Mystery/Thriller - 465pgs
Knopf (first published 2005)
"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 iniquity and corruption."
Mickael Blomkvist started his career and his launch as a journalist by catching the famous Bear Gang of several big roberries. He runs Millenium paper with a femal partner, Erika Berger. He is soon taken to court for publishing material he has no substantial evindence for. His career is in shambles, as well as his newpaper in financial ruins.
Dragan Armansky, the head of Milton Security services, providing security consultations, counter-measures and personal protection, has hired Lisbeth Salander to do certain research projects for him. Her research is scientifically precise with footnotes, quotations, and source references. She is immensely meticulous paying attention to details that others most likely would over-look, but details that would turn out to be crucial to the tone and value of the investigation. She has a photographic memory photographic memory, as well as something along the lines of Asperger's syndrome, "a talent for seeing patterns and understanding abstract reasoning where other people perceive only white noise."
She is a peculiar anomaly in the eyes of almost everyone she sees, knows or meets, except for Mickael Blomkvist. "All attempts by a teacher or any authority figure to initiate a conversation with the girl about her feelings, emotional life, or the state of her health were met, to their great frustration, with a sullen silence and a great deal of intense staring at the floor, ceiling, and walls." She has a history of drinking, has been arrested several times and institutionalized into a psychiatric ward only to give her the following profile: "she must suffer from some kind of emotional disturbance, whose nature was of the sort that could not be left untreated." Her personal record reads heavy in negative representations: "grave risk of alcohol and drug abuse, and that she lacked self-awareness. By then her casebook was filled with terms such as introverted, socially inhibited, lacking in empathy, egofixated, psychopathic and asocial behaviour, difficulty in cooperating, and incapable of assimilating learning"
As a child, she has been bullied and has needed to take matters into her own hands. "They left her on the ground behind the gym. She stayed home for two days. On the morning of the third day she waited for her tormentor with a baseball bat, and she wacked him over the ear with it. For that prank she was sent to see the head teacher, who decided to report her to the police for assault, which resulted in a special welfare investigation." What happened to the boys that beat her up, almost pulverized her? Nothing. They were not even taken in for a police record. From an early age, she had decided for herself that she needed to take matters into her own hands and let her own fate be in her own hands. Just as well she wasn't going to consider herself a victim.
Her new guardian is an disgusting bastard, to say the least. "What she had gone through was very diffirent from the first rape in his office; it was no longer a matter of coercion and degradations. This was systematic brutality." She takes matters into her own hand as she had learned, having been taught by life until now. Lisbeth takes her control back, and blackmails Bjurman in the most ultimate fashion. She doesn't miss ONE single thing in the big picture; she covers all bases and makes sure all ends are tied in place.
After setting Bjurman straight, she takes the offer to join in on the investigation of Harriet Vanger's disappearance. While workin with Mickael Blomkvist, "she had never had an outsider to have this sort of conversation with, and she enjoyed the fact that he seemed impressed by her talents." Their relationship is one of the most endearing qualities of the book. It brings a warmth and an awe at the complementarity of the two characters when they find each other. Coming from such different backgrounds and storylines, it is fascinating how they link to one another with such ease and mutual understanding. They enter the Harriet Vanger project, together somewhere mid-way through the book. Who has murdered Harriet Vanger?
The character and story surrounding Harriet Vangers is absolutely fascinating. She is "introverted - like her brother - and as a teenager she became wrapped up in religion, unlike anyone else in the family. But she had a clear talen and she was tremendously intelligent." She comes from a antisemitic family, Nazi movement participants and members who support sterilisation of undesireable elements in population. Her father, Gottfried, was cowed and bullied when he was younger, an ousider, hiden away in his cabin and becoming a virtual alcoholic. Isabella, her mother, partied, and left the children constantly accepting no reponsibility for her life as a mother. Martin, her brother, grew up being abused by his father, latter in life accepting his 'duty' to touch and 'please' his father. Henrik Vanger, the man who hires Lisbeth and Mickael to solve the mistery of her death, has taken her on as his granddaughter earlier in life and ever since her disappearance he has been obsessed with finding out what has happened to her.
There are certain aspects of Harriet's character that are worth mentioning. A year before her disappearance, she undergoes certain psychological and behavioral changes that people notice are taking effect, and yet do nothing to reach her. "The girl who, two years earlier, was a lively teenager had begun to distance herself from everyone around her. In school she still spent time with her friends, but now she behaved in an 'impersonal' manner, as one of her friends described it." "In her last year she seemed to have become yet more religious." Later in the story she gives an explanation for why these things had occurred. "I was sixteen. I was scared. I was ashamed. I was desperate. I was all alone."
This thriller is about a serial rapist and murdere. What is the psychology behind that? In this book we have a peak at that. The murdere is being asked why he kills? His answer is,"it's a choice that I made. I could discuss the more and intellectual aspects of what I do; we could talk all night, but it wouldn't change anything. Try to look at it this way: a human being is a shell made of skin keeping the cells, blood, and chemical components in place. Very few end up in the history book." This murderer could just "kill women and clothe his actions in some sort of pseudo-religious clap-trap."
This book is focuses on several themes. Taking matters into your own hands and not being at the mercy of the government services to help you or protect you, chances are they probably wont in time when you really need them. We should never be too busy to listen to our loved ones when they reach out for us, and we need to reach out to those we think are slipping from us. Understand fringe elements in your society, and believe they could be hinding where you least expect it. Beware that you may fall prey to those who seemlingly allure you with 'goodies.' In Harriet's case it was "in the midst of this well-ordered, idyllic spot...The killing had been done so discreetly and was so well planned that no one was even aware that a serial killer was at work. How was that possible?"
Lastly, here are some statistics: (given in the book)
18% of the women in Sweden have at one time been threatened by a man
13% of the women in Sweden have been subjected to aggravated sexual assault outside of a sexual relationship
46% of the women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man
92% of the women in Sweden who have been subjected to sexual assault have not reported the most recent violent incident to the police