The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – Review (Book)

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one of those books that I’d seen lots of people reading on the train and half dismissed as a mainstream work of fiction that wouldn’t appeal to me (ala The Da Vinci Code).

What a mistake that would’ve been!

This is a book that begins fairly slowly as it sets the scene and then unleashes closely entwined stories upon an unsuspecting reader.

Set in Sweden and telling the story of Mikael Blomkvist, a publisher at Millenium magazine, and Lisbeth Salander, a private investigator, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a great piece of storytelling.

The pacing is superb and Stieg Larsson creates some wonderfully believable characters. Not just the main characters either – the entire supporting cast seems to be very well thought out.

There is plenty going on here alongside the good old fashioned murder mystery. Once this book got going I could not put it down.

It’s uncomfortable in places as it deals with some controversial issues and can be fairly graphic at times. It never seems out of place though and against the rural backdrop most of the book is set in, it makes quite a nice juxtaposition.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is part of a trilogy of books (The Millenium Trilogy) and now I can’t wait to get my hands on the other two books in the series.

Rating 9/10

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A Simple Plan (1998) – Review (Film)

simple-plan

It wasn’t until 10 minutes into this film that I realised something was wrong. Couldn’t put my finger on it at first. Then I realised… the Coen Brothers film I wanted to see was called Blood Simple, not A Simple Plan. 😮

So I was watching the wrong film and yet the opening was good enough to keep my interest.

Two brothers, Hank (Bill Paxton) and Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton – who is brilliant in this role), along with Jocob’s friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) stumble across the wreckage of a plane buried in the snow in their local woods.

Upon investigating they discover the pilot is dead and the cargo is a holdall containing millions of dollars.

Hank wants to call the authorities but Lou and Jacob think they should keep the money. They feel no-one is looking for the money and it can only be from something as dodgy as a drug deal or robbery as no-one has seen anything about it in the media and the plane has been here a while.

They agree to hold onto the money until Spring and when the snow clears if no-one comes looking for the money the three of them will split the money and leave town, going their seperate ways.

What follows is a complex and taut thriller as the character’s plan unravels a piece at a time, with Hank desperately clinging to the thread that is, just about, keeping everything together.

There are betrayals and shocks as the body count grows and the lies they tell to try and cover their tracks become increasing strained.

The relationship between the two brothers – Hank who graduated college and has a wife and a baby & Jacob, who is a bit of a loner, not very intelligent but good hearted – is well formed and believable and Billy Bob Thornton gives a great performance as Jacob.

Bridget Fonda stars as Hank’s wife Sarah who ends up becoming one of the more calculating and manipulating forces at play in the whole thing.

Her idea of sneaking some of the money back on the plane to fool anyone that finds it into thinking it’s undisturbed is genius when you think about it but ultimately it’s what occurs while Hank and Jacob are doing this that starts the whole sequence of events and kicks off the main part of the film.

There are plenty of moments where I was thinking ‘don’t do it, quit now it’s not worth it,’ but the fact of the matter is none of us know how we’d react in that situation.

The film’s tagline ‘Sometimes good people do evil things’ completely sums the film up.

All of the main protaganists are, in the grand scheme of things, good people – but $4m is a lot of money and the lengths they are willing to go to are, while not normal, certainly believable. Mainly because once they make the initial decision they end up being railroaded into making tough choices and some of the incidents the plot hinges on are born more out of panic than anything that’s been planned.

Director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, The Grudge) and writer Scott B. Smith deliver just under two hours of good old fashioned twists and turns and for me the ending is a real highlight. It’s nice to see a film that doesn’t pull punches and isn’t reaching for a “Hollywood ending.”

Although I watched this in error, it certainly wasn’t a mistake and I’d recommend it to anyone that likes films with a bit of thought involved and that enjoy some suspense.

Rating: 8/10

Relentless – Simon Kernick (Book)

If you’re looking for a nice breezy read Relentless is not the book for you.

The story starts at a breakneck pace and barely pauses for breath in the entire 450 or so pages.

I actually found this style, initially at least, to be a bit overbearing. It felt a little forced and I thought the characters response to the first set of events was slightly unrealistic.

However that is obviously just a personal point of view – the writing itself was fine (apart from an extensive use of the term ‘bodily’ which was quite jarring after the fourth or fifth time) and once I adjusted to the pace I found the book to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Tom Meron is an insurance salesman with a very average life – university lecturer wife, two kids, nice house etc – in London until the day he receives a phone call from an old school friend who he hasn’t seen in 3 or 4 years.

His friend sounds like he is taking a beating and eventually he utters six words to his attacker that change Tom’s world forever: the first two lines of Tom’s address.

Believing his friend to have been murdered and the murderer on his way to Tom’s house he grabs his kids and so starts a game of cat and mouse with Tom never entirely sure who to trust.

This was never going to be a book that required a lot of brain power, most of the twists are hinted at in advance of being revealed, but then sometimes it’s nice to read a book that is enjoyable without being taxing.

Rating: 7/10