New York, Vintage Books, 2005, 2006.
Week 21 Fiction
As a disclaimer, I need to say that I first read these books last summer and absolutely fell in love with them. When I mentioned them to my book club, everyone wanted to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. So, it was the topic of this month's gathering, and I re-read the second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, for this week's blog as well. They are as fascinating to read a second time as they were the first with less confusion over the Swedish names and the myriad of characters that must not deter you as you begin the adventure.
Stieg Larsson was a Swedish journalist who delivered three novels to his publisher in 2004 just before he abruptly died of a heart attack. The final novel, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, is being published next week, and I will be getting it from Amazon as soon as it is released.
These are very complex mysteries with several themes, and the two main characters are just as complex. Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist and publisher of a liberal magazine, Millennium. (In many ways, his character is Stieg Larsson's alter ego--their careers run parallel.) Lisbeth Salander is the other main character in all three books, and complex is too simple a word to describe her. She is a computer hacker, has a photographic memory, and has too many personality problems to describe in a one page review. However these two characters are what move these mysteries beyond the ordinary. The author of the New York Times review of The Girl Who Played with Fire describes it best. “Salander and Blomkvist transcend their genre and insinuate themselves in the reader’s mind through their oddball individuality, their professional competence, and surprisingly, their emotional vulnerability.”
The themes that run through the novels are financial improprieties, child abuse, neo-Nazism, the sex trade, and computer hacking, murder, and sadism—fun things like that. However, the books are so engrossing that one becomes accepting of the ugliness. Frankly, it is interesting to look at Sweden from this standpoint, because these are generally not the topics that we think we know about Sweden. A New York Times Magazine article says, “In fact, not the least of the attractions of the books for American readers is that they introduce us to a Sweden that is vastly different from the bleak, repressed, guilt-ridden images we see in Ingmar Bergman movies and from the design-loving Socialist paradise we imagine whenever we visit Ikea. It’s a country that turns out to be a lot like our own.”