This is my first Harlan Coben book, which I really enjoyed. The book is written from the point of view of Beck, a paediatrician, whose wife had been murdered 8 years previously. The intrigue starts right from the first chapter when Beck appears to receive emails from his deceased wife. The pace is fast with short chapters, but each adding a twist to the story. The book is a page turner and I finished it in a couple of sessions. One negative point: the final twist was not really necessary and was at odds with the narrator’s point of view which had been consistent up to that point. Despite this, it still deserves 5 stars.
I missed Memento when it was first released but I wanted to see it now as it’s been claimed that this film offers one of the best depictions of anterograde amnesia (inability to form new memories).
I thought it was a very good film. It is shown backwards with the start of each scene continuing where respective subsequent scenes finish. The effect of this is to put the viewer inside the head of the amnesiac protagonist. However this does mean confusion for the viewer which lessens as you progress through the film. Don’t be surprised if you need at least a second viewing to get a complete understanding of the movie. On my DVD there is an option to view the film in chronological order.
[SPOILER from this point on..] Even after seeing the film in chronological order I still found some ambiguity regarding the Sammy Jankis story. My understanding is that this character exists only in Leonard’s imagination. If Jankis did exist in the past there would be no need for this to be tattooed. Sammy Jankis is an imaginary surrogate for Leonard’s own experience, as told by Teddy in the final scene, who I assume is not lying at this point. However in this scenario Leonard has forgotten that his wife was a diabetic, which implies that he is suffering from long term as well as short term memory loss. But if this film is supposed to be only about anterograde amnesia, I have some doubts whether this interpretation is correct.
There are two stories in this book. The first is about Swedish journalist Mikael Blomkvist’s investigation of the unsolved 1960s disappearance of Harriet Vanger The second, only loosely connected with the first, deals with Blomkvist’s attempts to expose corrupt industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerstrom.
The first story has by far the better plot. But it does take time to get going; I was nearly a third of the way through the book, before I was hooked. But from that point I couldn’t put the book down until the mystery was solved. I had already seen the US film version so I knew the ending but it was still a gripping read. The backdrop is a small island where much of the extended Vanger family lives. I thought the locations were well described. I found the character Lisbeth Salander very interesting. She is a computer hacker/researcher (with a dragon tattoo) employed by Blomkvist. She is autistic, disturbing with a very disturbed history and with an attitude problem as far as any authority figure is concerned. She’s not at all likeable, but I found her fascinating, nevertheless.
There were a few things that prevented me from giving 5 stars. First the verbose lead in. There was a lengthy introduction of the Wennerstrom case, followed by a detailed description of the Vanger history and extended family tree, before the story really got going. There is too much detail throughout the book, such as specifications of computers used or Swedish guardianship laws, for example. Then having solved the Harriet Vanger mystery, the last fifth of the book wraps up the Wennerstrom case. This is a far less interesting story and is an anti-climax after the Vanger business. So overall, 4 stars.