The Girl… series by Stieg Larsson is one of those books everyone reads. With the popular appeal of the Da Vinci Code and subject to enough critical acclaim it make it worth a read to the worldly, slightly snobbish, literary types, the series has been on my ‘will read eventually’ list for a very long time if one to see what the fuss was about.
However, given that most of the reviews I’ve read seem to only concern each book individually, and normally the first one as well, I though I’d give reviewing the whole trilogy in one go a bash.
Set in modern-day Sweden, the series telling the story of Lisbeth Slander, expert computer hacker and misunderstood sociopath and her misadventures with philandering journalist Mikael Blomkvist which lead her into a whole heap of trouble as the trilogy progresses. An intriguing look beneath the facade of Sweden’s reputation for equality and liberalness. Focusing specifically on the theme of violence against women and right wing extremism it dispels many of the myths about Sweden as the modern day tolerant utopia.
The first novel is the strongest of the three. Written as one self-contained murder mystery, it follows Blomkvist as he tries to solve the decades old mystery of the disappearance of the grand-niece of a rich tycoon. Bringing in the curious Salander he increasingly finds himself in the path of a dangerous killer. I find it very heard to concentrate on anything longer than five minutes (a side effect of vegetating in front of a computer for too long I’m guessing) and I was gripped by this book, it was well paced and well written enough to be stimulating without dumbing it down to the lowest common denominator.
I really enjoyed the book and read it in under two weeks despite working all day and commuting all evening which has got to be a record to me.
During the second and third books of the series, the focus shifts from an old family mystery to the mystery of Salander’s past. Set a year after the ending of the first book, Salander is galvanting around the world with stolen money and when she returns to Sweden she suddenly finds herself indicted for a double murder with only Blomkvist and his merry band of journalistic comrades to save her. Not that she wants to be saved of course. She does what every distrusting and fiercely intelligent woman would do; she goes on the run and becomes only contactable via hacked computer.
Its an interesting concept to have the heroine absent from the novel for half of it but although its frustrating at times, the frustration pays off as you can empathise with Blomkvist as he tries to get hold of her.
Although the first novel is a standalone, the final two are more like one giant novel. The third one picks up were the two one left and jumps straight into the action. It rounds off the build up in the previous novel and unravels a government conspiracy forged in the wake of end of the Cold War around Salander and unravelled by Blomkvist.
As its more like one novel than two, the story lags a bit in the middle and seems a little stretched in places. Additionally, as the first novel is a standalone, it certainly seems like the publisher realised how successful the first book could be and decided to get Larsson to cash in by developing two sequels to create a ‘triology’. Think of it like the two Pirates of Carribbean sequels; the first was brilliant, the two were riding on its waves (if you excuse the pun). Not that these books are anywhere near as bad as the Pirates sequels.
Having said that the UPS of this novel still has got to be Salander. I refuse to call her a ‘new heroine’ like every other reviewer but it is certainly refreshing to have a female main character who isn’t that nice. Probably suffering from some form of austism and severly messed up from a brutal childhood, Lisbeth is highly intelligent and highly sympatheic to anyone who struggles with the concept of ‘Little Miss Perfect’ (Nancy Drew should take note).
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo: £3.85
The Girl Who Played With Fire: £3.98
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornest’s Nest: £3.97