Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Book phenomenom - Stieg Larsson

Every year there is a book that just stands out and takes the world by storm, 2008 will probably be the year of the Millennium trilogy. There has been a prolific flow of crime-fiction coming out of the Nordic region over the last few decades and frankly this will top them all.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the first volume of the Millennium Trilogy, the novels that a Swedish journalist called Stieg Larsson delivered to a publisher only a short time before he died aged 50. Larsson, well known in Sweden as a campaigning journalist exposing racist organisations, sent his first novel to the publisher only after his friends who had read the manuscripts urged him to do so. He arrived with three, each one of them a substantial typescript. Stieg Larsson died of a massive heart attack before the first one was published.

These novels have become a phenomenon in the Nordic region and are one by one soaring into the bestseller lists in Europe. The publisher claims that in Denmark only the bible has sold more copies than the Millenium books. In Sweden over 2 million copies have been sold and that is a country with a population around 11 million. The books are already being made into films but the English language rights have not been sold yet.

Tattoo is the first of his Millennium Trilogy to be published in the UK. It is a violent thriller that focuses on a complex financial fraud and a powerful family's sinister secret. It starts slowly, with details of how a Swedish company is ripping off government funding to set up a fake business in Russia. The novel picks up speed when it gets into the complexities of the wealthy Vanger family's past. Forty years earlier, Harriet Vanger disappeared off the family's private island. Nobody saw her leave, there was no sign of her disappearance and no corpse. Her uncle, however, is convinced that a family member murdered her.

A journalist, Blomqvist, in disgrace after losing a libel case arising from his reporting of the financial scandal, takes on the investigation of the woman's disappearance. Almost immediately, he sees a link with a number of other murders taking place around the same time. The family only pretends to help and Blomqvist doesn't know where to go next.

Then he hooks up with the titular tattooed girl - a very angry punk hacker. The journalist and the hacker are ingenious, believable creations, in conflict with themselves and each other. They form an incongruous but credible bond as everyone they meet is against them. In the end, the novel becomes, among many other things, something of a tender love story.

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