Day 1022: The Girl Who Played with Fire

Cover for The Girl Who Played with FireHaving started this series with the last book, I am finally finishing it with the second. As with the original Larsson trilogy, this graphic novel begins to get into the conspiracy by SAPO to criminalize Lisbeth Salander.

Lisbeth is on vacation on a tropical island after the events of the first novel. Mikael Blomkvist and his magazine are working on an issue about human trafficking with Dag Svensson. Meanwhile, Mr. Bjurman, Lisbeth’s guardian, is trying to figure out a way to control her.

Lisbeth has returned home when Dag Svensson and his girlfriend are found murdered. Also dead is Bjurman, and evidence links Lisbeth to the murders. Lisbeth realizes that all this is pointing back to her past, and she must follow clues while a huge manhunt is going on for her.

Despite being the transitional second novel, this one is engaging, with a lot going on. The art is just excellent. Even though the graphic novels are taken from a hefty series, these writers and artists have managed to condense the Millenium trilogy into an effective series.

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Day 998: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Cover for The Girl with the Dragon TattooA while back I read the third book in the graphic novel series based on Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Series. I found myself a little confused because it had been so long since I read the original books. So, I decided to get the other two.

Of the three original novels, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo works best as a stand-alone. We meet the two protagonists. Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who has just been found guilty of slandering a powerful businessman, Wennerström, and must face a jail sentence. Lisbeth Salander, the eponymous heroine, has found some evidence that Wennerström is actually guilty and has led Blomkvist on to make allegations he suddenly finds he can’t support so as to ruin him and his magazine.

Blomkvist quits his job on the magazine to save it, but he is offered investigative work by Henrik Vanger, another powerful industrialist. Forty years ago, Vanger’s niece Harriet disappeared during a get-together on the family island and was never found. Henrik assumes that someone in the family killed her, since no one could get on or off the island at the time. In exchange for Mikael’s help, Vanger promises to turn over the goods on Wennerström.

This graphic novel was easy to follow and beautifully illustrated. I find that the genre doesn’t allow for the extreme build-up of suspense that Larsson was able to create in the novels. It could be my imagination, but I also thought some scenes were moved around and the ending was slightly different than the book. I also felt that Lisbeth’s role in the graphic novel was minimized as compared to the novel. Her scenes are more likely to be visual rather than to have dialogues and so go more quickly. Still, this is a rendition of the story that has much to offer.

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Day 964: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Cover for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestI did an odd thing here. I saw that the third book of the Millennium Series was out in a graphic novel by Denise Mina, the terrific Scottish mystery writer, so I ordered it without looking for the other two (which I have since bought). So, I am reading and reviewing them out of order.

Thrust like this into the last volume and having not read the original books for several years, I had difficulty at first getting oriented. I especially had some problems with the multitude of characters, not realizing a cast of minor characters appears at the end. I remembered the general plot but not all the subplots. Still, this is not a problem for those who have read the series from the beginning.

Of course, the plot is the finale of the story of Lisbeth Salander, unjustly accused of murder of three people and of attempted murder of her own father, Zala. It is up to Mikael Blomkvist and the staff of Millennium Magazine as well as her other friends to try to help gather the evidence for her trial. In the meantime, the police are searching for her half-brother Niedermann, the scary murderer who can feel no pain.

The art and story line of this graphic novel are really fine, getting a bulky novel right down to its essence. This is the first time I’ve read the graphic novel for a book I’m already familiar with, and it made me contrast the two. I think the one thing a graphic novel loses is all sense of the original’s climactic moments. In particular, I’m thinking of two scenes: the one during the trial when Lisbeth finally speaks and the fight in the factory. The fight boils down several pages of suspenseful writing into a couple of frames. There’s no way to build up suspense similar to that of the novel. Still, my dabbling in this genre has made me feel it is an interesting one as long as I stay away from super heroes, which really bore me.

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Day 303: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Cover for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's NestI just realized that, having reviewed the other two books in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, I never reviewed The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. This final novel will be difficult to discuss without giving away what happened in the previous books.

