Book Review: The Girl Who Kicks All Kinds of Swedish Ass (The Millennium Trilogy)
-70s soft-core porn
-A history of infectious pop music from ABBA to Jens Lekman
The last one has no bearing on my review, sadly, but the previous three are directly linked to the Millennium trilogy, a series of books written by the recently deceased Stieg Larsson. Now, it has often been my practice to avoid buying books in a series. When it came to Harry Potter, I made a deal with a friend that if I accompanied her to those damnable midnight launch parties every time a new HP was due, I’d get first dibbs on borrowing her book. As for Twilight, I got them off my boyfriend’s 15 year old niece. Other series have inspired other tactics. Sometimes libraries, sometimes ‘borrowing’ without making that known, sometimes happening upon in a lost and found box, but never, ever buying. Right, well it was different this go around. I couldn’t lay my hands on these books fast enough, and by God, if I had to shell out a few euros to get them, then so be it.
Beginning with book one, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, we are introduced to Lisbeth Salander, a young woman of 24 who resembles a young boy of 14, works as an unerringly thorough researcher for a security firm, rides a motorcycle, is a whiz with computers and has been declared mentally incompetent by the Swedish government. Lisbeth has a deeply troubled past in which mental institutes and psychiatrists are heavily featured. Subsequently, she has a guardian to oversee her finances and keep tabs on her day to day life.
Enter Mikael Blomkvist. He’s a journalist on a mission to expose corporate corruption and reform lax practices in financial reporting. Unfortunately, he’s just been convicted of aggravated libel against a prominent Swedish businessman. Has Blomkvist been set-up? You can bet your last lingonberry he has. In a bid to save the reputation of his magazine, he distances himself by taking a job from a semi-retired business magnet to discover who murdered his niece 36 years ago. I mean, what else is he gonna do, right?
Salander and Blomkvist team up to unearth some uuuuuuhhhhgly family secrets as well as keep each other warm on those cold Swedish nights. And here’s where the porn connection comes in, Blomkvist is hittin’ it with everybody. I mean, I don’t think one prominent female character in this first book isn’t getting a little one on one with the do-gooder journalist. And Salander, she’s all about the boys and the girls. I don’t think I’ve ever read a crime book that features so much play. The Swedes, they like their naked-time.
By the time book two rolls around, The Girl Who Played with Fire, I’m thinking, there is no way this could be better than the first one, because the first one was awesome. Oh, Mama, I was so very wrong. This is totally the Godfather II of Swedish crime fiction. It’s better than the first! In this one we get to delve into Salander’s mysterious past and find out exactly what got her declared incompetent, and it’s a lulu. Do not fuck with this woman, she will go beyond cutting you, she will hatchet your ass. After dropping off the radar for a year, Salander returns to Sweden with a bulging bank account and a brand new pair of tittays. She don’t look like a boy no more. After buying a 22 room apartment, girl goes on an Ikea shopping spree that is detailed down to the stock numbers. She then gives herself an alias taken from a Pippi Longstocking story and takes up with an ex-girlfriend to give her new bust a trial run…oh, except she already did that with some 16 year old in Grenada.
I mean, doesn’t it sound amazing? You should read this stuff.
Blomkvist’s magazine is about to run a high profile issue on sex trafficking. Their new reporter, Dag Svensson, is going to blow the whistle on a handful of well-placed public servants who have had some inappropriate interactions with a few under-aged Eastern European prostitutes. And then what happens? BAM! Triple murder! Oh, and who’s suspect #1? Damn, Salander, you just got caught in the spider’s web. But it’s cool, because Blomkvist is on the case, even if you did cut all contact with him the year before.
Ending with an in-your-face cliff-hanger somewhat akin to The Empire Strikes Back, this one makes no excuses and practically screams, ‘Buy the next one or you’re out in the cold!’ Come to think of it, there’s a distinctly, ‘Luke, I am your father’ moment about two-thirds of the way in. AND Sweden is cold and snowy and Hoth was an ice planet….there’s a thesis in there somewhere.
So finally, I’ve just cracked the final book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. Initially, I was ready to poke fun at such an unwieldy title. Ugh, what a horrible translation, so clunky. Boy, was I wrong. One chapter in and I immediately get why this title is so apt. Salander has enough state secrets in her head to take down the entire Swedish government.
These are gripping books. Tightly written, well-paced, and unexpectedly informative on the issue of abuse against women and girls in Sweden, the Millennium series is well worth your time.
So, I now know five things about Sweden, all of the above plus great crime fiction. Oh, and how could I forget? This guy: