#7. The Millenium Series – Stieg Larsson

I started listening to the Millenium Trilogy the day before I left Edmonton – listening because I managed to get the Audible audiobook of the first book. After listening to the first few chapters of the book and finding my first expedition into popular contemporary fiction entirely engrossing, I got the epub versions of all the three books to read on my brand new superawesome Kobo (which, by the way, I hereby declare to be the love of my life).

And well, I was hooked. I spent every single minute of my precious and scarce free time on the books – I refused two invitations to go out for movies with my friends, almost walked into a tree on my way to class, read by candle light during a blackout last Thursday and did everything that a bibliophile who can’t wait to know what happens next in a book does while reading a riveting book. I even stayed up way past my bedtime (which is usually around 9.30 PM) to finish the book a little after 1 AM on Friday. And I loved every word of it. I mean, the plot was entirely exciting. The plot follows the adventures of Lisbeth Salander (who is probably my third favourite female literaray character now – right after Elizabeth Bennett and Hermione Granger and just a little ahead of Veronica Mars) and Mikael Blomkvist (who is being played by Daniel Craig in the movie that is coming out this December – as if I needed one more reason to strike off the days till the movie’s release).

Lisbeth Salander is an expert hacker with a photographic memory and a dark past. Blomkvist is a journalist at Millenium who is in disgrace at the beginning of the first book after being found guilty of libel. However, the libel case only forms a subplot in the first book and the main premise deals with the four-decade-long-disappearance of Harriet Vanger, a wealthy heiress who goes missing in quintessential locked room mystery style. The ensuing search makes for an unputdownable reading experience replete with enough intrigue to give the reader sleepless nights wondering what the ending will be.

The second book begins with Salander in a quest to distance herself from Blomkvist. After repeated attempts to contact Salander, Blomkvist gives up and devotes his time to working with journalist Dag Stevensson and his girlfriend Mia Johansson’s on an expose of trafficking in Sweden. However, the lives of Salander and Blomkvist cross paths again after Dag and Mia are murdered and Salander is accused of the crime. Blomkvist and a few other – including Salander’s old employer – believe in her innocence and dig up her past to reveal a shocking coverup by the authorities that shed light on Salander’s dark and tragic past. The second book ends with a seeming resolution of the situation that is distubed in the very first chapter of the third book.

With various people in positions of authority and power now striving to put away Salander for good – in order to prevent the revelation of a truth that would implicate them in heinous crimes – Salander and The Knight of the Idiotic Table (who believe in Salander’s innocence without really knowing why they trust someone who is entirely incomprehensible and possibly rather demented) have to work hard to prove her innocence. And as the plot develops and more secrets are revealed, the reader is entirely drawn into the world that Larsson so expertly creates.

Honestly, it has been ages since a book captivated me like this. And I am entirely jealous of Larsson’s ability to conjure up situations and plot devices that are unassumingly brilliant. And I also loved how things that are only mentioned in passing in one book suddenly assume importance in later books – which led me to marvel at how methodically he must have planned these books.

According to Wikipedia, Larsson had originally planned ten books in the series but he died of a heart attack before they could be completed and the three books that were completed were published posthumously. Also, his girlfriend – whom he could never marry due to security reasons as Swedish law makes it compulsory for married couples’ information to be placed in the public domain – has the first few chapters of his unfinished fourth book which she does not have the rights to and hence cannot make public. 😦 I was entirely heartbroken when I heard that there could have been seven more books filled with the sheer awesomeness of Larsson’s exquisitely clever writing. Blomkvist’s character is said to have been modelled on Larsson himself – he was a journalist too who ran an anti-racist magazine called Expo. Larsson’s  abhorrence of the ill-treatment of women and guilt at being unable to help a girl whose gang rape he witnessed as an adolescent led him to write the Millenium series.

I absolutely completely loved the books and was quite sad when I finished the last book because I really don’t see if and when I’ll ever find books that are this engrossing again.

P.S. – The books are rather disturbing in places and I wouldn’t recommend the series to kids who are 14 or younger unless kids of today who are 14 or younger are entirely different from kids who were 14 or younger when I was 14 or younger.