The Tattooed Girl – The Enigma of Stieg Larsson – book review

by Peter

The Tattooed Gril - BursteinStieg Larsson has fascinated tens of millions with his fabulous Millennium trilogy. Three books written by a man who made his debut as a crime fiction writer with the first one – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and died of a heart attack before it was published. Stieg Larsson was a brilliant writer and has thrilled readers all over the world, but he didn’t live to see it or enjoy the fruits of his phenomenal success.

The enormous interest in the books has spurred a lot of interest in the author as well as in the stories behind the stories, the life of Stieg Larsson, the places described in the books, and the characters – especially the intriguing and dark Goth girl Lisbeth Salander. A number of biographies have been written: “Stieg Larsson, My Friend” by Kurdo Baksi, “The Man Who Left Too Soon: The Biography of Stieg Larsson” by Barry Forshaw, and the most recent “About Stieg Larsson and Me”, written by Eva Gabrielsson, Stieg Larsson’s partner for 32 years. And now there is one more book, not a biography but an “unauthorized guide” with a long and ambitious title: “The Tattooed Girl – The enigma of Stieg Larsson and the secrets behind the most compelling thrillers of our time”, edited and partly written by Dan Burstein, Arne de Keijzer, and John-Henri Holmberg.

It’s a book I had more or less decided I probably wasn’t going to like even before I looked at it. Dan Burstein, known for his dissection of Dan Brown’s books (see Secrets of the Code) and a New York-based venture capitalist trying to make even more money by dissecting the writings of Stieg Larsson? That didn’t sound all that interesting to me. But actually I was wrong. I have read parts of the book and I actually think it is pretty well done and quite interesting.

The authors/editors have each contributed to the book, but they have also collected a lot of material written by a large number of other people over the last few years about Stieg Larsson and his books, and have organized the huge volume of writings into eleven chapters. Many of the authors of the smaller articles are well-known and write insightful short articles. The editors have also included a number of interviews with people who knew Stieg Larsson as well as with other Scandinavian crime fiction writers – Lars Kepler and Anders Roslund & Börge Hellström.

Especially, I found the many chapters written John-Henri Holmberg, a Swedish author and close friend of Larsson for more than three decades, to provide a good insider’s look into many otherwise hidden insights about Stieg Larsson – his life, his ideas for future books, including the mysterious “fourth book”, and so on.

So if you are among the many interested in Stieg Larsson, where his characters “come from” and the origins of his stories, this is a book that may be of interest to you. It’s a book that will answer some questions and add perspective to Larsson’s works and that therefore is valuable to those who really want to know the “back-story” of the books. I found it to be quite enjoyable. Also, The Tattooed Girl – The enigma of Stieg Larsson can be read in chunks – that’s what I did. So if you’re still hungry for more Stieg Larsson minutiae – go ahead!

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