That Thrilling Millennium Trilogy

How about that Millennium thriller trilogy? These three Swedish page-turners — The Girl with the Dragon TattooThe Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest — not only packed a punch for suspense-hungry readers, but got us interested in author Steig Larsson’s backstory (How similar was his too-short life to co-protagonist Mikael Blomkvist anyways?). They also created a firestorm of interest in three subtitled movies, which is no small feat. I thought Naomi Rapace was brilliant in her understated portrayal of the noir-ish, anti-social yet ever resourceful Lisbeth Salander. Now we have a Hollywood movie starring Daniel Craig, as the fearless,straight-shooter Mikael, and little known actress Rooney Mora as the mysterious Lisbeth to look forward to. (Let’s hope they get it right!) Plus there’s a chance of a fourth novel, possibly finished, after the family legal battles are settled, by Larsson’s common law partner and writing collaborator Eva Gabrielsson.

I read the trilogy just before they became hugely popular; I didn’t know my interests had become so mainstream! Is this what being forty-something does to one’s sensibilities? But my question still remains: why is the Millennium Trilogy so popular? I haven’t got ‘the’ answer yet. Perhaps every reader or viewer has their own reasons.

Is it because we find that our idealized Sweden of our imaginations is as corruptible as our own culture in reality? Is it because the books were written with such vivid prose? At one level this seems unlikely given a writing style that sometimes tends towards the repetitive and the obscure. (Mikael, I glad to know you like a cup of java, but do I need to know you made a fresh pot every day?)

For whatever it lacks in writing style, the plotting is impeccable. Tightly woven, the action is frenetic and hypnotic, or building up to it. There’s also the unlikely pairing of Lisbeth and Mikael as characters, forever on the run, yet always on the trail of justice amidst the haunting forces of authoritarianism. It’s a David and Goliath tale, truth be told.

The series’ icon of course is Lisbeth. A 90-pound, tattooed, Goth-ish damaged young soul of a computer hacker with a photographic memory, Lisbeth is disturbed — on the verge of being psychopathic — yet she’s still somehow likeable! No easy feat for an author. The tales play well as political thrillers and whodunit mysteries (at least Dragon Tattoo), yet there’s enough comedy to make the stories breath with a sense of real humanity. The chapter of Lisbeth taking down two hulky yet unsuspecting gang members on motorcycle in the second book is hilarious.

Why did you enjoy the Millennium Trilogy?

– Lyle @ WPL

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