Note: No spoilers are contained in this review.
Truly there were moments reading this book when my heart was beating so hard I thought it might jump right out of my chest!
This is Volume 3 of the “Millennium Series,” published posthumously after the sudden death of the author in November, 2004. Originally, there were to be ten books in this series, and with each book, one mourns more deeply the loss of such a talented writer.
Volume 3 is divided into large sections, and the introduction to each contains a vignette about females who have fought in wars. And that sums up broadly the focus of this book in the series: women warriors. Indeed, it might even be read as a tribute to women and their strengths: sometimes dependent and trusting; brave and resilient when tried; loyal and loving when vindicated.
Like the previous books, the beginning of this one is very complex; I kept a notepad to keep track of the characters. (Similar to the first book in the series and of course, to real life, you don’t know at first which of these myriad people will prove to be important later in the story.) I would hate to try to comprehend what was going on without having had the advantage of reading the other two first.
Even with all the background we have to absorb in the beginning, the suspense and excitement begin right away.
We continue with the same characters as in previous books: Mikael Blovkvist, the crusading journalist who probably served as an alter-ego for the author; Erika Berger, his co-worker and occasional lover; and Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo.
Mikael is obsessed with social justice, “loyal to the point of foolhardiness once he had made someone a friend,” but “completely irresponsible when it comes to relationships.” That is, it never seems to occur to him that a woman could get emotionally involved and become deeply hurt when he moved on to someone else.
Erika has had a relationship with Mikael for twenty-some years, although she remains married to a man she loves. She is a strong, tough editor and is greatly admired by women, grudgingly so by men.
Lisbeth, the undoubted star of the series, is 27, small, slight, and goth-looking, and is being labeled in the press as “a psychopath, a murderer, and a lesbian Satanist.” She has powerful friends who know better – who know that she has been systematically abused and used as a scapegoat – and know that in fact she is justifiably distrustful. She is also brilliant, resourceful, and admittedly not the sort of person you would want to cross. But her enemies are even more powerful, and include not only actual psychopaths, but a secret section of the Swedish equivalent of the CIA.
The author, through Mikael Blomkvist, has quite a lot to say about violence against women, but he does so through the mechanism of his plot, so you get the message through the horror of the events he relates, rather than through gratuitous chatter by the characters. (Readers should beware, particularly in Volume One of this series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, of some graphic scenes of abuse.) As Mikael says to his sister in Volume Three:
“When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies; it’s about violence against women, and the men who enable it.”
And that is the heart and soul of this sensational series.
Evaluation: Each book in the series is better than its predecessor. Volume Three will have you not only racing through its 600 pages, but wishing it didn’t have to end. This is an intelligent, heart-racing, gut-wrenching series of books that shouldn’t be missed!
Published in the U.S. by Knopf, 2010