I did say in my previous post that I'd write a review on Stieg Larsson's 'The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest' however, in order to do that properly I'd have had to have already written about the first two. As a compromise I have decided to make this post about my thoughts on the Millenium Trilogy all together.
Now, allow me to start by making a confession: if it weren't for my sister pushing the first book onto me I would never have picked it up, media hype be damned. The way it was being covered and raved about didn't appeal to me and I was feeling quite comfortable in my fantasy genre armchair. As it is Jess made it appeal to me, she described Lisbeth Salander and I definitely decided to give it a fair chance.
The author himself, Stieg Larsson, sadly passed away before he could publish the Millenium Trilogy and see what a global success it would become. Now the notes/potentially almost finished copies of the fourth and fifth books are locked away never to see light whilst his family and his lover fight over money and everything else in court.
I don't usually look to deeply into the background of the author but was intrigued at some of the parallels that could be drawn between real life and characters. Mr Larsson was a journalist and political activist who spent the last 15 years of his life under constant threat from right wing violence due to him doing political research and consequently publishing a book exposing some extreme right and racist organisations in Sweden. On top of this it has also been reported that, aged 15, Larsson witnessed a gang rape - starting in him an absolute hatred of violence and abuse against women. The name of this girl was said to be Lisbeth.
On to the books themselves:
As with most good books we are instantly drawn in to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo with a little bit of intrigue in the prologue before then being introduced to our two main characters Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. Slight problem: when I read I do like to know how to pronounce the names of the characters but Blomkvist totally alludes me and my head has most probably totally bastardised the correct pronounciation, but it's the only way I could carry on reading without getting hung up on it. Now, Mr Blomkvist, part owner of Millenium magazine, has just had a court case blow up in his face (not literally) and we are shown what sort of character he is - stubborn and not going to budge on his feelings. this is evidenced, to great effect throught the entire trilogy. Lisbeth Salander is introduced to us as working for Milton Security company and as being an antisocial, chain smoking, computer hacking genius. Despite all this I find myself liking her, a lot.
The first book deals with Mikael dealing with a jail sentence and then being hired to unwrap a decades old murder mystery and living on an island for a year where the possible murderer could also be staying. Lisbeth comes into this by having been hired by the same people to look into Mikael's background. This all ends up with the two getting caught up in a whole sordid mess of murders, disappearances, physical & other violence and just a few (note sarcasm) scenes of a sexual nature - which doesn't come across as put in just for the hell of it but all seems rathe relevant to the book, very well done in my opinion. What did get me was how the relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth seemed to work. It was built up rather quickly and, Mikael especially, a trust and slight loyalty started to form to the extent of one saving the other's life (in hindsight I say: 'quid pro quo Clarice').
Now, as it's a trilogy you'd be forgiven for picking up the second book and expecting to read all about how Mikael and Lisbeth are working on many different cases together and reminiscing on how they first met, you'd be so wrong! Played With Fire has barely any same room interaction between the two, rather new for me seeing as I'm used to books with main characters actually have them spend time together. Lisbeth is off jetsetting/hiding out around the world with newly acquired money. Whilst back in Sweden we are introduced to an up and coming journalist/writer Dag Svensson and his girlfriend who have been investigating the sex traffic trade in Sweden. The girlfriend had written a thesis on it and he went further with her findings to eventually turn it into a news story at Millenium. It seems, after the Wennerstrom affair, Millenium is the mag to go to for honest but damning exposes on anyone and everyone. Unfortunately Dag and his girlfriend are murdered and it seems our dear Lisbeth is looking rather guilty in the police's (and possibly the readers) eyes.
This leaves Mikael to carry on the research as well as do some extra in an attempt to prove Lisbeth's innocence and find out who really did it. From this point on we are introduced to complicated stories of a defecting soviet spy and the subsequent cover up by Swedish Secret Services, a branch of the swedish Police that even the Swedish Police don't know about and we learn a little bit more about Lisbeth's early life. I could try to disassemble all of this but my post is getting long enough and my brain will hurt!
Lisbeth, in a bid to expose the truth gets herself, and her friends, into a lot of trouble and she almost gets herself killed which is where this book ends (on a cliffhanger!) and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest picks up. Not 1 or 2 months down the line though, but that night! It picks up so well that, if it weren't for the size of the books, I'd almost say it could've just been the next chapter. This book goes from crime-thriller to more of a crime-legal vein with Lisbeth stuck up in a hospital bed for most of it and, yet again, barely an face-to-face contact with Mikael that does work so well here. This final installment serves to clear up any confusion us readers had from the previous book: Who was involved in the sex trade and why it was covered up (still remember that bit of the story, it becomes slightly overshadowed); the people behind the secret operation in the police force as well as the reasons for Lisbeth being framed. These are just a few of the main areas covered, there's so much more that goes on including the unravelling of Lisbeth's life and why she is who she is and acts how she does: averse to making any real human contact or getting too close to people, so cold and impersonal and seemingly uncaring.
This book, and the trilogy as a whole, ends with a brilliant court case that had me gripped (and letting out occasional 'woohoo's of pride) and Lisbeth having to deal with her change of status and no longer needing to hide.
Crime fiction didn't used to be my first choice but these books have definitely gone into my top ten list. Larsson changed pace and tactics quite a few times throughout which definitely kept me wondering and coming back for more. It also helps that this is a man who did his research and knew what he was writing about, you as a reader aren't going to feel talked down to or mollycoddled in any way, it's all out there: unapologetic and all the better for it. This is so unlike what we're used to with most media and films - the 'nasty' parts briefly mentioned in passing then hidden under a throw so as not to make us squirm.
If you want a thrilling read with a dramatic setting then definitely pick up these books (make sure you have all three to hand). Do not expect them to be quick little 'holiday reads', you will want to take time off work for this.