📚 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Millenium, Book 1

Reviewed Apr. 2019

Narrator: Martin Wenner
Length: 7 hours 28 minutes⎮Abridged
Publisher: Random House Audio⎮2008

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Summary

A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue....

It's about the disappearance 40 years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden...and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder.

It's about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet's disappearance...and about Lisbeth Salander, a 24-year-old, pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age, who assists Blomkvist with the investigation.

This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism - and an unexpected connection between themselves.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4 Stars

I bought The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tattoo in paperback about a decade ago, but I can't ever remember starting it. It was one of those titles that was so hyped when it first came out and then again surrounding the movie adaptation. The hype is what originally compelled me to purchase the paperback, but it's probably also what kept me from reading it. With hype comes pressure and I'm always at least a little hesitant to start a super popular book for fear of not enjoying it the way I think I "should".

Yesterday, I finally decided to tackle this literary "boogie man" that has been sitting on my shelf for the past decade, albeit in a new form. I've somehow been able to avoid major spoilers for the last 10 years and have never seen the movie, so I went into this with a pretty fresh perspective. I've been wanting to hear something intense and edgy lately. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo seemed to be just that. I was also intrigued to hear something set in Sweden. I don't think I've ever heard anything set in Scandinavia. I'm not overly familiar with that area, but I know enough to know that I wanted to know more!

On second thought, it seems like I did briefly begin listening to this maybe two years ago. I remember stopping a short way into it and being confused when no girl (who could presumably be the girl) appeared. I was looking for a kick ass female assassin lead and when she didn't quickly appear, I gave up. Not my best moment, but the point is that I did eventually return to it. I know now that Lisbeth Salander (the kick ass female lead) is not an assassin, nor is she the primary character. I probably would have enjoyed this more if she was either of those things, especially if she had been the main character. I found Salander to be a sympathetic character, if not entirely relatable. She's the kind of character you want to protect, even though she would never allow anyone to protect her. She's tough, flawed, prickly, and resourceful. Mikael Blomqvist made less of an impression, but I didn't dislike him. Salander was the star for me. She and Mikael made an odd team, but it still worked.

There was only one aspect of their relationship that made me uncomfortable, but I won't delve too deeply into that for fear of spoilers. The most noticeable flaw in the duo's relationship was that it seemed underdeveloped, as did other parts of the story. The book seemed to lack any smooth transitions which meant I had to listen very closely and even then, I still had trouble following from one scene to the next. I later realized this was because I was inadvertently listening to the abridged version of the story. The unabridged version clocks in at over 16 hours long, while the run time for the abridged version was around 7.5.

Get ready for a rant: The reason I accidentally began listening to the abridged version was because both versions use the same audiobook cover. This cover clearly says "An unabridged production" and it also says "Read by Simon Vance" on the cover even though Martin Brenner narrated the abridged version I was hearing. And no, this wasn't a case of switched covers. There is no cover for the abridged version of the book. This was clearly a ploy to save money by not having to create two covers, but it's the worst money saving, corner-cutting scheme I've seen in a while (in the audiobook world, at least), especially for a best-selling novel from a major publishing house. If I were Martin Brenner, I would be seriously pissed about not having cover credit. Not only does he not have cover credit, but another narrator is credited on the cover of an audiobook read by Brenner, from a major publishing house. That's inexcusable, in my opinion. I don't know if this is something that's common with abridged audiobooks, since I usually try to avoid them like the plague.

The realization that I was hearing the abridged version both infuriated me (for the reasons above) and relieved some of my worries regarding the smoothness of transitions in the book, since abridged versions are notoriously and haphazardly hacked to pieces and then glued together again. I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed this book exponentially more if I had heard the unabridged version. It very well could have been a 4.75 or 5 star book for me. It's definitely something I would want to hear more of. Just thinking about all of the details and background information I've missed out on pisses me off even more. Before this realization, I was debating whether or not to continue with the series, based on my enjoyment level at the time. However, now that I know how much of this audiobook I have missed out on, I feel compelled to at least hear the next installment. Unabridged, of course. I may also be starting a petition to ban, or at least clearly mark, all abridged audiobooks.

Narration review: To be completely honest, I was somewhat disappointed when I realized I wouldn't be hearing Simon Vance narrate. After finishing Fire & Blood, which was also narrated by Vance, I was eager to hear more from him. However, Martin Brenner did an admirable job narrating this version of the audiobook. I've never heard of him before, but I was very impressed with his narration, particularly his pronunciation of Swedish names and locations. It's clear why he was chosen for the job. On that note, I would recommend having a copy of the actual book on hand while listening, or at least familiar rising yourself with the character and location names before listening. The Swedish language is so foreign to me and Brenner's pronunciation was so authentic that I had a difficult time discerning what was being said until actively studying a list of character names. The only other thing I didn't care for was his voicing of Salander. She didn't sound even remotely female, which was especially a problem in her conversations with Mikael, because I couldn't tell who was talking. Other than that, Brenner did a wonderful job and he definitely has Vance beat when it comes to pronouncing Swedish names and phrases. ♣︎

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