Mystery Monday – Why is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a thriller?

I know I’m gonna get flack for this one, but here goes: Can someone explain to me why The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is considered a suspense thriller? I picked up the book at the behest of my mother, who had different reading tastes than I do. She liked The Kite Runner, she went nuts for The Help, and she couldn’t wait to sit for long periods engrossed in a Jonathan Franzen book. So when she told me that I must read TGWTDT, I was a little hesitant. But then she told me it was a thriller, something that was, “just my speed,” and I fell for it. I mean, what good boy doesn’t listen to his mother?

So I bought a copy and began reading. I feel asleep four times reading it in the first 50 pages, something I have never done with James Patterson and Dan Brown. I called my mother to offer my snide opinion that this was no thriller. It was all exposition – and long passages of exposition at that. In fact, there was very LITTLE ACTION, not a car chase or an explosion to speak of. “Just get passed the first 100 pages and it’ll pick up,” she said. I’m currently on page 198 and I’m still waiting for it to pick up.

I’ve read the reviews on Amazon and there are hundreds of people who feel the same way I do. “Why is this book an international bestseller?” sums up the opinions of the folks that gave it 1 and 2 stars. Of course, there are even more hundreds of people who reviewed it and have loved it. 

I just don’t get it. As a thriller writer, and a thriller reader, the golden rule is: hook the reader on the first page. These days, it seems you gotta hook people on the first sentence, or they’re lost on their smartphone or on to the next book down the line. So how is an international bestselling thriller able to carry on for several pages, let alone a hundred or more, without anything big happening?

Am I missing something? Is a thriller more about the undercurrents and nuances than the action and the cliffhangers? Or does the ending of TGWTDT really make up for all the pages that describe how cold and lonely the protagonist is in the Swedish countryside? Or are the novels more interesting because of the intriguing backstory about author Steig Larsson? Or is Lisbeth Salander just such a badass character that we’d all follow her doing anything? Even her laundry?

Your thoughts, opinions, declarations, and insight on this one would be most helpful. To the keyboards!   

And BTW, to honor my mother’s memory, I’m going to finish all three books in the Millennium trilogy, even if I fall asleep a hundred times during each one… 


Mark Fadden is a freelance writer and author whose latest, award-winning suspense thriller, The Brink, is now available as an eBook for Kindle and Barnes & Noble nook for only $2.99!

The Brink is a hell of a read.” – Bestselling author Sandra Brown

“Mark Fadden is a masterful storyteller.” – Writer’s Digest

“Mark Fadden is the next Dan Brown.” – Triple C Ranch Book Club, Southlake, Texas

Check out The Brink and Mark’s other books at