The Girl Who…. Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

Let me be straight with you, lest I color your perception of these books: I am a big ole scaredy cat. The biggest. I love reading mysteries, but most do not make me curl up into the fetal position. The last scary movie I watched was What Lies Beneath with Michele Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford. I saw it at the theater and lay across the theater seats of my then-boyfriend and his best friend, crying. (They were not amused.) I cannot watch Law & Order: SVU even though I love it. Law & Order: Criminal Intent? Forgettaboutit. I can handle murder, violence, and mayhem, but sexual torture? Torture in general? Nope. Can’t do it.

Flash forward to the night I stayed up devouring The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I. Was. Petrified. Sexual torture mixed with a basement full of torture devices and Biblical punishment meted out by a madman? I broke out in a cold sweat. I couldn’t get up and check my alarm system because my bed was the only safe haven anywhere, and the light from my bedside lamp, while reassuring, also ensured I was visible to the evil outside my lair. Suffice it to say, I was not looking forward to the other books.

However, a friend whose opinion I trust told me the next book wasn’t so bad. Last week, I borrowed it and read it cover to cover. If you’ve read this far, you probably know a bit about the books, so I won’t spend too much time summarizing. Lisbeth Salander, the antisocial, enigmatic young woman with a violent streak is back in The Girl Who Played with Fire. She has spent time in many different countries and returns to Sweden to determine the best way to have Nils Bjurman, her guardian, declare her competent (some mystery from her past caused Salander to be institutionalized as a child). No worries; she has something to hold over his head, and of course, she has a plan.

Mikael Blomvqist is back as well, sleeping around as usual, and is occasionally curious about Salander. He and two journalists, Dag and Mia, are working on a scoop about sexual trafficking in Sweden. Very quickly, Dag and Mia are murdered, Blomqvist finds them, and in a strange twist, Salander is being hunted as the killer. The tale that unravels involves the Soviet Union, spies, conspiracy, a killer with a disorder that makes him feel no pain, Salander, and a mysterious figure named Zalachenko. (Yes, really). I won’t give any more away, but I will say that the book ends abruptly with quite a cliffhanger. I borrowed the next book and learned that Larsson originally intended the first three books to be one continuous volume.

The other thing I learned (through reading – couldn’t confirm it anywhere) is that absolutely no one chose to edit these last two books. The first book was fast paced and had a tightly-written mystery, although the ending did seem to drag a bit. The second two books were full of such unbelievable coincidences and strange rabbit holes that the lack of editing was glaring. I still enjoyed the books because I am intrigued by Salander’s character and wanted to know more about her. However, the loose ends and the blatant tying of those ends lacked the initial ingenuity of the trilogy and left me again questioning if there was an editor. Was there some argument that since Larsson died, no one could edit the manuscripts? Was it for posterity’s sake? I’m really asking. If you know the answer, please comment. I think, as a writer, Larsson would have preferred the polished end product editing provides.

Instead, the public is left with The Girl Who… mania and not a whole lot of consistency and a bit too much substance, at times. It also struck me that these three books are almost totally different genres. The first book is two parts mystery, two parts thriller. The second book is suspenseful but reads more like a John Le Carre novel than an out-and-out mystery. The third book is pure John Grisham. Salander sits in a hospital bed for most of it, using her personal computer device to track down information and to determine the identity of Ericka Berger’s stalker. Whaaa? There is a laughable trial where the attorneys parade in witnesses but also speak to people in the courtroom who aren’t testifying. Whaa? Then, when the book is presumably over, Salander stumbles upon the killer from the second book and survives. Whaaa?

There is talk of someone taking Larsson’s extensive plot notes and character sketches for the other seven planned books and completing them. I’ll make my formal request to a writer who is alive and kicking and who writes thoughtful, complex, well-edited novels: Ian Rankin. Or, better yet, Mr. Rankin: pleeeease write more Inspector Rebus novels.

Devolving from an intelligent series to a John Grisham pulp, the last two books of The Girl Who…trilogy are not ideal, and I hoped for a lot more from this promising series.


18 responses to “The Girl Who…. Trilogy by Stieg Larsson

  • iliana

    I agree, the three books seem to fall into different genres. I loved the first one and the second one had so much action that I didn’t even care about some of the absurdities but the third one really didn’t cut it for me. One of the things that got on my nerves was that Salander doesn’t seem as a major force in the third book. She’s sort of on the sidelines for much of the time and then there was the Mikael romance with the investigator. Yuck.

    Now, if Rankin could pick up the series that would be great. Or Peter Robinson too! 🙂

  • NatalieTahoe

    Great post! I have to say, I was the most disappointed with the 3rd one. I actually just finished that one today, and although I’m really, really hoping that they find the perfect writer to pick up the series, I almost just want them to do one final book to tie everything up and write, edit, and finish it based on how Stieg Larsson would have captured it. I felt that the first one was so good (albeit frightening!), that it just blew the other ones out of the water. I didn’t mind the last 2 being different genres completely, but the last one just seemed a little blah at first and then it picked up, and then it ended and I thought that it was just a little too perfect. Whoever picks it up has my loyalty to buy that book, just out of sheer curiosity. Remember when they did the same thing with V.C. Andrews and the “Flowers in the Attic” stories?

    I heard that they’re bringing the books to Hollywood, which is exciting, but I was a little bummed to hear that Brad Pitt is going to play Mikael Blomkvist — I’ve honestly never been a big fan of his, but I hope he does the character justice. I’ve got the Swedish movie on my Netflix for whenever it comes out in the States!

    • pickygirlfoodfilmfiction

      I didn’t mind them being different genres, but it was weird. I’ve never quite read a series that felt that way.

      I just don’t see Pitt as Blomkvist. Doesn’t fit to me. I would like to see the movies eventually though.

  • NatalieTahoe

    I agree — very bizarre and completely different stories, like different authors for each book. I agree too about the love affair between Mikael and Figuerola. That seemed really weird, very contrived.

    I’m not sure who’s going to play Salander in the movie. I got so into Sweden after reading the first one that I found a Swedish newspaper that is fully translated into English that had a long back and forth argument in the comments section about Brad Pitt playing Mikael, it was pretty interesting to see the perspective over there. (They have a walking tour based on these books that highlight all of the places that are mentioned in the books). The way they were writing about it, they kept talking about the Swedish version of the movie, so it’s on my Netflix, can’t wait!

  • NatalieTahoe

    I don’t remember how I came across the website — I get sucked into a book and I end up researching all about it, but I think I was searching around and looking at pics of Sweden and the history (they just had the famous royal wedding — the princess married a personal trainer happened last week which was interesting!) — I think this is the site:

    It was definitely interesting — especially reading about how the government works, etc. I did read that their legal court system is very different than ours, so they can actually start talking to other people to get their testimony even though they have a witness on the stand — so different!!

  • NatalieTahoe

    I know — not sure if I’m liking the guys glasses, though — he should have skipped those for the wedding…! 🙂

  • NatalieTahoe

    VERY 80s style — no need for the glasses to take up the whole face!!

  • NatalieTahoe

    Exactly. Those pictures will be in the history books…forever…

  • NatalieTahoe

    Yeah, not sure about those other pics — I just jumped on the site now, and there are pictures everywhere which wasn’t how it was when I first jumped on there last month. A lot of around the town kinda pics…other countries look at the news so differently, you know?

  • NatalieTahoe

    Just continues to show how relaxed European nations can be, reminds me of all the newspapers in Italy! 🙂

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