End Date: December 29th
Author: Stieg Larsson
Narrator: Simon Vance
Genre: Mystery & Suspense
Length: 16 hours and 19 minutes
Selected By: Lady Esbe
Lady Esbe’s Score:
“Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.”
Lady Esbe’s Review
I watched the Swedish version of this movie a few years ago with Noomi Rapace and loved it, even with the subtitles. Which made me think, “wow, the books must be amazing”. So far, I’m not disappointed. I’ve been looking for a great mystery for a while now and unfortunately, this book is over thirteen years old and I’ve not read anything recently that could compare.
While the book is dubbed for Lisbeth Salander, we spend more time with embattled journalist, Mikael Blomkvist. However, their stories become very much entwined. I believe at the outset, Blomkvist was set up to become embroiled in a legal battle regarding libel that causes him jail time and to put his publication Millennium to be placed in a precarious position. Enter Henrik Vanger, an octogenarian patriarch of the very dysfunctional Vanger family to “save the day.”
While Blomkvist has resigned himself to his fate, the tale that Henrik tells him, intrigues his investigative mind and off on the adventure we go. Henrik offers not only a mystery to be solved regarding his family’s history, he also gives Millennium a way out of its financial woes.
Blomkvist is passionate. Not only in his work, but also in his relations. Lady’s man? Man whore? Take your pick, but he enjoys his life no matter what. He’s been in a long term off and on relationship with his business partner, Erika Berger, who just happens to be married. He then becomes involved with Cecelia Vanger with his self-imposed pre-prison exile to the Hedeby Island. I guess if he works hard, he feels he should play just as hard. However, he never leads anyone on and he’s straightforward in his business dealings, as well as, his personal life. I can appreciate his cleverness and his ability sift through the noise and find the answer to most mysteries. While he’s a study in practical and old school research, we must turn our attention to the new breed of investigator.
Lisbeth Salander’s appearance is off-putting to must people she runs across, as she’s got a punk rock vibe but with a strange demeanor that made me immediately think, “she’s got Asperger’s”. She’s got the classic nuances of the condition and I guess if we go back to 2005, and even before when she was growing up, she would not have been diagnosed with the condition. While she appears to be “retarded”, that is the perception she wishes to portray, as it keeps her would be enemies off kilter. How can you truly combat someone who is basically playing chess with you when you are playing checkers? Her investigative skills are intuitive and dogmatic but relies heavily on technology. In spite of her impressive body of work, she likes to catch her targets unawares. She has no problem using her slight build to catch those who would use physical intimidation off guard, think the guardian who thought sexual misconduct was a wonderful way to spend his tenure. I didn’t like the scene in the movie of her rape, but boy did I enjoy the book and the movie’s vengeance scene.
One of the best things about this novel is that we have the pairing of the Blomkvist and Lisbeth. They compliment each other in a way that causes people attempting to get close to Lisbeth for years to become jealous and frustrated. However, Blomkvist is able to start an investigation and with the help of Lisbeth find the answers that are just beyond his reach.
This novel tackle quite a few issues. Gender relation issues, in that Larson recites a few times the number of Swedish women who are assaulted in both relationships and in general. Corruption and gender relations, by showing how Lisbeth’s guardian thought he was able to withhold her own funds from her and make her pay for access by using her body. The dysfunction of family and the not so secret issues of a family come to the fore with the Vangers. Not only are there known Nazis in the family, but potential murderers, rapists and just some plain weirdos. It would appear that Mr. Larson is very interested in drawing attention to social injustices within the Swedish society, or society in general when you think about the implications. He created an extreme situation for Lisbeth, but it shows you that there are not everything is as it seems and maybe it pays to delve a little deeper and on the behalf of the social outcasts.
Overall, I an loath to call this a mystery. There are elements of mystery here. However, it’s more conspiracy and dysfunction that drives this novel/series forward. I’ll be honest, I’ve moved on in the series, completing the first trilogy and now am on to the continued series by David Lagercrantz. I’m hoping that he is able to craft the same level of intrigue with a gentle building of a spider’s web that turns everything on its ear when the resolution and revelations are revealed. Great series, I just hope the American film industry doesn’t totally screw the pooch on the theatrical renditions.
The performance by Simon Vance was an asset to the story. I wasn’t distracted or annoyed. His rendition did have me pausing at my keyboard, on edge for the next revelation. Good job, sir.
Lady Esbe’s Favorite Character(s): Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist.
Lady Esbe listened to the Audible version of this selection.