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[312] The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson

” The only reasonable explanation I can give is that over the years the Section developed into a cult in the true sense of the word. They became like Knutby, or the pastor Jim Jones, or something like that. They write their own laws, within which concepts like right and wrong have ceased to re relevant. And through these laws they imagine themselves isolated from normal society. ” [24:446]

The last sentence of the quote reminds me of Rasolnikov from Crime and Punishment. Above the law. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest picks up the one loose end from the previous installment, The Girl Who Played with Fire, the leaves readers on the edge of the seat. What’s becoming of the hacker with a photogenic memory?Although the quirky Lisbeth Salander’s history has been revealed, she is now fighting for her life in more than one ways. Lying in critical condition, a bullet wound in her head, she is to stand trial for three murders upon recovery. Journalist Mikhail Blomkvist once again puts his life at risk to expose the insidiousness and insinuations of the security police, which has subjected Salander to a lifetime of injustice.

Her constitutional rights are being violated by the very people who ought to be protecting her. [11:212]

While the previous book saturates in quick action and violence, the final novel of the Millennium trilogy is committed to a more subdued plot set in motion by espionage and counter espionage. Unbeknowst to Stieg Larsson that this would be the last book over (he planned for 10 in this series), Lisbeth Salander exists predominantly in the background despite she alone is the heart of the matter. From the age of twelve, she has been a victim of cruel conspiracy. Some high-level secret clique in the security police has decided to conspire against her in order to protect a pathological murderer who was a source of valuable information. The goal is to bury the girl so deep, with the help of psychiatrist who fabricated diagnostic report that would lock her up in the asylum, that she will never come back to haunt them.

How is it that civil servants in the Swedish government will go so far as to commit murder? [24:445]

Running parallel to Lisbeth’s story is a case of sexual harassment and hate mails against Erika Berger, who has taken the chief editor job at Sweden’s largest newspaper. With the stalker still at large, she is caught between loyalties as Millennium is about to run a story that exposes her new boss’s exploit of child labor in Vietnam. On top of Lisbeth Salander’s struggle to prove her mental competence and innocence, Stieg Larsson also imbues a world view about justice: to denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable to suffer abuse, violence, and injustice.

565 pp. Hardback. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

[306] The Girl Who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson

” The accusations against Salander are based on a single direct piece of evidence—her fingerprints on the murder weapon. Which, I remind you, is proof that she handled the weapon but no proof that she fired it at the murder victims. ” [29:642]

Dag Svensson is a freelance journalist who leaves very few loose ends in his stories, which are, unlike the usual pretentious social reporting, rid of heavy-handed rhetoric. He and his girlfriend Mia Johansson, a gender studies scholar, have been collaborating on a piece about sex trade: How prostitutes, many of whom underage, are lured to Sweden to escape social misery at home in Eastern Europe. Just before the explosive exposé is published in Millennium, they are brutally murdered in their apartment.

Maybe it’s not the book itself. Maybe they had done too much snooping and managed to…I don’t know…maybe someone felt threatened. And hired a hit man . . . This book is about the exploiters, the users. It names police officers, politicians, journalists . . . [14:303]

Indeed, the manuscript is a sure-fire motive for the murder, because the journalist’s planned exposure of prostitute clients would have done more than merely hurt a number of men. Some of the prominent players, ironically, several of whom had handed down verdicts of sex crimes, assisted in the investigation, and helped enforce law protecting minors, should be annihilated. The fingerprints on the murder weapon, however, belong to Lisbeth Salander, the troubled hacker genius who had saved Mikael Blomkvist’s life in their Vanger investigation. She is sighted at the victims’ apartment before the murder. What is her connection to them?

Salander never did anything against her will or without thinking through the consequences. [16:351]

When Nils Bjurman, Salander’s guardian, is found dead in his apartment, Lisbeth is wanted for triple murder. While dodging the police and the unknown enemies, she trepasses into various computer network to afloat. Blomkvist, who refuses to accept police’s allegation that Lisbeth has committed homicides, launches his own investigation by checking Svensson’s list of exploiters. A series of far-fetched twists entails.

