I’ve joined the throngs and read the Millennium Trilogy, by Stieg Larsson, otherwise known as “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo“, “The Girl Who Played With Fire“, and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest“.
From the publisher, quick blurbs.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo:
Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pieced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
The Girl Who Played With Fire:
Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government.
But he has no idea just how explosive the story will be until, on the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander — the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and who now becomes the focus and fierce heart of The Girl Who Played with Fire.
As Blomkvist, alone in his belief in Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation of the slayings, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past in an effort to settle with it once and for all.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest:
The stunning third and final novel in Stieg Larsson’s internationally best-selling trilogy.
Lisbeth Salander — the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels — lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge — against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.
Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.
I started Dragon Tattoo while we were in Oregon in vacation in July. My dad had suggested the books to me, and then my neighbor offered to loan me the first two in the series, so I thought it was synchronicity. Dragon Tattoo starts out slowly, with lots of boring details about corporate espionage, and lots of Swedish names and references to real events that I didn’t get. Kinda wonky, maybe like someone from a very different culture watching The West Wing. After maybe a quarter of the book where I was wondering what the fuss was about, things started to get interesting, with the appearance of Lisbeth Salander, and more detail about the other main protagonist of the story, Mikael Blomkvist. Things get messy, they almost die a few times, and of course, they survive, which anyone who knows that there are three books in the series will expect. It’s a real page turner, and you do start to care about these characters, and wonder what will happen next.
In Girl Who Played With Fire, we get less wonkiness, less boring detail about corporate crimes and so on, and a more straight-forward story. Some of the reporters at Blomkvist’s magazine are writing a book about the sex trade in Sweden, its perpetrators, victims, and an uncaring public and judicial system. The underlying message is, these are just women, so who cares. The real hatred of women and any sort of female power that is held by some of the characters in this trilogy is chilling. It was one aspect of culture that Larsson despised, and was working to expose. Much like Blomkvist.
Hornet’s Nest (shouldn’t that be Hornets’ Nest? Have you ever seen a nest with just ONE hornet?) picks up after the bloody conclusion of Fire, and deals partly with the criminals from that second book, but mostly with the corruption involved in the police and the secret service. I found this section to be the most boring of all three books. The details Larsson went into in building back characters and describing their lives got to the point where I wanted to say, I DON’T CARE, just get me back to Blomkvist and Salander. They are the interesting characters. Sure, there are other interesting characters along the way, but far too much detail was put on the hierarchy and structure of the secret service and its ultra secret wing for me. I think a third of the book could have been edited out, and it would have been a more enjoyable read. Probably this is not true if you are Scandinavian, or if you are a big fan of crime fiction, or perhaps even mysteries. I am none of these things.
Again, the best things about the book are Salander and Blomkvist, and the final third of the book, with the courtroom scene, was very interesting and had me glued to the book. But it took me several weeks to read, which is a sign of trouble around here.
I’m sure you’ve heard some of the intrigue and back-story of Stieg Larsson. In case you haven’t, here’s the condensed version. He wrote for an anti-skinhead magazine in Sweden, and worked to expose violent ultra right-wing extremists. Because of this, he received numerous death threats, and worked hard to preserve his privacy. In Sweden, when you marry, your private information is entered into public record, including your home address. Because he did not wish for his home address to become public and therefore expose himself and his partner to danger, he never married her. They lived together for over 20 years, and she was supposedly a big help in writing the trilogy. When Larsson died of a massive heart attack, unexpectedly, before the books were even published, it left his estate in a sticky situation. He had left his money to the Communist Workers League, but as his will was unwitnessed, it was declared invalid. His partner had no claim to his money, or the royalties from the trilogy (which have sold over 27 million copies worldwide), and his estate has gone to his father and brother. His partner, Eva Gabrielsson, reportedly has 3/4 of a fourth book in the series on her computer. So we’ll see what comes of all of this. Seems like there should be enough money to go around, to his family, his partner, and his Communists if that was what he wished. Crazy story, huh? Almost a book in itself.