I am not a great fan of book series. Despite my love for Ruth Rendell I have avoided her Wexford books and for the same reason have been reluctant to get into P D James. I think that explained my reluctance to follow advice from others to read Larsson. I suppose I thought I might end up reading 10-12 books and this did not appeal. When I finally bought the Millennium Trilogy I suddenly realised there would be no more from this author. Shortly after he had completed these works as a 50 year old ex-journalist he sadly died. This is clearly a great loss as the enjoyment from these books has whetted my appetite for more Lisbeth Salander, an amazing unorthodox heroine, who defies you to like her and be perturbed by her in equal measure. But more of that below.
It has taken me just under 2 weeks to finished the three books. They are, in effect, one long continuous story with a different climax to each but nevertheless building on the canvas created so well in the first novel. New characters and stories are introduced but the core characters particularly Salander and Blomqvist are present throughout and are such interesting individuals to boot.
Basically it is a crime mystery or more correctly mysteries which unfold in complex and sometimes dangerous and unpredictable ways. journalistic enquiry is at the core of the investigations and no doubt Larsson drew heavily on his own career in creating that part of Blomqvist. It is well-constructed, seems authentic in its approach and although I read it in translation, the usual awkwardness of that is missing. It is well written and makes it a quick read which is just hard to put down.
I found myself on more than one occasion reading late in the night unable to leave it as the story gripped me and I wanted to know what might happen next. Indeed becasue of a cough i awoke the other nmight at 4 am and could not get to sleep. Three hours and half a book later I was ready to sleep again. And the cough had simply dissappeared!!
There were a couple of things which i particularly enjoyed. Larsson gives you a commentary on the eating habits of the main characters and we often hear of the need for coffee and swedish open sandwiches. This seemed natural to me and showed that people even when gripped by complex situations have to eat and drink!!
Secondly the surprises we continually find about ostensibly nomral people, was well crafted. It reminds us we can never really know the people close to us without digging deeply into their background. Sexual proclivities and perversions appear throughout as well as various wrongdoings or dubious business practices and usually lead to the denouement of the discredited characters, often in imaginative ways.
There is a real sense of the author in his alter ego Blomqvist being driven by a moral sense of outrage about injustice and discrimination against women in particular and this is another excellent motif throughout the three books.
I won’t talk about the detail of the novels as this would spoil their reading but the stories are complex and issues unfold at a quick pace and helps you continue to turn the page. The key question we debated during our Man Booker evening in October was what constitutes a good novel or more correctly a classic novel. We agreed it needed to be more than a good story and was something to do with the craft of the novelist and the depth of insights the novel brings you. On such grounds maybe Larsson would never be nominated for a man booker prize if he were eligible but these novels are must reads for me. They are simply and unpretentiously good to read and I would encourage anyone reading this to buy these as christmas presents they will occupy the holiday nicely and you will be thanked!!
I am normally someone who does not like watching the films of the books but I understand the first two if not all three are on film and for once I would love to see them. Partly I think because I want to see if the essence e of Salander can be recreated on film. Much of her complexity comes from her stunted communication which is overcome through her computer dexterity and her use of chat rooms where she can be at ease. This is an interesting message about the role that social networking is increasingly playing at giving individuals alternative modes of communication where they may find face-to-face communication a little more threatening.
I’d be interested in hearing from others who have read Larsson. Its such a shame that he is no longer with us. Maybe the message should be that if you have a novel in you, you should get it out before its too late!! So what next to read!!