The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a powerful book which combines a strong story with haunting characters and a crusading message. Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist, publisher and co-owner of the independent magazine Millennium, loses a libel case bought by magnate Hans-Erik Wennerstrom, so takes leave of absence to enable the magazine's survival. Mikael is astonished to be summoned to meet the reclusive millionaire Henrik Vanger, who asks Blomkvist to solve the long-ago mystery of his granddaughter Harriet's presumed murder, in return for an irresistible reward. Vanger has had Mikael checked out by a detective agency which has hired Lisbeth Salander to hack into his computers. Lisbeth is an emaciated young drop-out, a ward of court unable to control her own finances or manage her own life, but she's drawn to Mikael and he to her. Aided by Lisbeth, Mikael pieces together the complicated Vanger family relationships while Lisbeth is shockingly persecuted by her guardian and enacts violent revenge. Eventually, the two of them come close to discovering what happened to Harriet, only for Mikael to find himself in great danger as a result.
In The Girl Who Played With Fire, Lisbeth Salander returns undercover to Stockholm some months after the climactic events of the previous book. Three brutal murders occur on one night. Lisbeth, the only apparent link between all the victims, is the prime suspect and becomes the focus of a national police hunt. Although a fugitive, she refuses to be victimised or to cooperate, and sets out to find out the identity of the killer(s) so she can deal with them herself. Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, is also investigating the murders. Two of the victims were colleagues and friends of his, and he's convinced that their deaths are related to their work in uncovering a massive scandal of prostitution and drug trafficking between Russia, Eastern Europe and Sweden. Even though she won't contact him, Blomkvist is convinced that Lisbeth is innocent and attempts to uncover other motives for the crime. The book is packed with incident, thrills, characters, rich details and plot revelations, reaching an emotionally draining climax of almost intolerable pitch.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest begins directly after the dramatic finale of the previous novel, after which Lisbeth lies paralysed and critically ill in hospital, knowing that Zalachenko is nearby and trying to finish his malign task - while other forces are keen to try her for murder, label her as insane and send her back to the secure institution where she spent her unhappy adolescence - assuming she survives her terrible injuries. Lisbeth's enemies enlist the help of psychiatrist Peter Taleborian, whom she has good reason to hate, to silence her for good. Mikael, Lisbeth and her underground hacker friends form the online ‘knights of the idiotic table' and embark on wreaking all kinds of electronic havoc. As the date for Lisbeth's trial draws near, Mikael gradually comes to suspect the existence of a conspiracy he calls "The Section", and with his allies plans to best this coalition of "men who hate women" on his own terms, and liberate Lisbeth from her life-long brutalisation and oppression. Lisbeth, of course, has her own plans, if she can recover sufficiently to apply her own explosive form of justice.
The Millennium Trilogy is published by Maclehose Press, an imprint of Quercus, and is translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland. Links in this post take you to my full reviews of each book at Euro Crime.