One of the disadvantages of becoming a writer is that you lose your innocence as a reader. I used to love to dive into a crime novel, suspending my critical faculties as I was swept along by the excitement of it all. That doesn’t happen so much these days. Now that I produce the stuff myself, I can see just where the writer has tried to covered up an enormous hole in the plot, or where they have painted themselves into a corner and something implausible has to happen to get them out. I find myself muttering, ‘she wouldn’t have done THAT’ or ‘no, no, the solution can’t be as obvious as all that’. This happens with TV crime shows, too, and it annoys the hell out of my husband. The converse is that when something is really good, there is an extra dimension to my enjoyment: I can relish the skill and the craft of it.
So, did Stieg Larsson’s ecstatically reviewed novel, THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, pass this test? ‘The ballyhoo is fully justified, wrote Marcel Berlin in THE TIMES. But was it? Not quite, perhaps. The friend who passed it on to me warned me that it took a long time to get going and it did. Still, eventually I did find myself being carried along by it. It’s dense and complex and thoughtful. Though I was never all that surprised by the way things turned out, I did enjoy it and I’ll read the next one. It’s sad, very sad, that Larsson died soon after delivering the manuscripts of three novels to his publisher and didn’t enjoy their great success. Maybe too if he had lived, he would have revised it and made it even better