Hey! I’m back with another installment of ‘Time To Be A Grown-Up’ Thursday! This week I thought I’d tell y’all about a national bestseller that I deeply enjoyed: the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson, which consists of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
If you haven’t read these books yet, you may have seen them at your local bookstore, or even heard people talking about them (especially since they just cast the US version movies, but that’s a discussion for another time). The success of these books is unfathomable when you learn that the author, Stieg Larsson, was a virtual unknown in the crime/mystery genre and unexpectedly died before the books were published. He was thus unable to promote his books in the usual book tour/morning show route that many authors use. And his books were translated to English from Swedish. (Historically translated books do not make bestseller lists.)
So how did they become so popular?
The answer lies in the great word of mouth (i.e, what I’m doing right now) spawned by the books themselves, which bring mystery and murder to the 21st century. They have a gritty look at Sweden’s underbelly and introduce us to one of the most unique and fascinating characters in literature today: Lisbeth Salander.
In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we meet the primary characters of the trilogy, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. Mikael is an investigative reporter who co-owns an independent monthly publication named Millenium. He’s also relatively famous within the reporter world for his published works. He’s also an unapologetic divorcee in his 40s who doesn’t like labels applied to himself or his liaisons.
Lisbeth is another creature altogether. She’s a mysterious and secretive woman in her early 20s who has the unfortunate physique of a young teenager, which makes people around her perceive her to be weak. She works for a security company as a consultant researcher (What that really means is she digs into people’s backgrounds to find the dirt and skeletons in their closets). Because of her past she’s very distrusting of people, men especially, and has zero social aptitude. She’s an enigma that I needed to know more about. Thankfully the majority of the questions I had about her were answered at some point during the three books. Otherwise, I would be attempting to call upon Mr. Larsson’s spirit through every medium I could find.
While reading the first book, Mikael Blomkvist was a difficult character for me to connect to, mainly because of how he conducts his private life. His is the story we follow for the most part in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. At the start of it, he is convicted of slander of a very prominent businessman in Sweden, charged with a hefty fine and sentenced to serve three months in jail. Very soon after his conviction he’s contacted for a job, to look into a fifty year old mystery for an obsessed man who has little time left on this world. It took me a while to get into the plot and mystery Mikael is focused on solving.
The flashes of Lisbeth’s life is interjected sporadically throughout the build-up of the plot and I wasn’t sure how they went together until… they magically did.
Now, for all the hype surrounding these books, there are a few things you need to know if you haven’t read them:
- The lead-in of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo about Blomkvist and his slander lawsuit… you can safely skip that without losing any understanding of the rest of the book (I skipped it, so now you know my dirty secret.)
- Stieg Larsson writes very detailed accounts of a character’s day-to-day life, which I thought would become annoying, but somehow, once I was involved in the book, I didn’t even notice.
- The names can be confusing. One, because they’re Swedish names. Two, because Larsson has the habit of referring to a character sometimes by his/her first name and other times by his/her last name. While reading each book, I had the Wikipedia page with the list of characters up on my computer screen for reference. If you’re forgetful of names (like I am), you’ll need it.
- These are pretty dark books and have a few graphic scenes that were hard to read, especially if you’re a woman. It’s about the equivalent of watching several in-depth news programs. I suggest counteracting the dark and gritty with something light and fluffy between each book. I think it helped me appreciate them more since it distanced me from the ugliness and allowed me to focus on the mystery.
Hopefully you’re still with me because, honestly, these are great crime books. I don’t usually read crime or mystery, but I’m glad I made an exception for these. Lisbeth’s back story alone is worth it. Each book is so thought out and plotted, you feel as if you’re actually living it. If you can make it through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo until Lisbeth and Mikael meet, I have complete faith that you’ll become just as hooked as I was.
If you’ve read these books, let me know what you thought! And please warn others before you discuss something spoilery. Thanks!
WARNING for those who haven’t read the books! There might be SPOILERS in the comments section. Proceed with caution.