Reading Jason Matthews’ spy novel Red Sparrow is like wrapping Le Carré around a dime store romance, a reputable disguise for when you’re embarrassed to be seen with it. Red Sparrow is a thriller for appearances’ sake only (and because CIA men don’t write romance)? A shame – because Matthews has real talent.
Red Sparrow · Jason Matthews · 2013
Scribner, 2014 · 431 pages, paperback
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (whose original Swedish title, Män som hatar kvinnor, translates to Men Who Hate Women) lives far beyond the confines of its nearly 600 pages because, as sensationalist as a few of Larsson’s scenes are, we know them to be real torments in this present world. Sadists exist. They hide their hobby well. The world goes on. Stieg Larsson’s thriller is a punch in the face that we understand that reality.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo · Stieg Larsson · 2005
Reg Keeland translation · Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 2011 · 590 pages, paperback
Henrik Vanger, CEO of Vanger Corporation, hires Mikael Blomkvist, a reporter reeling from a recent libel conviction, to look into his niece Harriet’s disappearance. It’s a case that has tried the patience of the investigating cops (and others in the Vanger family) and that has become Henrik’s obsession for the past 40 years. Blomkvist pokes around in the Vanger family chronicle, at first merely indulging Henrik his obsession, but bit by bit he uncovers new evidence until everything just blows up toward the end and Larsson shows us what he’s capable of writing.
Harriet’s disappearance is only one part to the crime, and it’s a crime that just won’t quit.