"Why do people love Stieg Larsson's novels?" asks Joan Acocella in The New Yorker. The late Swedish writer's Millennium trilogy books — The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest — are a global publishing phenomenon, inspiring cinematic adaptations in both Larsson's homeland and Hollywood. And yet, a "central mystery" remains: Why are these mediocre crime thrillers so popular? Their hero, Mikael Blomkvist, "is so anti-masculinist that, in a narrative where people are brandishing chainsaws, he can take no forceful action." The dialogue "could not be worse," and "the phrasing and the vocabulary are consistently banal." Despite his books faults, Larsson is "a very good storyteller" and the novels are filled with "cheap thrills... dirt aplenty and considerable mayhem." Still, the appeal must run deeper, writes Acocella. Here, an excerpt:
A final drawing card of the trilogy may be its up-to-dateness, particularly of the technological variety. Other mystery writers — Patricia Cornwell, Henning Mankell — have introduced computers into their arsenal, but no one I know of uses computers as extensively as Larsson to build plot and character. Lisbeth [Salander] and Mikael find each other online, solve crimes online, acquire their glamour online....Lisbeth's only friends are fellow-hackers. Her colleague Trinity has infiltrated the computers of the BBC and Scotland Yard: "He even managed — for a short time — to take command of a nuclear submarine on patrol in the North Sea." One of the sweetest moments in the whole trilogy comes via an electronic device. Mikael has been separated from Lisbeth for almost the entire length of The Girl Who Played with Fire. Finally, he breaks into her apartment, looking for evidence that might help her (the police are after her). His entry activates the apartment's security system. Lisbeth, driving up a country road, is alerted by her cell phone. The system is wired so that after thirty seconds a paint bomb explodes on any intruder. There are six seconds left. Mikael, guessing the machine's code, turns the system off. Lisbeth taps into her security camera and sees who is standing in her foyer. She smiles—a rare event. She knows now that Mikael is still on her side.
Read the entire story at The New Yorker.
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