Stieg Larsson’s scandi-crime trilogy “The Millennium Series” has put Swedish culture on the map, and under the public eye, with 45 million readers worldwide and translations into dozens of languages. Critics have claimed that “The trilogy is an international sensation that will grab you and keep you reading with eyes wide open” (San Francisco Chronicle). “[It] is intricately plotted, lavishly detailed but written with a breakneck pace and verve” (The Independent, UK)
Like most Swedish media the introduction, setting, and initial character development is slow, lengthy, and by those used to high pace, exciting reads; boring. This usually distracts and discourages audiences from even wanting to continue with the movie or book. Larsson’s work is no different, the novel does not get a good start until Chapter 4, but “be warned: the trilogy is seriously addictive.” (The Guardian, UK) and if you can get past the hump of introductions, readers everywhere will agree that it is a worthwhile ride to take. It has been noted that Larsson was not the most articulate writer and this comes through in the translations as well, but nonetheless the success the trilogy has seen goes beyond the writing, into a truly magnificent, if sometimes overly exaggerated, mystery story. Some critics have likened Stieg Larsson’s story as being the Harry Potter of murder mysteries: exciting, gripping, and with a great cliff hanger at the end of each chapter. Maybe it is not the most intellectually or academically stimulating, but the novels are definitely an exhilarating and electrifying read.
The first novel called Män som hatar kvinnor (literal translation “Men who hate women”), published as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in English, was awarded the Glass Key Award as the best Nordic crime novel in 2005. Book lovers claimed it was one of those novels that you just couldn’t put down, eagerly awaiting each page turn, and grasping at the edge of your seat with excitement to how the mystery could ever solve itself. “Lisbeth Salander—one of the most original and memorable heroines to surface in a recent thriller” (The New York Times) has become an international feminist symbol, and recognized as an unusual protagonist, claimed to be inspired by the children’s book character Pippi Longstocking, as an adult.
But it wasn’t until the release of the second novel called Flickan som lekte med elden (English translation and publication as The Girl Who Played with Fire), that audiences started clambering at book stores impatiently awaiting more. The second publication received the Best Swedish Crime Novel Award in 2006, and was the official start to a renewed focus on the Nordic region, and what unique culture products they had to offer. With the spark that was set off with this book, readers around the globe were begging for more scandi-mystery.
The third novel called Luftslottet som sprängdes (literal translation “The air castle that was blown up”), and published as The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest in English, holds up to the standards set by its previous editions. The mystery, excitement, emotionally compelling well-woven plot is ever present in the last chapter of the gripping trilogy.
Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and even Iceland have had a culture of fictitious murder mystery series, but these have never received much attention internationally before the turn of the century. Authors such as Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö, Henning Mankell, Karin Fossu, Arnaldur Indridason and Peter Hoeg have had seen some global success in the last few decades, but not as noteworthy as what Larsson has done. Because of the success of Larsson’s Millennium Series, Scandinavian murder mysteries have been getting even more interest, starting a new generation of scandi-crime books. The ever popular Håkan Nesser’s book Borkmann’s point: an Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery was published in Sweden in 1994, and then republished in English in 2006. Some older work such as Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1995) by Peter Høeg, Blackwater (1996) by Kerstin Ekman and Roseanna (1993) by Maj Sjöwall have received new attention. But even more interesting to note is the fact that there are so many new publications of Scandinavian crime fiction that are receiving huge global success; The Ice Princess (2008) by Camilla Lackberg, The Darkest Room (2009) by Johan Theorin, The Black Path (2008) by Asa Larsson, Paradise (2000) by Liza Marklund, Detective Inspector Huss (2004) by Helene Tursten, Sun and shadow : an Erik Winter novel (2005) by Åke Edwardson, Don’t look back (2005) by Karin Fossum, Jar city: a Reykjavík thriller (2006) by Arnaldur Indriðason, One step behind (2008) by Henning Mankell, The Redbreast (2007) and The Snowman (2010) by Jo Nesbø.
The hottest thing in literature is arguably the boom of Scandinavian murder mysteries. If you haven’t read one, maybe it’s time to take a look at The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?