My new favorite writer is Stieg Larsson, who wrote “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” Larsson was an editor and political activist in Sweden. He died in 2004 of a massive heart attack, not long after he had delivered his last three manuscripts to his publisher. Movies have already been made. My advice? Read the books first, in sequence, then see the Swedish language films.
The main characters in Larsson’s books are Mikael Blomkvist, a investigative journalist, and Lisbeth Salander, a quirky young computer geek with a photographic memory. Both have gone through hardships: Blomkvist goes to prison for libel of a major financial figure, and Salander, as a ward of the court, has undergone multiple horrors, which are the reason for her subsequent actions.
Blomkvist is offered a strange project: to investigate a disappearance of a young girl. As he begins to delve into this long ago mystery, he keeps peeling away new information by his close scrutiny of the news clippings and photographs taken. Lisbeth Salander uncovers the unsolved murders of other girls which appear to be linked to the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. The mysteries they deal with are like matryoshka, Russian stacking dolls. Within each mystery they confront are other even more personally challenging trials.
Larsson’s liberal sensitivities come across in his novels. The first book’s original Swedish title was “Men Who Hate Women,” and the reader can feel Larsson’s anger at the violence directed toward women. Blomkvist’s character seems to parallel Larsson’s own career in many ways. In these marvelous novels, the reader becomes absorbed by the personalities more than the action. Lisbeth Salander is surely the strongest female character to emerge in decades.
Grab copies of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” ,“The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” wherever you can find them. These books are the best mysteries to be written in a long time.