Wednesday, January 20, 2010

No use in hiding it: I love Stieg Larsson.

1. The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (read in the Finnish translation, Tyttö joka leikki tulella).

I was very, very impressed by The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, even if the translated name annoyed me. I knew nothing about Larsson before reading that book, and no wonder: he died before these books that are now best-sellers all over the world were published! He left the manuscripts all at once to be published, and died of a heart attack. Mystery shrouds the author himself...

The second installment of the Millennium-series begins where it left off .This time, the title is translated literally and it also reflects the events in the novel accurately. The first novel was about Mikael Blomqvist, his personal vendetta and the case he was working on. In the second one it is Lisbeth Salander's turn to be the focus.

Mikael is working on a new case: he is collaborating with Dag Svensson, a freelance journalist who is writing an expose on human trafficking in Sweden and the reasons for why there are so little convictions in trafficking cases. His book is based on the facts his live-in girlfriend, Mia, has collected for her doctorate thesis on trafficking in Sweden - he has just gone a step further from academics and pulled out names and perpetrators who would rather not be named.

Meanwhile, the arrangements Lisbeth took care of in Book 1 are slowly falling apart. Her sadistic legal guardian strikes a deal with questionable parties in order to revenge Lisbeth's deeds (you will just have to find out what that was by reading the first book!), which in turn were a reaction to her guardian's abuse of his status. The guardian is not, however, the brightest bulb in the bunch, and he manages to lure out a character from Lisbeth's past whose intentions are to get rid of the girl, once and for all.The character seems to have a connection to Dag and Mia's work.

Lisbeth becomes the target of a manhunt, as her fingerprints are found in two crime scenes involving three murders. Mikael cannot believe that the person he worked with could do such a thing, but the media and the police are convinced otherwise. Or well, Mikael knows that Lisbeth could kill if she wanted to, but... why would she? He is shocked to hear that Lisbeth has been diagnosed with serious mental problems bordering retardation and that at age 25, she has a legal guardian--to him, Lisbeth is perhaps one of the smartest people he has ever met, albeit very, very peculiar. In no time, Lisbeth is painted in tabloids as a Satan worshiping retard lesbian, now hated all over the country for what she has done. It's Mikael's turn to try to find the truth in the matter and protect his former friend, whether she likes it or not.

She does not. Instead, she disappears.

An amazingly exciting book that continues to flesh out its characters from the previous story, and where (almost all of) the twists are surprising and fresh. I would love to write more about it, but that would result in me spoiling the novels! There is plenty of intrigue, computer hacking, old-world espionage, criticism toward media, mental health institutions, authorities, and what have you. And it's all so smartly done. There's even one hilariously twisted nod at American Psycho (just watch out for the part where Lisbeth furnishes her apartment), amidst all the allusions to Larsson's favorite detective stories.

By the way, these novels have been turned into movies! Can't wait to see them. Noomi Rapace looks pretty much exactly as I imagined Lisbeth to look like. The first one should be playing in the US in March, 2010.

Män som hatar kvinnor

Once I have finished the third book (halfway through!), I'll write more about why these supposedly simple crime stories have made such an impression on me.

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