Lisbeth Salander & Mikael Blomkvist

Created by Stieg Larsson

“People always have secrets. It’s just a matter of finding out what they are.”
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Journalist MIKAEL BLOMKVIST and computer hacker LISBETH SALANDER are the mismatched detective duo who appear in a series of internationally acclaimed, posthumously published thrillers by Swedish author Stieg Larsson. The three books are known as the “Millennium Trilogy,” after the magazine Blomkvist works for.

When we first meet Mikael in 2005’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, he’s a middle-aged financial reporter for a left-wing magazine, Millkennium, whose career has gone straight into the dumpster, thanks to a conviction for libelling a high-flying Swedish tycoon and a pending jail sentence.

But another powerful but aging Swedish businessman offers him a way out — if Mikael agrees to look into a seriously cold case involving the disappearance of a teen heiress, his brother’s granddaughter, almost forty years ago. What can a potential jailbird out to clear his name and reputation do but jump at the chance?

With the unexpected help of Lisbeth, the tattooed girl of the title, a troubled young investigator with a photographic memory and more emotional luggage than anyone should have to carry, Mikael begins to dig into the case, and soon unearths a wriggling mass of deep dark and disturbing family secrets that wouldn’t be out of place in a Ross Macdonald novel.

But that’s just part of this book’s charms. At times it also reads like a something right out of the Silence of the Lambs school, and at other times it seems like we’ve wandered into an almost Ludlumesque paranoid world of omnipotent global and corporate corruption.

But mostly it’s Lisbeth’s very hands-on, Spillane-like approach to vengeance that piqued readers’ interest. She’s the real star of the show here. Such a big, disjointed novel, with its wide range of characters and ever-shifting themes should be one whopping, unholy mess, with no business being as compelling and entertaining as it is, but it’s Lisbeth’s relentless ferocity and mercurial sense of justice that holds this unwieldly mess together, and struck a chord with millions of readers, including me.

Larsson may not have been the greatest stylist, but thanks to his considerable storytelling mojo, this rambling slab of a novel became a global sensation, almost from the moment it was first published in Swedish in 2005, and that buzz soon spread around the globe, country by country and continent by continent, as it was been translated into one foreign language after another. Somehow this unlikely thriller has become one of the most compelling and bestselling crime novels of the decade.

And the second and third novels in the series, The Girl Who Played with Fire (2006) and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (2007), only upped the ante, as Mikael and Lisbeth — who rarely even have physical contact with each other — plow into the morass of Sweden’s illicit sex industry, its social welfare system, its national security and legal and justice systems from different ends. Again, it’s a scenario that shouldn’t work, and yet…

Part of the series’ success, of course, is the backstory. The author, a graphic designer and the editor-in-chief at the Swedish antiracist magazine Expo, dropped dead of a heart attack in 2004, shortly after delivering the final manuscripts for the first three books.

The three completed books have already been filmed for Swedish television, and the first opened in theatres in Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland in early 2009 to massive acclaim and popularity, setting box office records in Norway and Denmark for a Swedish film.

Needless to say, Hollywood soon came sniffing around, with a big bucks Hollywood version, starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara, and directed by hot shot director David Fincher. Although it did great at the box office and was generally well-received, no sequel has been announced yet.

But all four films are worth watching. The Swedish films have this low-level grit and down to earh appeal, and present themslerves as intricate mysteries, whereas the Fincher film is more of a thriller. For instance, some of the revelations slowly built up to in the first Swedish version are quickly dismissed in a quick bit of exposition quite early in the American version. And it should be noted that while both Noomi Rapace and Rooney Mara give strongh and compelling performances as Lisbeth, there’s a world of difference between Michael Nyqvist’s performance as a world-weary, out-of-shape middle-aged Blomkvist and that of Daniel Craig’s. The Swedish version shows Blomkvist as a bit of a schlep; a guy who should really eat better and get to the gym more often. The Hollywood version essentially gives us James Bond. Even Craig’s six packs have six packs.

* * * * *

But it wasn’t just Hollywood that came calling. Of course, all the money generated from the franchise proved irresistable. So far, there have been at least two graphic novel adaptations of the trilogy, and in 2015, it was announced that the Millenium Trilogy would no longer be a trilogy — it would soon be followed by a fourth novel, The Girl in the Spider’s Web, a sequel written by Swedish journalist and biographer David Lagercrantz. It’s worth noting that this book is labelled a “Lisbeth Salander” novel.

And money begets money, so in 2017 another sequel, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye (also by Lagercrantz) was published. And yet another, The Girl Who Lived Twice in 2019, with many more presumably to come. Adding insult to injury, it was announced in March 2017 that Sony Pictures was moving forward with a sequel to Fincher’s 2011 effort, based not on any of Larrson’s books but on Lagercrantz’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

Still, the rumours persist that Larsson left most of a fourth novel and the synopses of the fifth and sixth books on a computer owned by his long-time companion who, unfortunately, doesn’t have the legal right to release them. Larsson’s literary estate is instead controlled by his estranged father and brother, due to the fact that Larsson died inestate, and Swedish law does not recognize common law marriages.

