Stieg Larsson’s premature death has left the literary world pondering on the legacy of his three novels about the tattooed girl and the disputed almost-completed fourth. The novels have sold in phenomenal numbers and been translated into countless languages. The three feature films, in Swedish, have justly garnered praise and awards, and are highly recommended. It is with great dismay that we learn that Hollywood has decided to ‘remake’ so precipitately a series of films so brilliantly executed by Yellow Bird, who were the production team behind both the Swedish television and BBC television Walander series. Sadly, Americans won’t read subtitles and won’t go to films without indigenous actors.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first of the ‘Millennium’ novels - so named after the campaigning political journal reeling from a libel action brought by billionaire Swedish industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström: venal, corrupt, and ruthless. Campaigning journalist Mikael Blomkvist refuses to reveal his sources and is sentenced to three months in prison. He is offered a freelance assignment by an elderly businessman who, to reassure himself of Blomkvist’s bona fides, commissions a comprehensive investigation into his personal and professional history. The research is undertaken by Lisbeth Salander, the eponymous anti-heroine. Salander’s skills are learned through self-survival, and comprise state-of-the-art hacking expertise and surveillance and anti-surveillance techniques. At 25, Salander is still a ward of court, having been in institutional care since her youth, when she attempted to kill her father, soaking him with petrol and setting him on fire. (Her failure to finish him then has serious consequences for her in the subsequent novels.)
Salander is asocial, paranoid and highly suspicious of men. Gradually and grudgingly she nevertheless comes to trust Blomkvist, whom she assists in his investigation into a missing girl and whose life she saves in a particularly sadistic dénouement.
Perhaps overlong in its winding up, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is an undeniable tour de force, and refreshingly different. It has certainly provoked passion and debate with its graphic and shocking twists, rarely placating the listener with a pretence of normalcy. The English translation is seamless and the reading by Saul Reichlin faultless.
One thoroughly rewarding audiobook.
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