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Issue 98 - The Girl Who...

Whisky Magazine Issue 98
September 2011


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The Girl Who...

Jefferson Chase continues his look at Swedish crime fiction.

Judging from the sales figures, I must be one of the last people on earth to have read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, the final instalment of Stieg Larsson's massively popular Millennium trilogy. So I won't summarise the plot except to say it's about an ass-kicking cyberpunk named Lisbeth Salander, whose only hope of escaping imprisonment in mental institutions is to uncover, with the help of a journalist, a government conspiracy involving her family.

That said, what's the appeal of this Swedish crime series? In the beginning I was somewhat bewildered by the shear detail, the lists of characters and what roles they serve in the plot.

But gradually, I got sucked in by Larsson's portrayal of people and what they do. For instance, a doctor at a Gothenburg hospital: The girl on the gurney could live with a piece of lead in her hip and a piece of lead in her shoulder. But a piece of lead inside her head was a trauma of a wholly different magnitude.

He was suddenly aware of Nurse Nicander saying something.

‘Sorry, I wasn't listening.' ‘It's her.' The patient in question is Salander, who was nearly fatally wounded at the end of the second part of trilogy.

As an American I was struck by the amount of time the characters spend trying to follow the rules of bureaucratic, everything-by-the-book Sweden. In American crime fiction, breaking the rules is part of the hero's appeal. That's where Salander comes in, and I suspect she's the character who mainly attracts readers....

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