with the fact that 'Tattoo' was nominated for the Duncan Lawrie International Dagger it fails to mention that it did not win, and lost out to Dominique Manotti's taut political thriller Lorraine Connection reviewed here.
We can remember Stieg Larsson as a great campaigner for righteous causes but let us not get carried away The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is not a great book. It is certainly not in the class of the novels of Sjowall and Wahloo, Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indridason, Karin Fossum, and Jo Nesbo.
I believe Larsson was learning his craft with Tattoo and I fully expect The Girl Who Played With Fire, his second book which did win the Basta Svenska Kriminalroman in 2006, to be a much better structured and plotted effort.
The danger is that with all the hype and overblown praise heaped on Tattoo new readers to Scandinavian crime fiction will be put off by the turgid beginning and other faults in Larsson's book from reading more accomplished authors. There is an interesting post from Petrona here with links to reviews of some excellent Nordic crime fiction. As far as I am concerned The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, even with Lisbeth Salander, is a far inferior book to any of the three Jo Nesbo books I have read and reviewed here, here and here or the gripping Echoes from the Dead by Johan Theoren reviewed here. More insanity here with a suggestion that Stieg Larsson should get the Nobel Prize for Literature!