So, Larsson did leave behind most of a sequel, but The Girl in the Spider’s Web isn’t it.

NOVELS

ALSO AVAILABLE

  • Millennium Trilogy Deluxe Boxed Set (2010) | Buy this book
    Fancy, schmancy slip-cased set of the three novels, each unjacketed, bound in full cloth and uniquely stamped, with maps and individual full-color endpapers, and On Stieg Larsson, a collection of essays about and correspondence with the author.

TELEVISION

  • MÄN SOM HATAR KVINNOR | Buy this DVD Buy it on Blu-Ray
    (aka “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”)

    (2009, Yellow Bird/Nordisk Film and TV)
    Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson
    Screenplay by Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg
    Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
    152 minutes
    Starring Michael Nyqvist as MIKAEL BLOMKVIST
    and Noomi Rapace as
    LISBETH SALANDER
    Also starring Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Haber, Marika Lagercrantz, Lena Endre, Bjôrn Granath, Ingvar Hirdwall, Peter Andersson, Michalis Koutsogiannakis and Ewa Frôling
  • FLICKAN SOM LEKTE ELDEN  | Buy this DVD Buy it on Blu-Ray
    (aka “The Girl Who played with Fire”)
    (
    2009, Yellow Bird/Nordisk Film and TV)
    Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson
    Directed by Daniel Alfredson
    Starring Michael Nyqvist as MIKAEL BLOMKVIST
    and Noomi Rapace as
    LISBETH SALANDER
  • LUFTSLOTTET SOM SPRÄNGDESBuy the DVD. Buy it on Blu-Ray
    (aka “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest”)
    (2009, Yellow Bird/Nordisk Film and TV)
    Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson
    Directed by Niels Arden Oplev
    Starring Michael Nyqvist as MIKAEL BLOMKVIST
    and Noomi Rapace as
    LISBETH SALANDER

FILMS

  • THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO)..Buy the DVD Buy the Blu-Ray.
    (2011, MGM)
    Based on
    the novel by Stieg Larsson
    Screenplay by Steven Zaillian

    Directed by David Fincher
    Produced by Scott Rudin
    Starring Daniel Craig as MIKAEL BLOMKVIST
    and
    Rooney Mara as LISBETH SALANDER
    Also starring Christopher Plummer, Stellan Skarsgård, Robin Wright, Embeth Davidtz, Joely Richardson, Joel Kinnaman, Julian Sands, Goran Visnjic
    Big bucks Hollywood version replaces the gritty low rent queasiness of the original Swedish adaptations with the slick whallop of a cineplex-ready thriller. Both are worth watching, but for different reasons.
  • THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB | Buy the DVD | Buy the Blu-Ray
    (2018, MGM)
    Premiere: November 9, 2018
    Based on
    characters created by Stieg Larsson and the novel by David Lagercrantz
    Screenplay by Jay Basu, Fede Alvarez & Steven Knight
    Directed by Fede Alvarez
    Starring Claire Foy as LISBETH SALANDER
    and Sverrir Gudnason as MIKAEL BLOMKVIST
    Also starring Lakeith Stanfield, Stephen Merchant, Vicky Krieps, Volker Bruch, Mikael Persbrandt
    Disappointing adaptation of the first non-Stieg Larsson novel, with additional scenes added, thus accomplishing the neat trick of dis-respecting not just the original but also David Lagerkrantz, the writer hired to continued the series. 

COMICS

  • THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, BOOK 1 | Buy this book Kindle it!
    THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, BOOK 2 | Buy this book Kindle it!
    THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE | Buy this book Kindle it!
    THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST | Buy this book Kindle it!
    (2012-15, DC/Vertigo)
    Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson
    Adapted by Denise Mina
    Art by Andrea Mutti and Leonardo Manco
    A wrenching adaptation of the global bestseller that digs deeper than either the Swedish or American film dared to go; heading straight back to the source for a fresh but jarring take on the story of Lisbeth and Mikael.
  • THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOOBuy this book Kindle it!
    THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIREBuy this bookKindle it!
    THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST | Buy this book
    (2017-18, Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics)
    Based on the novel by Stieg Larsson
    Adapted by Sylvain Runberg
    Art by José Homs & Manolo Carot
    A second adaptation, first published in French via Editions Dupuis beginning in 2013, who ultimately collected all three of Larsson’s original novels in six graphic volumes. Titan/Hard Case Crime began serializing the series in English in 2017.
  • THE GIRL WHO DANCED WITH DEATH | Kindle it!
    (2018, Hard Case Crime/Titan Comics)
    Three issues
    Based on characters created by Stieg Larsson
    Written by Sylvain Runberg
    Art by Belen Ortega
    An original story.

MOVIE NEWS YOU NEED

  • “It’s -9 degrees Celsius. 37 takes down, only about 42 more to go… If only I could get this… right, then maybe I could go inside and my nipple ring would have time to thaw out…”
    — an e-mail Entertainment Weekly received from actress Rooney Mara on the Swedish set of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with a little guidance from Mark Sullivan, who pushed me to take a chance.

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