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Old 09-23-2015, 12:33 AM View Post #1 (Link) The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
ScottyMcGee (Offline)
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I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a long time ago, like in 2011, and within the past couple months I read the last two books in the Millennium trilogy. So my memory of the first book may be scant compared to the second and third.

Vintage Crime/Black Lizard edition - the ones I bought. These are the most common.


Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who works for a magazine called Millennium, which is dedicated to bringing down corruption in any form. Unfortunately, Mikael has just been in prison for being accussed of libel against the billionaire Hans-Erik Wennerström, leaving him and the magazine in a precarious position.

He is called over suddenly by Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of a big family company. Henrik's grandniece Harriet has been missing since 1966, and he believes someone in the family murdered her. In helping solve the case, Henrik will give Mikael evidence of Wennerstrom's corruption.

On the sidelines, we follow the plot of Lisbeth Salandar - a troubled young woman of genius intellect who is assigned to do a background check on Mikael. Their paths eventually cross as the investigation on Harriet Vanger's disappearance gets more intense. . .

This is a thriller, so it's a heavy plot-related book. To date, I have never really read an author who has gone into such scrupulous detail on the background - such as computers, security systems, rape statistics, Swedish history - it feels part documentary and part fiction. No doubt, Stieg Larsson was inspired by issues concerning women's rights and feminism - the book deals heavily on abuse against women.

On paper, some of these parts should sound exceptionally boring; they're basically infodumps. Stieg went on long paragraphs about this background stuff like tedious footnotes. But I ended up breezing through them because I wanted to know how all of this related to Lisbeth and Mikael. But Stieg knew his shit nonetheless.

At some points though, the writing was so detailed that it got a bit painful. By detailed I mean Stieg cares to write about every little action, such as the t-shirt Lisbeth just put on, or the kind of laptop she uses, and a series of mundane actions, etc, etc. It feels like he was just buffering between the good parts. As a writer personally, I just couldn't go that much into detail on mundane actions. I'm of the philosophy that everything has to have a purpose and move forward. Then again, concerning the scenes with Lisbeth, what she does and wears and uses is a reflection of her character. She speaks very little, keeping to herself and her solitary lifestyle.

I read this book before I got into cold cases. As a hobby, I like to research cold cases and create my own files, and I want to become an amateur sleuth one day. In retrospect, I understand now why this first story gripped me, and how it even still grips me long after I found out what happened to Harriet Vanger.

The investigation follows Harriet's disappearance in such a small timeframe. A festival was going in town on the day she disappeared, but Harriet had already returned to the family's island estate and disappeared, despite the fact that the bridge was blocked by a truck accident. Where did she go? Nobody found any body despite the countless searches. She didn't drown in the water around the island. In the meantime, once every year on Henrik's birthday since Harriet's disappearance, someone leaves a flower for Henrik, seemingly taunting him. Stieg set everything up for a classic brainteaser mystery. It's the stuff that's inspired by those creepy cold cases where the victim seemingly vanished out of thin air and any clue leads to a dead end.


The second book in the Millennium trilogy picks up about two years after the Vanger affair. Lisbeth is on her own vacationing and meanwhile Mikael is enjoying a boom at Millenium. Two gifted journalists, Dag and Mia, approach Millennium with a story on the biggest sex trafficking scandal that will shock Sweden. In the days before the story is published, Dag and Mia are found in dead in their apartment. The prime suspect? Lisbeth Salander.

The Girl who Played with Fire is where shit gets crazy.

Like really crazy.

It's actually my least favorite and one reason is because Stieg Larsson spent time near the beginning rehashing most events from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which was jarring. There's also an explosion of secondary characters - a whole slew of inspectors and officers in the Swedish police, plus some of these other people and like---it's enough to spin your head. I eventually was reading so fast that I just blocked out some of the lesser important people in my head and focused solely on the important players.

And yet it's also the most exciting of the trilogy.

It takes a while for Lisbeth's predicament to really happen, though. I was surprised. I thought it would have happened right away. I sort of almost forgot what the book was about halfway through. The beginning is actually about a long subplot concerning Lisbeth during her vacation and how she runs into a wife-beater staying at the resort. The Dag and Mia story takes a while to kick off, because unsurprisingly there's more infodumping, especially about the story they want to publish.

But then once Dag and Mia die, it's like someone just tripped a bomb with a timer. The plot goes faster and faster from then on. The plot borders absurdity at times though, and yet it's strangely realistic.

The other bummer was Lisbeth's lack of "screen time", so to say, after she supposedly killed Dag and Mia and the police are looking for her. It felt kind of. . .contrived that Stieg purposely removed her point of view for like 200 pages or whatever as everyone else tries to figure out the truth behind Lisbeth. I don't know why exactly, or how to put it, but I just felt that was kind of stupid. Since the first book and everything leading up to the murder in the second book, we already are in Lisbeth's head. Then when she is convicted of the murder Stieg is like "Okay, now we're going to move you here" and you're like "Wait, wait, but Lisbeth--" "Ssshh!" Ironically, it's what made me read faster - so maybe it wasn't such a stupid move after all. Just a guilelful trick.


For reasons which I won't spoil, the last book immediately opens up with Lisbeth being rushed to the ER. From there, Mikael vows to fight back the grand conspiracy to take down the cabal of spies who ruined her life. We suddenly start reading a book about spies and government conspiracies.

Not going to lie, I thought this book was going to be dull. I assumed it was going to be a lot of waiting around and talking as Lisbeth recovers and is put to trial. But it was quite the opposite. Suddenly we get tangled into a spy plot - I'm telling you - it gets insane.

As a tiny downside, we get more infodumping, this time about the Cold War and Sweden and defectors, and then we are introduced to yet another slew of secondary (ish) characters who are all against Lisbeth Salander. Strangely though, I like this better than The Girl Who Played with Fire. It feels more thought out. The Girl Who Played with Fire, as intense as it was, felt more of a mess. The final book is a satisfying end to a nightmarish thriller trilogy. I was satisfied with the fate of all the characters, and Larsson certainly ties everything up.

In the entire trilogy, we go from a cold case in a small rich family to sex trafficking to Cold War spies.

I had trouble summarizing to my mother what the trilogy was about - it's about so many things by the end.

But really, to sum it up - it's about violence against women. It comes in many forms. Strangers. Lovers. Family. Co-workers. Doctors. Government. That's really what the Millennium Trilogy is about - violence against women. Just that broad category.

For the most part, Stieg wrote off this theme pretty well as a natural part of the stories. There was one part though in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest where Mikael had a bit of dialogue near the end that literally sounded like a PSA announcement about violence against women. Other than that, the message isn't being too obvious. You want to dropkick every guy introduced in the book, even Mikael at times.

The biggest downside I would have about the trilogy as a whole is the infodumping. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is slow to start. It's also the shortest of the three and gets to the point faster, which is one reason why it's my favorite of the three. We're talking though like books that are 500 or 600+ pages. They go by fast. But there can be lulls with the intense infodumping.

I would consider Stieg Larsson's series to be up there in the thriller hall of fame. It certainly stands out amongst a sea of other crap.

Even though I have no knowledge of Swedish, the first edition Swedish books look really cool. The cool part is that the cover pages act as though Millennium is a real magazine.

Only thieves kiss with their eyes open.
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