The Story of This Story: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

stieg larsson

I spent the better part of this past week wracking my brain trying to figure out what in the hell to read and then subsequently write about.  While venting to a friend, they simply said “Well, you never did write about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And in light of recent events, it could be kind of perfect.” BOOM. They were right; I did always want to write about it, but for whatever reason had not yet. And yes, in light of recent events, I wanted to re-read a story that involved a woman assaulted tattooing “I AM A SADISTIC PIG, A PERVERT, AND A RAPIST” into her assailant’s flesh.  Which really should be protocol for every sexual assailant. Hell hath no fury like a woman mistreated. Period.

Truthfully, there isn’t too much to say about the first part of Stieg Larsson’s novel, as it exists to introduce the characters and set up the story. We meet Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has just had his integrity as a writer thrown into the gutter by a man named Wennerstrom, and Lisbeth Salander, an introverted computer-hacking genius. While their paths don’t directly cross in the first section, the story is set up. Blomkvist is asked by wealthy businessman Henrik Vanger to solve the case of his missing niece, Harriet, who’s been gone for 40+ years. Salander works freelance doing background research for a company called Milton Security, and she is an odd girl. That’s pretty much what you can take from part one. Lisbeth Salander is kind of weird.

In part two, we learn a bit more about the Vanger family and its inner workings. In short, they’re fucked up. But not like yours or my family is. They’re, like, the chock full of Nazis kind of  fucked up (and I sincerely hope that’s not the case with your family). Blomkvist also spends more time feeling as though he has been exiled from the modern world. See, in order to do this job for Vanger, he has agreed to temporarily live in Hedestad, very far north in Sweden. Imagine living and enjoying Chicago life, then taking a job in Decatur. Something like that, I’d imagine. He digs deeper and deeper into the Vagner family, and even learns some new things about his employer, Henrik. He also finds out much more about Harriet, things that not even the detectives could put together. I know, I know, but it’s a book! And let’s be honest, writers are smarter than the average bear.

Salander also finds herself dealing with information out of her normal realm. She is, and has been for most of her life, a ward of the state. Or Sweden, as it were. She is considered mentally unbalanced and handicapped, so she is under the care of a “trustee,” which is pretty much just someone she’s supposed to check up with and make sure that she’s not getting into shenanigans. When her regular trustee, Palmgren, suffers a hemorrhage, she is then placed under the guard of a man named Nils Bjurman. Bjurman’s first move is to take control of Salander’s finances and force more meetings upon her. He then forces himself upon her. The first time, she must perform oral sex in order to receive what she needs. (Castrate the motherfucker). The second time… well, you’ll have to read it, but be warned it is quite graphic and disturbing to read. (Now, I believe we should kill the motherfucker).  Salander does get her revenge, and upon re-reading the scene I felt like jumping up and screaming “TAKE THAT YOU SLEAZY SON OF A BITCH.” But, I was on the Metra, in the quiet car. Didn’t want to be rude.

Part three begins with Blomkvist’s release from gaol, which is essentially prison for the Swedes. (Why was he there, exactly? Read the book). No part of the book discusses his time there, only that he went for a couple of months and got some work on the story done. A bulk of this section deals with the chain of events that Blomkvist starts to piece together about Harriet’s timeline on the day she disappeared without a trace. It is around this time that Vanger’s health takes a turn, and Blomkvist feels more pressure to wrap up the case.  Blomkvist soon comes to realize that this case has many layers, and the deeper the layers, the more bizarre the tale becomes. It is also exposed that a very extensive background check was done on him before he was offered the assignment. He becomes intrigued and would like to recruit this professional to help him do some research. Her name of course, is Lisbeth Salander.

Upon their first interaction, Salander is thrown off by Blomkvist. He catches her off guard and makes her feel passive for the first time in her life. He is kind, and knows what makes her so skilled at background checks. She agrees to help him, and they set off for Hedestad.  Together they begin to delve deeper and deeper into Harriet’s world. While digging, they start to hit some nerves. On a stroll, Blomkvist has shots fired at him.  Yeah, shit just got real. Part three concludes with one of the most intense, thrilling sections of a book I’ve read. I’ll say this: It involves a killer, a journalist, one badass woman and, essentially, a death chamber. Intrigued yet?

Part four sums up what has happened to Harriet and sets up the second book in the series,The Girl Who Played With Fire. You know me, I’m not one for spoilers, so that’s all you get for part four. It truly is an interesting read, that can be quite brutal at times, but come on. We see worse on television every day. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love an ass-kicking heroine, even if she has some social issues? Makes it more fun.