The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson Book Review

Tracy and Natalie read 2009-2010

Book Cover of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Book Cover of The Girl who Played with Fire Book Cover of The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest

Where to begin with these books? Well for one thing, we both agreed that despite an overload of information and very descriptive sandwiches, they were fantastic, absorbing reading. It is a mystery, a thriller, a psychological investigation and a crime novel all wrapped up in one. It is the story of Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist who believes in telling the truth, despite the cost and Lisbeth Salander, a computer hacker/potential psychopath with a very troubled past. These two would never have crossed paths, were it not for Henrik Vanger, a retired industrialist, who asks Mikael to investigate the possible murder of his grand daughter Harriet 20 years ago. Unbeknownst to Mikael, Salander has been secretly investigating him on behalf of Vanger. Eventually they work together and uncover a series of murders connected to the Vanger family and the whereabouts of Harriet. The story continues in the second and third books with Salander getting framed for the murder of a freelance journalist working for Mikael and the subsequent investigation and trial that sheds light on Salander's past and the reason she lives the way she does. The books are great reading, although laden with information that at times can be confusing. This may be a product of the translation from Swedish and does make all the similar looking names sometimes hard to follow. There is also an abundance of sandwich descriptions and IKEA furniture, but hey who doesn't want to indulge in a cheese and gherkin on rye whilst putting together a book case using nothing but an allen key!

The books are said to have been the first in a series of 10, but unfortunately Stieg died after dropping off the first 3 books to his publishers and never got to see the success they became. It is rumoured that the bulk of the 4th and the synopsis of the 5th and 6th novels are stored on his laptop, but due to complications and Swedish law we may never see these books in print. For more on this, check out the webpage of Stieg Larsson. There is also an ongoing legal battle between Eva Gabrielsson and Larsson family over his estate.

The Weekend Australian (July 10-12, 2010) have printed the last interview given by Larsson to Lasse Winkler. It is an interesting look into the now deceased Larsson and how the Millennium series was changing his life. On a positive note the first publishing house he sent the books too turned him down - bet they have realised their mistake now, especially as they have sold more than 27 million copies. Also an interesting note from Larsson is that he waited until he had finished all three books before having them published - based on the theory that the trilogy was just the beginning of the story. Larsson as quoted as saying "I can produce a hundred books in this series. That won't be a problem as long as someone wants to publish them and people want to read them". This interview confirmed the existence of a partially completed 4th book, but this has yet to be confirmed, possibly due to the legal battle that will ensue over this almost invaluable unpublished manuscript.

'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest was also named Publisher Marketing Campaign of the Year 2010.

This is a fantastic choice for your book club. If you want some further information and book club discussion questions - check out the OurBookClub Book Club page.

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The Millenium Trilogy Movies

The Swedish film production company Yellow Bird has already made movie versions of all three books. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was released in Australia in March 2010 complete with some of the worst subtitles ever seen on film! While the movie itself remained fairly true to the book, the combination of white subtitles, with a predominately white background made it hard going. We thought the casting of all the main characters was very good, although there were some interesting omissions from the film which are kind of crucial for the future movies, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has now been released on DVD and Blueray and we are happy to say the subtitle situation has been greatly improved!

The second movie, The Girl Who Played With Fire was released in Australia on 23 September 2010. We were both lucky enough to see an advance screening of this and while the subtitles were still terrible, the movie was very good. Again some major parts were left out, but at over 2 hours, it's probably hard to cram everything in. All the original cast members are back, although the Director is different and this shows. Still it was a great movie and well worth seeing for fans of the books. Noomi Rapace is brilliant as Salander.

The third movie however, is probably the weakest. A little bogged down in all the detail, the best parts are when Salander doles herself up for court each time! Plus the ending, although subtly changed from the books actually completely change the direction and conclusion of the 3 stories. Not a good move and here's hoping the Americans remedy this when they do their remakes.

Well the US version is out and Natalie managed to score a ticket to an advance screening of the movie and will officially say "she stands corrected". All set to boycott this movie, believing it never needed to be remade, having now seen it she can honestly say not only is it fantastically good, it is also possibly better than the Swedish original - a bold statement for sure. Superbly cast and acted, Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara are outstanding as Blomkvist and Salander. The lengths Rooney went to for her transformation to this iconic female role are quite amazing, including body piercing, shaved head and bleached eyebrows. While the need to bleach her eyebrows remains my sole gripe with the film, the rest of her transformation is nothing short of perfect. Other roles include Robin Wright as Erica Berger and Stellan Skarsgard as Martin. And yes, while the movies were filmed and set in Sweden, a necessity to tell the real story, there were no stupid accents or attempts to speak Swedish, it was simply told in English and it worked.

Remaining truer to the book than it's Swedish predecessor, the US version is also a lot darker, particularly the relationship between Salander and her guardian and the actions of Martin. While more confronting, this certainly brings a new impact to the movie and despite knowing the story, having read the books and seen the original movies, there were still times when I jumped watching this one. And despite the second and third instalments yet to be confirmed for remake, having seen the first, I would put money on the next movie starting filming before the year is out. I can honestly say, don't dismiss this just because it's a remake, do yourself a favour and watch it. I don't think you will be disappointed. For more, check out the clip below.

The swedish murder mystery genere exploded onto the literary scene in the 1960s with the husband/wife team of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo penning 10 novels featuring detective Martin Beck. Fast-forward to today and it's a multi-million dollar industry. As well as having the Millennium Trilogy, there are also the works of Henning Mankell in his entertaining books where we see the complex social problems of the world through the eyes of police officer Kurt Wallander. Fastidious but disillusioned and with an alcohol problem, he does most of his sleuthing in the picturequesque town of Ystad, which dates back to the 13th century. Not only have the exploits of his Nordic gumshoe been made into a native film and TV series, it was also on the small screen in Britain. So it seems that the Scandinavian literature scene is alive and well.

With the emergence of crime novels from the Scandanavia countries (just to name Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsson) who have had their books adapted for the screen. The Age Newspaper has an interesting article on death in a cold climate.

Looking for a follow up book - hard to believe, I know, but Try Henning Mankell's The Troubled Man or fellow Scandanavian novelist Jo Nesbo.


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