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Stieg Larsson's Thriller Legacy

Author Stieg Larsson in a 1998 file photo. (AP)

“Swedish thriller” can sound like a contradiction in terms — but not when the thriller is the super global bestseller “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

Its heroine — a four-foot-nine-inch, pierced-and-tattoed hacker-punk-savant elfin ball of violent fury named Lisbeth Salander — is like no other you’ve ever met, except maybe her distant pigtailed cousin, Pippi Longstocking.

Its author, Stieg Larsson, a real-life Nazi-hunting Swedish crusader, wrote three killer mysteries all at once, and died. Another mystery.

This hour, On Point: the Swede who played with fire and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”


Edward Kastenmeier, vice president and executive editor for Vintage/Anchor and editor of Stieg Larsson’s books in paperback: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.”

Lasse Winkler, editor-in-chief of of Svensk Bokhandel, akin to a Publishers Weekly, and a former investigative journalist.

Niels Arden Oplev, director of the new film, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

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  • Dania

    I am so excited waiting to hear this program. I read 2 first titles of Millenium trilogy in 2 nights. These were the American editions of The Girl with Dragon Tatto & The Girl who Played with Fire.

    I could not wait for the American publication date of May for the 3rd title so I ordered it from the UK publisher and needed couple of days to read this one.
    To my great surprise I quickly noticed that the English version is much richer and much more sophisticated. I just got the English edition of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and it also feels so much longer and refined.
    I am now awaiting the arrival of the 2nd title from England and can’t wait to read that fuller version.
    Am I right in noticing that the American versions are made simpler and shorter?
    And if so why is that the case?

  • Jean B.

    I love, love, love these books and the characters in them. The books are perfection! I eagerly await the third book’s publication in the United States, but I also am prepared to be in extreme withdrawal after I read that final one.

    I will add that I suspected Salander was an aspie even before that was broached in the book. My daughter is also an aspie, although her behavior was and is not at all like Salander’s.

  • Derek

    I have read all three books and – yes, they are all great page-turners.
    I think part of their attraction is that Sweden is a highly civilized, democratic country in which, unlike USA, government has its hand in all sorts of pies and is generally accepted by the public in so doing. At the same time, there have been the assassination of former Prime Minister Olof Palme, and later the female Foreign Minister, and various other events that offer an intriguing insight into a unique national psyche and system. Steig Larsson has captured this edgy tension very capably and it is this that has contributed to making his books so very readable.

  • A. Crossbee

    I appreciate the comparisons with Pippi Longstocking, but listeners who are not familiar with Larsson’s work should be clearly made aware that his books are graphic and violent and therefore not for children. So far, the more graphic material in the book is not being addressed.

  • Ann Katrine

    I want to comment on the listener who said she found Lisbeth disgusting. I see Lisbeth as a kind of anti-heroine. She is a complex character that you are supposed to sympathize with as well as be disgusted by.

    Ann Katrine Dane from Atl

  • Margaret Cusack

    I wonder what the caller who finds Lisbeth “disgusting” would be like if she had experienced an upbrnging such as Lisbeth endured. It’s fascinating to me that a woman such as this caller would have so little compassion for another woman in such circumstances. Not to mention the fact that Lisbeth is borderline Asberger’s.

  • http://none Jane Husemeyer

    I can relate totally with Lisbeth having been raised by a grandmother who had little understanding of how to raise a child. She became sick at 75 and at five years of age i went to a girls/boy home for a year, then 3 foster homes the next year, and finally another girls home for nine years. Thankfully, I was rescued by my uncles and traveled the U.S. my senior year in high school (8 of them), and then attended college, and graduated and then went to graduate school never having graduated from high school or taken an examination. I only say this last part because the rules societies imposed upon its citizens do not often give them a chance to perform outside of societies parameters.

  • idio

    *Spoiler Alert 

    After all the buzz about this book, it was this broadcast that finally convinced to read it, with all its allusions to feminist themes.

    On this front I was sorely disappointed.  First, the novel inherits the misogynistic style of so many detective thrillers.  I felt forever reminded of how the women look, what they are wearing, and their relative breast sizes.  The male lead, ad nauseam, has women throwing themselves at his head–and they want him so much, to hell with the condom.  

    There is the issue of Lisbeth’s rape, which was written cartoonishly on every level.  The fact she returned for documentation (expecting a “lesser” level of abuse) was patently obtuse, and seemed to promote the notion “she’s tough enough to take it.”  

    And there is the major plot line.  To me, highly stylized torture of women propelling a dramatic theme hardly advances women’s causes.  Women are most often abused by people close to them, and this “psychopath in the basement” cliche diffuses the reality of systemic sexism.  

    Yes, it touches on the fact women’s disappearances are under-investigated, with intersections of race and class.  But it is hardly an indictment of the justice system; rather, the novel is shrouded in a mysterious-family-legacy trope.  

    Lastly, as a novel, I found it middle-of-the-line in dramatic arch and character development.  Lisbeth herself is a bit cliched.  And while the book claimed to be critiquing the system that categorized her, it was forever cataloguing her every idiosyncrasy.  I felt I was perpetually seeing her from the outside, a rare specimen held to novelistic light.  Because the author is sympathetic to her, we’re somehow supposed to find this less loathsome than the social scrutiny she is subjected to.  But  we are not spared constant reminders of her chest size, or detailed description of her sexual preferences.  Whatever he was as a journalist, Stieg Larsson is hardly a progressive novelist.  

  • Diane

    Maybe I am a puritanical American, but the level of violence against women was over the top and destroyed what could have a movie to recommend.  I had not read the book and the reviews did not mention it.  It will be interesting to see how the American version of the film handles that. 

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