The Millennium Series - Stieg Larsson & David Lagercrantz
Millennium was a phenomenon, it created a new iconic figure in contemporary culture and brought us a new hero to root for. But Lisbeth Salander is not your typical hero. She is the anti-hero, the underdog, an autistic goth girl, who could not cope with authority, who spent most of her life either institutionalized, either under guardianship, a broken twenty something woman, who takes matters into her own hands and decides she is now making the game, not just playing it.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (or in Swedish Men Who Hate Women - which is how it was translated in Romanian as well) starts with the fall of Mikael Blomkvist, a well reputed journalist, who ends up losing a slander case against a Swedish billionaire industrialist, which gains him three months in prison. After completing his sentence, he meets Henrik Vanger, the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation, who sought him out and researched his life with the help of Lisbeth Salander.
Vanger asks Blomkvist to investigate the disappearance of his grandniece, Harriet, in return for evidence against the industrialist who put him in prison. Harriet disappeared during a Vanger family gathering on Hedeby Island, where Blomkvist moves in order to jump start his investigation.
In parallel, the book follows Lisbeth Salander, the researcher, who was ruled legally incompetent as a child, and was placed under legal guardianship. When her long time guardian, Holger Palmgren suffers a stroke, he is replaced by Nils Bjurman, who uses his authority to sexually abuse her. Salander takes revenge, by using a hidden camera to record the rape and ends up torturing her abuser into giving her control over her life and her finances.
The two of them, Blomkvist and Salander, join forces to identify new evidence in the case of Harriet Vanger - photographs, journal entries, interviews and they end up solving the mystery and uncovering vile crimes against women who are sexually assaulted and slain in accordance to a Leviticus verse, all taking place in locations where the Vanger Corporation conducted their business.
The Girl Who Played With Fire is divided into four parts - a prologue and three episodes. After playing her part in helping Mikael Blomkvist clear his name, Lisbeth went traveling throughout Europe, to end up settling on a Caribbean island, where she becomes interested in Fermat's Last Theorem, mathematics and a sixteen year old new boyfriend.
From her hotel room she observes her neighbor, Dr. Forbes, who is physically abusing his wife, which prompts Lisbeth to use her hacker connections in order to research him, only to find out that the good doctor was trying to kill his wife in order to collect her $40 million inheritance.
Salander finds a way to give him what he deserves, after which she returns to Sweden, to help Mikael Blomkvist expose a heavy sex trafficking operation ran from Russia with love, implicating a network of well known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business and government. The story turns out to be explosive, as on the eve of its publication the two investigative reporters turn up dead and the fingerprints from the murder weapon point to none other than Lisbeth Salander.
Blomkvist stands by his protegee, believing in her innocence until the end, plunging into an investigation of these murders, while Salander herself is the victim of a man hunt, which brings her face to face with her dark past, in an effort to deal with it once and for all.
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest finds Lisbeth in a critical condition, locked away in intensive care, with a bullet wound to her head, heavily guarded by policemen, in the aftermath of facing her worst enemies. While she is fighting for her life, she knows survival means she'll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three alleged murders.
Now it's time for her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist to help her prove her innocence and identify and bring to justice the corrupt state servants who allowed her to suffer abuse and violence for years since her troubled childhood to her horrible adolescence and youth.
She does not only rely on Blomkvist, but she plots her own revenge on the side, against the man who tried to take her life and those in authority who nearly destroyed her, turning from victim to tormentor. Things end well for Salander, she gets her name cleared and walks away with a fortune, gained in questionable ways - but hey, why be a hacker if you can't enjoy the perks, right?
The Girl In The Spider's Web finds Lisbeth at the core of yet another mystery, hacking into the NSA servers to uncover a plot between a well known Silicon Valley company, American high ranking officials, Russian Duma members and a ruthless criminal organization led by an important, yet absent, figure of her past.
Well known characters are brought back to life - Salander, Blomkvist, Erika Berger, Andrei Zander, Holger Palmgren, while introducing new actors to make the story more thrilling and mysterious: a dead genius scientist, with an autistic son with savant skills, excessively Orthodox Russian hit men, top notch American security specialists, and a deadly beautiful stranger.
Lisbeth Salander is her old self again, still angry, still goth, still keen on fighting against social injustice and always rooting for the underdog. This last book of the series raises the issue of privacy and the various ways technology can be used and abused, as well as the condition of autistic children the way society views them.
All in all, I truly loved the Millennium series and I consider it one of the most important literary works of the century. I remember when I first got my hands on it, back in 2010, I spent a night up just to find out what happened to Harriet Vanger. If you get past the first 100 pages of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, you will uncover an extraordinary read and I guarantee you will get caught into Lisbeth's amazing story.
She is one of my favorite characters ever, I find her very well constructed, she is almost like a comic book hero: the genius computer hacker, a social misfit, while he, Mikael Blomkvist, is an uncompromising journalist, a crusader and an incurable womanizer. Also, like any good Swedish crime fiction, the series is very dark and brings forth social inequalities, corruption and abuse in all forms. It is a powerful read, and I truly recommend it as it is one of my favorite book series.
And now that David Lagercrantz continues Stieg Larsson's legacy, I look forward to Lisbeth's new adventures.