Book for March 2010
An epic tale of serial murder and corporate trickery spanning several continents, the novel takes in complicated international financial fraud and the buried evil past of a wealthy Swedish industrial family. Through its main character, it also references classic forbears of the crime thriller genre while it stylistically follows and mixes aspects of the sub-genres. There are mentions of Astrid Lindgren, Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers; as well as Sue Grafton, Val McDermid, Elizabeth George, Sara Paretsky, and several other key figures in the history of the detective novel.
A middle-aged journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, publishes the magazine Millennium in Stockholm. In the opening courtroom drama, Blomkvist loses a libel case brought by accused Swedish industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström, and this has serious repercussions for the future of Millennium. In disgrace, Blomkvist agrees to be hired by Henrik Vanger, the aged former CEO of the Vanger companies, owned by a wealthy but dysfunctional dynasty. The old man offers not only to help his financially strapped magazine, but also to give him information to prove that Wennerström is corrupt. Officially, he is to spend a year writing the Vanger family history.
Blomkvist's real mission, however, is to solve a cold case—the disappearance, some forty years previously, of Vanger's great-niece Harriet when she was sixteen. Blomkvist encounters "the old Miss Marple locked-room scenario" with all the rich suspects marooned on the family estate on an island, "a village we grow familiar with, full of hostile locals peering out from behind their curtains".
Blomkvist reads crime novelists Sue Grafton, Val McDermid and Elizabeth George and enjoys amateur sleuthing and investigative journalism, all of which assists him with Henrik Vanger's investigation. The locked-room scenario applies since the island on that fateful day was sealed off from the mainland due to a road-tanker crash on the only bridge. Henrik Vanger believes that Harriet (his brother's granddaughter) was murdered by one of his family members on the island. In addition, Harriet had given Henrik a present of pressed flowers every year since she was eight years old. On Henrik's birthday the year after Harriet's vanishing, he again received a present of pressed flowers, and he continued to receive such flowers, sent from various parts of the world, which he believes to be sent by the killer.
Blomkvist comes to feel that he can discover nothing new. But the real main character of the story now appears — Lisbeth Salander, an asocial punk who has been victimized by authorities throughout her life. By accident, she meets Blomkvist and the unlikely couple form another classic detective pair where the hunters become the hunted. When Blomkvist teams up with Salander, their delving into family secrets sheds a disturbing and shocking light on the four-decade-long puzzle.
Larsson was initially a political activist for the Kommunistiska Arbetareförbundet (Communist Workers League), a photographer, and one of Sweden's leading science fiction fans. In politics he was the editor of the Swedish Trotskyist journal Fjärde internationalen. He also wrote regularly for the weekly Internationalen. As a science fiction fan, he was co-editor or editor of several fanzines, including Sfären, Fijagh! and others; in 1978-1979 he was president of the largest Swedish science fiction fan club, Skandinavisk Förening för Science Fiction (SFSF).
He worked as a graphic designer at the largest Swedish news agency, Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT) between 1977 and 1999. Larsson died in Stockholm at the age of 50 of a heart attack.
At his death, Larsson left the manuscripts of three completed but unpublished novels - The Millennium series. He wrote them for his own pleasure after returning home from his job in the evening, making no attempt to get them published until shortly before his death. The first of these novels was published in Sweden in 2005 as Män som hatar kvinnor ("Men who hate women"), published in English as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.