I’ve finished the Larsson trilogy. It was a very good reading experience as I expected. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a bit lacklustre with all its financial stuff at the beginning but my endurance for sticking it out rewarded me later on. It is compelling material that keeps you turning pages for hours. I finished Book 1 in two days because I couldn’t wait. Then I actually read the The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest because I couldn’t obtain the second instalment. I finished that in 3 days because how it started caused me some confusion at first until I realised the problem. Then in 2 days, I read The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second book but it was the third one in my reading pattern. If you are wondering, I don’t sleep more than 5 hours each night and I’m a super quick reader with a highly retentive memory; I’m the sort of person who can memorise textbook answers. By then, I knew a lot of the plot because I read the sequel beforehand. Don’t worry though, I’ll review them in order for you.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
So in Sweden, we meet a do-gooder financial journalist, Mikael Blomkvist of Millenium Magazine, who finds himself in strife after going to court against Hans Wennerstrom without sufficient evidence to refute the allegations of corruption he published. It does not help either that his relationship with married Erika Berger, wife of bisexually inclined Greger and publisher and editor of Millenium, is public knowledge and subject to malicious gossip. Defeated and embarassed with the verdict, he accepts a special project in a small village town by pretending to write a memoir of the Vanger family while he undertakes an investigation for a long-lost niece called Harriet Vanger. The old man who commissions the search is searching for an answer to the mystery of having rare flowers sent to him. He suspects it is the murderer of Harriet tormenting him. When Michael investigates, he stumbles on family secrets.
He goes to Milton Security to ask for a research assistant and because of her computer related capabilities, Lisbeth, the perceived social misfit who is distrustful of all authority figures apart from her boss Dragan Armansky, is assigned to help. Lisbeth inadvertently reveals her hacking abilities and the fact she has a photographic memory but is confused about her feelings for him because she has always been subject to injustices by most men. He realises that Lisbeth is not an ordinary person but respects her needs not knowing she has been judged incompetent and is under the guardianship of Nils Bjurman, a man who takes advantage of her. Mikael, who’s nicknamed Kalle Blomkvist by author Astrid Lindgren, writer of the Pippi Longstocking books, finds himself trapped by the murderer.
Lisbeth comes to his rescue in the nick of time as she works out the truth but refuses to be involved with the police. Meanwhile Mikael realises the old man lied to him after he brings him a surprise visitor and is forced to compromise his integrity in order to acquiesce with an ardent wish to conceal the truth. But in a way, in the end we realise that Lisbeth makes sure Hans Wennerstrom receives his just deserts.
The Girl Who Played With Fire
We meet Lisbeth Salander again in The Girl Who Played with Fire, more than a million dollars richer after the suicide of financier Hans Wennerstrom. Mikael Blomkvist at Millenium leaked the truth about him on television again but with more success than the first time. This time her guardian Nils Bjurman, who still has not rescinded her incompetency declaration, decides he needs to hire some thugs to finish her off so he can remove the amateur tattoo which labels him as a pig, sadist and rapist on his stomach without fear of exposure of the rape video. It leads him to a man who absolutely hates her after she threw a Molotov cocktail at him – Lisbeth was angered about the domestic violence inflicted on her long suffering and compliant mother – her political refugee father from G.R.U. (a secret Russian military police unit): Alexander Zalachenko. He has criminal links with the illegal minor sex trade industry which she finds out through her computer hacking abilities coincidentally also the subject of an investigation at Millenium.
Lisbeth purchases an apartment but does not change her address and offers her old place rent free to her girlfriend Mimi. This inadvertently brings Mimi unwanted publicity after it is discovered her friend Lisbeth was present at the murder scene of the journalists working on the sex trade article for Millenium and her fingerprints were on a used weapon. It does not help that the attitude of some of the police force is hostile to Lisbeth before they’ve made any assessment of her themselves – they just go on the word of inaccurate reports by the psychiatrist Dr. Peter Teleborian. In this book, the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ rule does not seem to apply at all. I’m unsure if this is standard police procedure in Sweden. Lisbeth is almost attacked by a giant blonde man by the name of Lundin, who is in league with a biker gang called Svavelsjö M.C., but miraculously escapes. This is witnessed by Mikael Blomkvist, fortunately for her but neither of them report it as she does not trust authority figures and he respects her need for privacy. Meanwhile Erika Berger struggles with her feelings as she’s been offered a post as chief of Svenska Morgon Posten, Sweden’s large daily newspaper but she does not want to leave Millenium hanging because Mikael is too focused on the murder to care about the other details of the production cycle.
When a famous boxer Lisbeth used to box with sees the posters advertising she’s wanted for murder, he goes to Millenium to defend her and explains the origin of her wasp tattoo. Dragan Armansky at Milton Security also sends two of his staff to assist the police to secretly gain information without the knowledge one of them had a strong prejudice against her and the details of a confidential police interview is leaked to a scum journalist. Because of the address she resides in, Mimi is abducted by tank-built Lundin who has congenital analgesia. This is seen by the boxer who follows the giant kidnapper. After a boxing bout in an abandoned warehouse when the good guy was almost about to lose, some welcome help from kickboxing fanatic Mimi manages to help them to disorient Lundin in order for them to escape to the refuge of the night’s cover of darkness. Mikael is tipped off that Lisbeth is going in search of her father who has been given a name not in the public records by the Swedish secret police, S.A.P.O., after discovering her secret apartment. He decides to follow her trail which turns out to be a good decision as when he finds her she’s in danger of dying from a brain injury inflicted from a bullet shot from a .45 Colt. It ends rather abruptly so this was my least favourite book of the trilogy.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (the film adaptation of which hit cinemas back in February 2011) is basically how Stieg Larsson ties up the loose ends of his trilogy. This is essentially the sequel to The Girl Who Played with Fire rather than a novel able to stand up on its own merits. The readers are mostly treated to a picture of a bedridden Lisbeth who ends up in the same hospital as her cruel, Russian ex-spy father who unsuccessfully attempted to murder her when she tried to kill him while Mikael only starts to put the truth together about what happened during the shooting that led to Lisbeth being branded a killer. Besides this, government officials in Sapö decide certain people need to be hired to dispose of other people who are thorns in their sides and Larsson uses this to criticise the police, the courts and the public service sector because of the injustice they display to Lisbeth due to her outward, nonconformist appearance. Meanwhile Erika Berger who is being stalked realises Svenska Morgen Posten is not her kind of environment as she realises her boss is keeping big secrets through Millenium.
In addition to this, Mikael is battling to get Lisbeth free from scrutiny by government institutions that have only treated her with hostility. Bublanski and Sonja Modig still work on her case because both believe Salander is innocent. Blomkvist and Armansky are also working together to prove her innocence. Faste, Solicitor Ekstrom, Teleborian (names you will have come across in The Girl Who Played with Fire) all work for the security police to put her behind bars. The Salander case draws the attention of Superintendent Torsten Edklinth from the Constitutional Protection unit who has to report to the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister about his findings. In the process, he becomes fast friends with Blomkvist, which puts the ball in Lisbeth’s court. You could see this is a very feminist book although a male author wrote it. The fact that Salander uses her abilities as a hacker to gain her revenge on the guardian who raped her and gain justice is the stuff of revenge fantasy. This is all played out in a court drama, which ends positively for Lisbeth Salander. She is also finally able to get even with Lundin. Meanwhile she also gets over her romantic feelings for Mikael and sees him for who he is – a friend.
Given I’ve been a long-term fan of thrilling and entertaining crime fiction, the trilogy by Stieg Larsson was up my alley. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the best of the series as is often the case with the first of titles with sequels. The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, is in my opinion, one book split into halves. From the narrative pace of the titles, you can realise this as the first has its own plot while the second and third books begin to explore inner workings of the characters and their history. But I recommend reading of the series if you are not too squeamish.