stieg larsson

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I finished this book by Stieg Larsson several days ago and it was exciting to the end, unlike the first book in the series which was not so exciting in the last few chapters after the main mystery was unraveled, but still interesting. There are a number of riddles in the second book that get solved as the end is approached. You are kept in suspense, especially about what will happen to the main character, Lisbeth Salander, right up to the last page. Her closing words made me laugh and then made me wonder what will come next. For that I’ll have to wait for the third and final book in the series.

One way to describe this book is as an interaction of extreme personalities with a society that is both baffled and corrupt. The extreme personalities are three. First, the girl, Lisbeth Salander is a complete genius who has been terribly mistreated but retains high moral principles in spite of her bizarre behavior. Second, there is an enormous hulk, called the blond giant, who deals out extreme punishment to those who are disapproved of by his master. Third, there is the master himself, a twisted but brilliant schemer who controls an underground of murderous thugs and is not seen until near the end of the book.

The good guy is again Mikael Blomkvist who works tirelessly to solve the riddles and help Lisbeth even though for awhile he’s not sure of her innocence. Perhaps the author in real life gave Mikael his own personality and that is why he had the unfortunate heart attack at the age of 50 from overwork.

Then there is the rest of the society, the magazine where Mikael works whose beautiful publisher is having an ongoing affair with him, the security agency with its thoughtful director who Lisbeth has done jobs for, the police department, ever confused about how to interpret what’s happening, with its good guys and bad guys, the subculture of the sex trade which has its tentacles into mainstream society. Yes, it’s a complex mix of personalities and culture showing the nasty and hypocritical underbelly of that seemly well ordered Swedish society. But most of all it’s an exciting detective story that keeps you in suspense through to the very last page!

UPDATE: Here’s a much better review of Larsson’s books than I’ve given here.

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Just finished this fascinating book. I had trouble putting it down. It was written by a Swedish journalist, Stieg Larsson, just before he died of a heart attack at the age of 50 in 2004. He had started a series of books and this was the first of three he completed before he died.

The book is translated from the Swedish and something may have been lost in translation in terms of style. Parts of the writing have a “police blotter” flow but this doesn’t detract from the excitement and suspense, it only makes me wonder how even more powerful the story must be in Swedish.

You can tell by the author’s bio that the main character, Mikhail Blomkvist, (try pronouncing that) is modeled after the author. Blomkvist is an idealistic and intense journalist, 42 years of age, divorced, and the editor in chief of the magazine he works for is his best girlfriend. The story opens with Blomkvist getting sued for libel and facing a three month prison term. Before he serves his term, though, he’s approached by a rich industrialist, who knew him as a small child, trusts him, and wants him to solve a mystery, that of the disappearance 36 years ago of his beloved 16 year old grand niece . The action takes place in 2002.

The rich industrialist had requested that a security agency do a background check on Blomkvist just to make sure he’s OK, and this was done by the 24 year old Lisabeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. Larsson said he modeled Salander after an adult version of Pippi Longstocking. Salander can hack into computers and read by just flipping pages because of her photographic memory, but she is totally repressed socially and resentful of all authority.

Blomkvist and Salander eventually do team up and solve the riddle of the disappearance of the grand niece, but Salander has some dangerous adventures of her own first in which she triumphs. There are some grizzly murders, exciting detective work, and wild adventures, but all ends well. I’m ordering the second book in this series.

UPDATE: Just found a great review of the series by the oh-so-clever Christopher Hitchens. He doesn’t give away the plot details but paints an altogether enticing and amusing picture of Larsson’s magisterial work which he obviously loves.

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