The Girl who Kicked Ass, Brought Down a Bunch of Thugs, and Lived to Tell the Tale

Posted: June 28, 2010 in books
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Have you ever had an experience wherein the title of the book was enough to convince you to pick it up and purchase it? Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” did it for me—largely because I have a soft spot for tough girls that can hold their own with the boys. I purchased the book, vaguely skimming through the short summary on the back cover.

And I sure was in for one crazy ride. (Really, who would have thought that Sweden could come up with this underworld drama? My notions of equating the country with just Volvo and Ikea have been shattered.)

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” begins with journalist Mikael Blomkvist losing a libel case against Swedish magnate Hans-Erik Wennerström, which lead to Blomkvist serving time in prison. Following his release (and perhaps as a way to cope with his fall from grace), Blomkvist accepts an offer from Henrik Vanger, an aging former CEO, to write chronicle the Vanger family’s history—just a ruse to cover up the journalist’s real mission: to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of Vanger’s niece Harriet some 40 years ago.

As he goes about his investigation, Blomkvist crosses paths with Lisbeth Salander, the title character, asocial, violent, and unusual-looking, yet possessing an impressive photographic memory and a genius when it comes to hacking computers. Together they for an unlikely but highly effective duo, unearthing some disturbing truths about the Vanger family kept under wraps for years.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” was followed by “The Girl who Played with Fire” and “The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest”, which I picked up shortly after finishing the first book. Both “The Girl who Played with Fire” puts the spotlight on Lisbeth Salander, providing a comprehensive and rather complicated history as to why she is who she is—intertwined with a compelling investigation being pursued by Blomkvist on Sweden’s sex industry.

Repeatedly abused as a little girl, Salander goes after misogynists, brandishing her own kind of justice. When Salander herself is accused of three murders, all connected with the investigation that Blomkvist is pursuing, the journalist is left by himself to prove her innocence. Meanwhile, “The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest” picks up from where the second book left off, with Salander fighting for her life and to clear her name—and exposing a high-level government cover-up in the process.

These books on Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist have been conveniently called the Millennium Trilogy (after the publication that Blomkvist reports for) and are written by Stieg Larsson, a Swedish activist and journalist. What I love about the series is that it has a strong central female character, having a take-no-prisoners attitude, even in the face of violence against women (we do get disturbing images of rape in this series, you have been warned). Perhaps what is most interesting for me is that the books have been written by a distinct male voice, yet finds enough sympathy with the plight of the women.

Moreover, Larsson masterfully weaves one subplot over another, that a synopsis of each book is not enough to fully comprehend just how genius his mind works. It is a shame that he died early (and all the books were published posthumously), since the Millennium series was originally planned to consist of 10 books. Pick them up if you want to be disturbed or if you want an intelligent read or if you just want to be amused at how hackers do it.

  1. blooey says:

    closing my eyes scrolling down your review. Will read this in July.

    • Mika says:

      Dali, find time to do so. If I were a lit teacher, I’d include this on the reading list for Feminist Lit. But wait, the conservative madres might oppose. Haha.

  2. […] that says the books get better after The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (haha, and not just because my best friend is on that side!) – I found that the first book was merely an appetizer to the main […]

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