As Lisbeth Salander recovers in the hospital from her injuries, journalist Mikael Blomkvist investigates Alexander Zalachenko, the Soviet defector she shot in self-defense at the end of the last novel. He begins to think there has been a massive cover-up on the part of Säpo, Sweden’s security police, to hide Zalachenko’s crimes while he was viewed of value to them. Among those crimes were the horrendous beatings he gave Lisbeth’s mother, for he is her father.

Some former members of Säpo are currently colluding with Dr. Peter Teleborian, the psychiatrist who supervised Salander’s institutionalization when she was a girl, to either have Salander re-institutionalized or to murder her, so that their activities do not become known. Salander is able to assist in her own way with preparations for her trial when a sympathetic doctor smuggles her laptop computer and a phone into the hospital for her.

The freakish Niedermann is still loose, having murdered a police officer and carjacked a woman during his escape.

All these subplots are wrapped up through an exciting trial and a subsequent pursuit of Niedermann.

I believe this series is so successful because of a strong message about violence toward women, interesting and believable characters, complex but careful plotting, thrilling action, and a strong, compelling, and unusual heroine. If you have not read the series already, I strongly recommend it. Start with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Day 95: The Girl Who Played with Fire

Cover for The Girl Who Played with FireThe Girl Who Played with Fire is the second in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. As the transitional book between the first and third, it is not quite up to the level of the first book; however, it is still exciting. The first time I read it, I was riveted, but on my reread, I noticed a few occasions where the writing was more journalistic than desirable. Nevertheless, it is still a real thriller and absolutely essential to read if you are going to finish the trilogy.

Lisbeth Salander’s visit to her evil guardian upon her return from her travels abroad creates a conspiracy against her. Her guardian is tired of toeing the line and decides to have her killed.

Mikael Blomqvist is soon investigating a crime, too. He has been working with a freelance journalist, Dag Svensson, to publish a piece on sex trafficking. When he stops by one evening, he finds Svensson and his girlfriend, Mia Johansson, recently shot dead.

As the investigation proceeds, Salander’s guardian is also murdered, and the police discover links to the murders of Svensson and Johansson. Lisbeth Salander finds she is being framed for all the murders, despite her never having met Svensson or Johansson.

Blomqvist is convinced that Salander is innocent. With Salander hiding out and following the leads from her side, Blomqvist tries to figure out who Svensson may have been investigating that resulted in his murder.

Day 32: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Cover for The Girl with the Dragon TattooBest Book of Week 7!

Maybe everyone has read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. But if you are one of the few who have not, you are missing an exciting thriller.

Editor and writer Mikael Blomkvist has just lost a libel case brought by a billionaire industrialist named Wennerström concerning Blomkvist’s allegations of corruption. Blomkvist has been sentenced to three months in prison. He had carefully checked his facts but then one of his witnesses recanted. In order to separate his magazine, Millenium, from this problem, he resigns.

After he gets out of jail, he is approached for a job by Henrik Vanger, the retired head of Vanger Corporation. Vanger wants Blomkvist to find out what happened to his great-niece Harriet, who disappeared off the family’s private island 36 years earlier during a day when the island was cut off from the mainland by an accident blocking the only bridge. He is afraid that some member of his family murdered her. He yearly receives a pressed flower on his niece’s birthday and believes the killer is expressing remorse through this means.

Although Blomkvist is initially reluctant, he eventually accepts the job and goes to live on the island. When he decides he needs a research assistant, Vanger’s lawyer connects him with Lisbeth Salander, a child-sized woman who dresses in a goth style and has a dragon tattoo.

Salander is a computer genius with a difficult past. When she was a teenager, she was institutionalized and is still under the care of a legal guardian, who controls her money and can have her institutionalized at any time. She is hostile and uncommunicative, and few people have bothered to try to get to know her. After her guardian has a stroke, he is replaced by Nils Bjurman, who uses his position to sexually abuse her.

Bjurman has seriously misjudged Salander, however, and she takes care of this problem in one of the most satisfying scenes of the novel.

As Blomkvist and Salander investigate Harriet Vanger’s disappearance, they begin to believe that they may be on the track of a serial killer. Ultimately, Blomkvist finds himself in grave danger.

With a complex, interesting plot, an engaging hero and formidable heroine, a slew of interesting characters, and a sense of Swedish politics and law, you will lap up this book and go looking for the next one. Larsson was an activist with strong feelings about violence against women, a theme in all of his books.