Lisbeth ,of course, is Lisbeth Salander , the unlikely protagonist of Stieg Larsson‘s Swedish mysteries. And she is the reason I’ve not been posting for the past couple of weeks ; I’ve been too busy reading “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest “, the final episode of the trilogy.
In an ealier post I had written about how I enjoyed the previous two Salander adventures ( ” The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played With Fire “). At the end of the second novel, after having been wounded and buried alive , she dug herself free and turned the tables on her attackers ,battering one and unnerving the other to the point that he was able to be captured. In the process she too was badly wounded and shot in the head.
This , the third novel, begins with Lisbeth Salander in dire straits.Her friend, Mikael Blomqvist , has taped up her wounds and called Emergency services and she has been transported by helicopter to a hospital. An emergency surgery has succeeded in removing the bullet from her brain and she lies unconscious in her hospital room . In a twist of fate , her father who tried to kill her is recovering from his injuries in another hospital room , just thirty feet away. Less grievously injured than Lisbeth , he has given his version of events to the authorities and , as a result, Lisbeth , if she ever recovers , will be charged with attempted murder in addition to a long list of other crimes. To make matters worse, the psychopath Ronald Niederman kills a policeman and escapes from custody . There is nothing more he would like than to take revenge on Lisbeth.As if that were not enough, a shadowy group within the Swedish secret services is desperate to kill Lisbeth so that their own crimes will not be exposed.
In critical condition , unconscious , unable to defend herself , vulnerable to enemies who would love to see her dead …. can any heroine ever have been in a more precarious situation ? Fortunately for Lisbeth , she has her defenders. Mikael Blomqvist , the crusading journalist whose life she had saved, knows that she is being falsely accused and is determined to get justice for her. He gets his sister , the lawyer Annika Giannini , to defend Lisbeth and cobbles together an unlikely group of Lisbeth’s friends to get at the truth and clear her name. In addition to throwing the resources of Millenium magazine behind her , he is able to recruit to her cause, Dragan Armansky, her former boss and the head of Milton Security. Slowly they begin to get at the truth of her past problems and they are aided by a couple of the policemen who , like them , become convinced of her innocence. The forces arrayed against them are formidable and things look bleak until Lisbeth herself joins the fray from her locked hospital room. Matters come to a head in the courtroom in which the villains get their comeuppance and in a most unexpected and violent confrontation in which Lisbeth exorcises the last remaining demon from her past. More I will not say .
Larsson tells a complicated story with sharply drawn characters each of whom has his own backstory ; several of them also have their own romantic entanglements . The richness of their backgrounds and the sudden explosions of violence keep us riveted , impatient as we are to see the villains get their just desserts. At times the story does get bogged down in the details and , at other times , it does seem implausible. But I only become aware of this afterwards, when I had finished the novel. Until then , I was too absorbed to care , wanting only to know what was going to happen next.
Lisbeth Salander has surely got to be one of the most unusual characters in all of fiction. Before I read the first of these novels , I’d read a review of one of them and I was put off by the description of Lisbeth Salander. How could anyone have as a heroine someone who has been committed to a psychiatric ward as a child , tried to kill her father , is about ninety pounds soaking wet , is heavily tattooed with piercings in several parts of her body, hardly ever speaks and is so antisocial that she has no friends ? And yet , as we come to know of her horrific background , as we understand what she has had to overcome merely survive. We forget our misgivings and come to admire and root for her unreservedly.
In fiction there are heroes and heroines . There is one character ( usually the heroine ) who is subjected to danger and finds herself in perilous straits and there is another character( usually the hero) who comes to the rescue . Sometimes the roles are reversed but they always are two distinct roles. Lisbeth Salander is unique in that she is both the hero and the heroine . She is the one who is assaulted and deprived of her rights; she is also the one who fights back, rescues herself and is instrumental in bringing the evildoers to justice. In doing so she exhibits amazing qualities of head and heart. She is a computer genius, a master hacker, reads research journals for fun , has a photographic memory and formidable analytical skills.Inspite of her slight stature, she is a fearless fighter who defeats hulking opponents because of the ferocity with which she depends herself. There is no doubt in my mind that Larsson loved this indomitable character that he created and that the character of Mikael Blomqvist ( the crusading journalist who allies himself with Lisbeth) is modelled on himself.
If you haven’t read any of these novels ,begin with the first one The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. You are in for a treat and you’ll be as hooked as I was. If you’ve already read them , you know what I mean.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest . Steig Larsson. ( Knopf 2009)