"Män som hatar kvinnor" (Swedish for "Men who hate
women," renamed in the English translation as The Girl
with the Dragon Tattoo) is an award-winning novel by the
late Swedish author and journalist Stieg Larsson, the first in
his "Millennium Trilogy".
At his death in November 2004 he
left three unpublished novels that made up the trilogy. It
became a posthumous best-seller in Europe.
This novel supplies a sprawling genealogical table for
keeping track of the vast number of characters.
An epic tale of serial murder and corporate trickery spanning
several continents, the novel takes in complicated international
financial fraud and the buried evil past of a wealthy Swedish
industrial family. Through its main character, it also
references classic forbears of the crime thriller genre while
stylistically follows and mixes aspects of the sub-genres. There
are mentions of Astrid Lindgren, Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie
and Dorothy L. Sayers; as well as Sue Grafton, Val McDermid,
Sara Paretsky and several other key figures in the history of
the detective novel. As a journalist and magazine editor in
Stockholm until his death, Larsson reveals a knowledge and
enjoyment of both English and American crime fiction. He
declared that he wrote his opus in the evening after work for
his own pleasure.
The towns mentioned are real, with exception for Hedestad,
and the Millennium magazine featured in the books
parallels Larsson's own Expo magazine in the real world,
which also had financial difficulties and where he was
journalist and editor.
A middle-aged journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, publishes
the magazine Millennium in Stockholm. He is hired one day by
Henrik Vanger, the aged former CEO of a group of companies owned
by a wealthy dynasty, in order to chronicle the family history.
His real mission, however, is to solve a cold case - the
disappearance, some forty years previously, of Vanger's
great-niece when she was sixteen. Blomkvist encounters "the old
Miss Marple closed-room scenario" with all the wealthy suspects
marooned on the family estate on an island; a village we grow
familiar with, full of hostile locals peering out from behind
The real main character of the story is Lisbeth Salander,
an asocial punk who has been victimized by authorities
throughout her whole life. By accident she meets Blomkvist and
the unlikely couple become another classic detective pair where
the hunters become the hunted.
The opening courtroom drama where Blomkvist as publisher
loses a libel case brought by corrupt Swedish industrialist
Hans-Erik Wennerström, has serious repercussions for his Millennium magazine's future.
Blomkvist reads crime novelists Sue Grafton, Val McDermid and
Elizabeth George and enjoys amateur sleuthing and investigative
journalism. Later, he is asked to investigate a family mystery
by Henrik Vanger, the elderly scion of a wealthy but
dysfunctional family. Henrik has questions about the
disappearance of his 16-year-old great-niece Harriet 40 years
before. Harriet had given Henrik a present of pressed flowers
since she was eight years old. On Henrik's birthday the year
after Harriet's death, he had received an unusual present of
pressed flower. He continued to receive the present of pressed
flowers every year thereafter on his birthday from various parts
of the world, which he believes to be sent by the killer.
Blomkvist is certain that he can discover nothing new, but
delving into family secrets produces shocking results. When he
teams up with Salander they shed disturbing light on the four
decade long puzzle.
The historic scenario of a locked-room mystery applies since
the island on that fateful day was cut-off due to a road-tanker
crash on the only bridge that connects the inhabitants to the
mainland. Henrik Vanger believes that Harriet (his brother's
granddaughter) was murdered by one of his family members, as the
island was sealed from the mainland when she vanished. In
disgrace due to losing his libel defence, Blomkvist takes on the
Vanger case when the old man offers him not only to help his
financially strapped magazine, but also promises to give him
information to prove Wennerström is corrupt. His cover is
spending a year writing the Vanger family history.
- Mikael Blomkvist, journalist, publisher of Millennium magazine, and amateur sleuth. (For more
information on "Kalle Blomkvist" see Bill Bergson.)
- Lisbeth Salander, violent and antisocial but
extremely intelligent hacker and researcher, specialized in
investigations of persons.
- Henrik Vanger, retired industrialist and former
CEO of Vanger Corporation.
- Hans-Erik Wennerström, corrupt Swedish
industrialist and Blomkvist's nemesis.
- Harriet Vanger, great-niece of Henrik and
vanished 40 years ago.
- Martin Vanger, brother of Harriet and President
of the Vanger Corporation.
- Holger Palmgren, lawyer, and earlier guardian of
- Nils Bjurman, corrupt lawyer and guardian of
Lisbeth Salander after Holger Palmgren suffers a brain
- Cecilia Vanger, banished daughter of Harald
Vanger, one of Henrik's brothers.
- Erika Berger, editor of Millenium, friend
and lover of Blomkvist.
- Dirch Frode, lawyer for Vanger Corporation, and
main friend and assistant to Henrik Vanger.
- Dragan Armanskij, director of Milton Security,
boss and protector of Lisbeth Salander.
- Hedestad and Hedeby Island (fictional places, the
filming location was Gnesta), scene of the cold case murder.
- Stockholm and Stockholm archipelago, where Mikael,
Erika, and Lisbeth live.
- Norsjö in Västerbotten, northern Sweden.
As well as literary references to the genre's classic
forerunners, Larsson comments on contemporary Swedish society.
Reviewer Dessaix reports that "His favourite targets are
violence against women, the incompetence and cowardice of
investigative journalists, the moral bankruptcy of big capital
and the virulent strain of Nazism still festering away ..." in
He further enters the debate as to how responsible a criminal
is for his or her crimes and how much is blamed on upbringing or
society. He has Salander say, "It's as if we no longer believe
anyone has a will of their own."
Salander has a strong will and assumes that everyone else does,
too. She is portrayed as having suffered every kind of abuse in
her young life, including sexual assault and time in a
psychiatric clinic. Since she holds others responsible for their
actions she takes revenge on those who behave badly – which
moves the plot along. Salander, sullen, single-minded and
sometimes vicious, is also incorruptible, a complete contrast to
even the good guys in Larsson's world.
Reception and awards
As a tale of contemporary culture and corruption, the novel
was released to great acclaim in Sweden and later, on its
publication in many European countries. In the original language
it won Sweden's Glass Key Award in 2006 for best crime novel of
the year, and won the 2008 Boeke Prize.
Larsson was posthumously awarded the ITV3 Crime Thriller
Award for International Author of the Year in 2008.
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
The Swedish film production company Yellow Bird is producing
a film version of the Millennium Trilogy –The Girl with the
Dragon Tattoo along with the other novels in the trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire (Swedish title: "Flickan
som lekte med elden") and The Girl Who Kicked the
Hornets' Nest (original title: "Luftslottet som sprängdes",
"The Castle in the Sky that Blew Up"). It will be co-produced
with Nordisk Film and TV company.
with Danish filmmaker Niels Arden Oplev directing. Filming began
in early 2008, with a premiere on Feb. 27, 2009 in Sweden.
Several rumours have been speculating on a Hollywood version
of the book. Yellow Bird,
executive producer Sören Staermose confirmed in an interview
with Swedish newspaper Expressen that negotiations are taking
place. This would not be a US remake of the Swedish films but
rather new Hollywood films based on the books. In the interview
he states that the possible US films might be produced in a
similar way as the Yello Bird co-produced Wallander tv show
starring Kenneth Branagh, shooting in Sweden using english
speaking actors. He also states that it is up to the director
and says that the story could just as well take place in another
country, like Canada.
This is the type of book and story that you never want to end,
it's so will written as well, a classic crime thriller of good winning over evil, thank goodness there are other books in the series that follow up the story.