A page-turner and seriously good thriller

2009-04-02 00:00

THIS is the second book in the Millennium Trilogy, the first part of which, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was published last year and won South Africa’s Boeke Prize. The Swedish author died in 2004, shortly after having delivered the manuscript of his three thrillers to his publisher, and sadly he was never aware of the success they have achieved, both in Sweden and abroad.

This time, Mikael Blomkvist’s Millennium magazine is busy working on an exposé of the sex-trafficking industry. But before he can publish, his investigative journalist and the man’s wife are murdered. And so is an unpleasant and shadowy figure, who happens to Lisbeth Salander’s legal guardian. Salander is the dysfunctional computer whizz who hacked Blomkvist to success in the first mystery he unravelled, the subject of the previous book.

Salander becomes the chief suspect, and the novel shifts between the police investigation which is sometimes plodding, sometimes sharp and sometimes possibly crooked; Blomkvist’s efforts to find out who killed his friend and to protect Salander who he cannot believe is guilty, and Salander herself. Besides the police, she is being pursued by a strange, shadowy figure and his attendant thugs. And for her own reasons, she is keeping her distance from Blomkvist.

Salander is an unusual and strangely appealing heroine. By anybody’s reckoning, she is a criminal, as well as a tough fighter and socially beyond inept, alienating even those who believe in her and want to help her. And this time she is up against forces who are determined to get her. If they can’t frame her for murder, they will have to resort to more desperate measures. And their hatred for her is rooted in her shadowy past.

The end — a bit of a cliff-hanger here — makes it plain that there is more to come. But before we get there, it has been a page-turning, rollicking ride. A seriously good thriller, with interesting characters and a gripping story. Roll on the next one.

Margaret von Klemperer

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