A Quick Farewell to Stieg Larsson
He thought for a long time before he went back to the landline and called his sister. He chose his words with care.
“How are you doing?”
“I’m fine, Micke.”
“Tell me what happened from the moment you arrived at Sahlgrenska until you were attacked.”
It took ten minutes for Giannini to give him her account. Blomkvist did not say anything about the implications of what she told him, but asked questions until he was satisfied. He sounded like an anxious brother, but his mind was working on a completely different level as he reconstructed the key points.
She had decided to stay in Göteborg at 4:30 that afternoon. She called her friend on her mobile, gotten the address and door code. The robber was waiting for her inside the stairwell at 6:00 on the dot.
Her mobile was being monitored. It was the only possible explanation. Which meant that his was being monitored too.
Foolish to think otherwise.
—The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest
Christ, how I wanted to like this book. Over the course of this summer, whenever my adrenal glands cried out for something involving good guys, bad guys, and attractive punk hackers, I would happily return to my cheap paperback copies of Stieg Larsson’s trilogies, whipping through them like the rest of the populace. My finishing The Girl Who Played With Fire coincided with e-books becoming available through public libraries. Even though I was disgusted by parts of The Girl Who Played With Fire — specifically The Bad Guy Who Can’t Feel Pain, so reminiscent of The Man-Mountain in George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, and also too much like bad guys in video games — I was ready to finish the trilogy. It’s a minor accomplishment, but of some value nonetheless, and the library copy was free. How hard could it be?
I’ve checked out and returned The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest twice now. Look at this passage, quoted up above. This is writing of such a low order that any high school kid wearing Doc Martens or Converse sneakers could edit it successfully. All the well-meaning feminism and left-wing muckraking and anti-racism in the world can’t make this right. Obviously Larsson had a gift for putting his great creation, Lisbeth Salander, into plots lifted from Le Carre, but still.
1. “He chose his words with care.”
No he didn’t. “How are you doing” is a pretty standard thing to say. So is “tell me what happened.” Is Micke having a stroke?
2. “It took ten minutes for Giannini to give him her account.”
We know who he’s talking to — he’s talking to his sister Giannini. Why keep changing how she is described? Using her surname here makes Blomkvist sound even colder.
3. “He sounded like an anxious brother, but his mind was working on a completely different level as he reconstructed the key points.”
No, he doesn’t sound like an anxious brother. On the compassion scale, he ranks somewhere below the blond cyborg in Blade Runner and Data from Star Trek. He sounds like a detective. Larsson, like his readers, cares more about the conflict of good vs. evil than he does, at this moment, about Annika’s well-being. It’s Larsson’s mind, not Blomkvist’s, that is “working on a completely different level.”
4. “6:00 on the dot.”
And thank God. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s muggers who show up late to stuff.
5. “Foolish to think otherwise.”
Absolutely right, Larsson. If something is “the only possible explanation,” then it certainly WOULD be “foolish to think otherwise.” I mean, why stop there? Why not add “Blomkvist knew he’d have to be some kind of absolute fucking moron to even consider alternative scenarios. So he didn’t”?