Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I finished reading the most exhilarating book I have read in some years. I am of late sticking to the usual dollop of murder mysteries. And this book has inspired me to open the lid of my laptop and write a review. To begin, it’s a Swedish – English book, called ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.’ I would suggest this book to anyone who loves mysteries like I do (and there are few of those). I bought the book on Thursday and by Monday night had managed to read only till page 150 or so, and I had read waiting for my cabmates to come, while having breakfast, while on the pot, the usual. And Monday night from about 10 pm to 5am I finished the 554 page book. It’s written by Stieg Larsson, a Swedish journalist who died before he could see what a success his trilogy had become. I hope I read what was the first book of 3. He was 50 when he died. I am saddened when I see talented people die. I feel the fact, that I will never be able to read a new Agatha Christie or a new feluda, desperately. Getting back to the book, its about a 36 year old disappearance case of an heiress. The head of the dynasty Henrik Vagner was mentoring the 16 year old Harriet to take on the powerful Vangar dynasty, when she disappeared from the island on a day when there was no way to leave the island because an accident had blocked the bridge which meant that the people then present on the island had probably killed her. Being a rich, resourceful and a persevering man, Henrik began to try and solve the ‘locked-room’ mystery. [To tell you the truth I love such stuff, the locked room mysteries. And that’s why I loved Miss Marples, whose suspects were always within the village]. The investigator called to investigate this mystery is Blomkvist, a financial journalist who has just been convicted of libel against the perhaps-rogue company called Wennerstrom. So the story is 2 part. The mystery of Harriet, but also of destabilizing Wennerstrom. Before I get into the plot I want to talk about the delight I found in reading it. And I find delight in making discoveries and assumptions.

This is the second Swedish origin book I have read. The first one being ‘The Savage Altar,’ by Asa Larsson another murder mystery. I delight in them because of what I discover of the interesting Swedish setting. [I am used to reading English, American and Indian books and take for granted the glimpse of nation it gives me for I am otherwise acquainted with these nations too. Whereas, I had no idea of Sweden. And the Glimpse I got through this book is so fresh. To read of a place where the corruption is so minimal, and religion is an active part of one’s life. It’s not utopia but the authors are not disillusioned yet with their government. As an Indian reader I felt like the authors were lying. Or that they are covering something up. Its either that or the fact that the voice of Swedish – English is a little subdued and cold, educated, formal, the law of the land is just and order prevails (and wher the temperature goes as low as -37’C), whereas the Indian – English voice is always political, chaotic, warmer, reminiscing, and has this, this… third – world quality (where the temperatur goes as up as 50’C).

Assuming Steig’s language is characteristic of English speakers in Sweden, it is quaintly sprinkled with ‘O.Ks’ and ‘anon.’ I don’t know if this is his style and if he used O.K in life, because the word is used frequently in place of ‘alright.’ I relate O.K to a more informal way of speaking and I have to check if O.K originated in Sweden. His tongue is not as fluid or smooth as a native speakers and at places I feel he has some difficulty in making his characters speak in English, (They are all speaking Swedish in the book and translating that to English, may have made the language of the book so exotic). And I had last and only heard ‘Anon’ in Shakespeare and I know for a fact that its now archaic, and was delighted to hear it being spoken in the book. Also, Steig googled a lot and once a character “pulled up the google search engine , and typed in the keywords [magda] +[murder]. To her surprise, she made an instant breakthrough in the investigation.”

In what was so distant and exotic, seeing lines like this made me feel very secure in the fact that we are all global and over the years no matter what our governments behave like, the modern men still have similar methodologies of research J. Of course I am simplifying things and the limitations of my language will not let me put forth what is in my heart. I have always found it difficult to translate the heart.

For me there was an instance where reality and fiction co-incided:

1.The journalist Steig was writing about Blomkvist, another journalist. Steig might have been speaking through Blomkvist and portraying himself as slightly younger than himself and better-looking thanhimself and portraying the true Steig and not what people see him as.

2. I a mystery addict was reading a book, written by another mystery lover, and this struck me the most when the investigator was reading Sue Grafton, whose every book sits in my book shelf.

Going back to the story, which is actually 3 part (I lied earlier), there is Lisbeth Salanader, who is the girl with the dragon tattoo and the author plays with us and we are immediately scared for her life, but she is the Hero of the book and I don’t want to reveal anything because I want people who are reading this to read the book and not let what I say spoil the surprise that is Salander.

It’s available at Crosswords and with me, please buy it and if you know me, please borrow it from me.

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