Like the woman on the bus who admitted she didn't know what a tracker mortgage was, I have a confession. I think Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy is sh**e.
I'm telling you this so that you won't waste your summer ploughing through them.
I'm really sorry Larsson died.
Not because he was only 50.
I'm sorry because if he hadn't, we'd be well over the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo 'phenomenon' by now. In fact, we'd never have had to endure it in the first place.
No one would be bracing themselves to tackle the second or third instalment of this trilogy.
Or feeling they were missing out because they were among the few people on the bus or the beach whose noses weren't stuck in one of the books.
And no one would be bemoaning the fact that there'd be no more oeuvres from this writer (although, heaven help us, there is talk of another manuscript having been discovered).
Oh the dragon books might not be the absolute worst ever to make the best-seller lists. But they're up there.
Never in the 40-plus years that I've been reading thrillers, crime novels and popular fiction have I come across a story peopled with so many sadists and psychos, groaning under such far-fetched plots, told with such a lack of humour or humanity and featuring such dislikeable protagonists.
The 'hero', Mikael Blomkvist, is a priggish, self-righteous, dour, moralistic journalist, one of the most unappealing 'good guys' ever. Lisbeth Salander, the other main player, is worse.
Horribly abused by corrupt people as a child, she turns into a vengeful sociopath with a genius for computer hacking and a penchant for tattoos.
That she's irreparably damaged is understandable given her appalling start in life, but to make her the heroine of a bloody trilogy and expect the reader to be rooting for her? Give me a break.
As for the baddies, the monotony of corrupt policemen, corrupt doctors, corrupt lawyers, corrupt everyone-in-a-position-of-authority is broken only by the appearance of degenerate former Russian spies, indestructible freaks, and amoral, murderous, crime bosses (okay, so there's the odd hint of real life).
I'm not some sort of a snob when it comes to thrillers. I fell in love with the genre almost 40 years ago when I couldn't leave down a book until I learned the fate of the smugglers of Kirrin Island (of course Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven were thrillers for kids).
Later, I discovered the joys of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Raymond Chandler, Ruth Rendell, PD James, Michael Connolly, and dozens of others.
I've fallen for all manner of English, American, Swedish ( if it's dour Scandinavian protaganists you want, try Henning Mankell's Insp Wallander) and Italian (for a whiff of official corruption, get to know Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen) private eyes, detectives, investigators and unqualified good guys in bad situations.
What they have in common is that they're heroes who may be flawed, but are smart; have a discernible moral code but know that life isn't always black or white; and, even if they're dour, have at least a wry sense of humour.
None of which applies to Mikael Blomkvist. No, the reason so many people are persevering with this dislikeable character and his depressing doings is the stroke of luck (for the publishers, moviemakers and anyone else making a bob out of it) that Larsson upped and died as soon as the books had been handed into the publisher. Instant oh-so-tragic-that-this-previously-undiscovered-genius-died-so-young marketing wheeze.
And it's the tale that keeps on giving.
There's a well-publicised row over who inherits his now sizeable legacy -- he wasn't married to his long-time partner and apparently she could be left with nothing. It's also been widely reported that the reason he didn't marry is that under Swedish law, his address would have to be made public and he was worried about his security because he'd written about some bad people.
I bet you knew all or some of that. But what you won't know if you haven't read the books, is that they're really not worth the effort. As one who bought into the hype and tackled all three, I'd like to free up some of your time this summer. I read the first two -- they are relentlessly joyless, turgid and depressing .
The third, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest, has the distinction of becoming only the sixth book in four decades of reading that I've ever thrown aside, unfinished. I tried really, really hard to give a damn about what became of these awful people. But I couldn't.
Reader, I'm telling you now because the holidays are coming up and you may have packed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest to read by the pool.
The hype around the movie is starting up and there are people in mortal danger of feeling they're missing out if they haven't succumbed.
For God's sake, spare yourself.
I only wish someone had told me.