Hospitals and Stieg Larsson

So, I find myself at home for a while recovering from surgery.

While I was in hospital, I started The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest, the final book in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. I got through about 350 pages (or half) of it, to the amazement of my anaesthetist, while I was waiting to go down to theatre and while I was lurking in my curtained cubicle and avoiding the annoying chit-chat of the nosy woman opposite during my post-op recovery, but I was way too queasy to read anything at all for a couple of days after that. However, I finished the book this morning.

I've enjoyed the trilogy as a whole. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo can be read in isolation, and The Girl Who Played With Fire does make sense if you haven't read Dragon Tattoo, as Larsson kindly recaps where necessary. However, it ends at a point which leaves a lot of the story untold if you don't go on to read Hornets' Nest, and Hornets' Nest would make no sense at all if you hadn't read Played With Fire.

In many ways, these books remind me of thrillers from the 1950s. They aren't, in many ways, particularly realistic. The hero, Mikael Blomkvist, is apparently irresistible to every woman he meets, regardless of their age. Almost every character has a multitude of quirks and foibles and some of the villains are almost worthy of Ian Fleming. The plots are complicated and crammed with excitement an intrigue - thwarted assassination attempts, last-minute court room revelations which I can't believe would ever be admissible, my lack of knowledge of the Swedish legal system notwithstanding, and some truly gruesome fights. And yet, the trilogy is also ultra-contemporary at the same time. It's almost as if Larsson took classic thrillers of the 50s and dropped them into the socially-liberal, hi-tech world of 21st century Sweden and gave them a social conscience into the bargain. Great stuff, and Lisbeth Salander is a 100 per cent original heroine with a perfect balance of toughness and vulnerability and a whole bucket of flaws.

I've seen some writers claim that there's too much violence against women in Larsson's books. Those people are idiots who are missing the point on such a grand scale that I want to commit some violence of my own. It's blatantly obvious throughout that part of Larsson's objective in writing the books was to openly deplore the inherent misogyny that still lurks in certain sectors of society. Trust me, men who write exploitatively about violence against women really do not create characters like Lisbeth Salander.