The problem was that even if a john who risked being exposed had decided to murder Svensson, there was, as yet, no prospect of such a link to Nils Bjurman. He did not feature in Svensson’s material . . . [23:507]

The eclectic, flawed underdog becomes prominent in this fast-pace novel with stunning twists. Bits of her dark past are inevitably revealed as investigation digs deeper into the murders. While reading The Girl Who Played with Fire, I cannot help thinking Larsson has found his stance in Mikael Blomkvist, a man with many crusades and causes, who wants to pinpoint flaws in society. He is always prepared to battle with public figures to ensure justice. Blomkvist is the conscience. His goal is to let morality steer his magazine. Issues that saturate this novel include sex trade, media ethic, police corruption, and authority abuse. It leaves me in gasp when the truth of the matter that seems to be within reach quickly tips over to another direction that lacks evident support. The probe on sex trade just happens to touch the nerves of those who swear to defend national top secret. The novel is a perfect illustration of how serendipity can go very wrong and dangerous. The intrigue of this one is more satisfying and addictive than the first.

724 pp. Mass Paperback. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]

[305] The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

” But Blomkvist was beginning to see that Harriet’s fate had played a central role in the family, and especially for Henrik Vanger. No matter whether he was right or wrong, Vanger’s accusation against his relatives was of great significance in the family history. The accusation had been aired openly for more than thirty years, and it had colored the family gatherings and given rise to poisonous animosities that had contributed to destabilising the corporation. ” [9:184]

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo consists of two tightly woven plots of which the connection hinges on a Swedish journalist Mikael Blomvkist, who publishes a calumnous attack about a powerful financier and is sentenced to jail, fined a ruinous sum. His career is torn to shreds. He has resigned from his position as a publisher of the magazine Millennium more or less in disgrace. His only hope is the fulfillment of a strange assignment from an industrialist, Henrik Vanger, who hires him to write the history of the Vanger family as a pretext to investigate the disappearance of his then 14-year-old grand-niece, Harriet Vanger.

Whether he might light upon Harriet’s killer or not, the aging tycoon, agonized by the unsolved case for 36 years, promises to rebuild the journalist’s career and rescue the magazine. Blomkvist is aided by Lisbeth Salander, the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy who contributes to the title of the book. A social outcast who survives abuse in all forms, the anorexic-looking girl can discern patterns in things ordinary people miss and uses photographic memory to accomplish her goals.

The fact that he was going to be reinstated as publisher emphasised that Millennium felt it had nothing to be ashamed of. In the eyes of the public, credibility was no problem—everyone loves a conspiracy theory, and in the choice between a filthy rich businessman and an outspoken and charming editor in chief, it was not hard to guess where the public’s sympathies would lie. [14:293]

From a cold case in which police failed to prove that a murder had been committed, the duo uncovers new leads in the form of overlooked photographs and date book entries. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo does not intrigue readers with twists and turns galore, but proceeds like peeling the layers of an onion, insinuating the labyrinth of secrets covered by one another. At one point the novel leads one to believe that the victim fell prey to a religious cult that clothes its atrocious actions with the parody of biblical quotations. Wild imagination and suggestion of evidence also lead to the conclusion of a serial killer. Every member of the Vanger family answers the call of suspicion, consider that a continuous animosity has existed over the years. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo lives up to its hype with its finely crafted plot, fully enriched by evidence and humanity of the characters. It shows how human interaction is almost always more trouble than it is worth, as the duo unveils shocking evidence of violence, physical and sexual, against women. The book is fulfilling in many levels, given that appearances in one case has pointed one way while the truth all the while unsuspected in another direction. This novel mainly focuses on Mikael Blomkvist’s revenge; Lisbeth Salander, being the eclectic and engaging character she is, shall deserve the spotlight in upcoming installments.

644 pp. Mass Paperback. [Read/Skim/Toss] [Buy/Borrow]