The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest Summary

Stieg Larsson

Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 Summary

Friday, April 8

A helicopter lands at the hospital in Goteborg during a raging storm. It is carrying two patients: an injured man and a younger woman. Dr. Jonasson meets the emergency team when it arrives. The other doctor on duty takes the old man with a bandage around his face, and Jonasson is left with the girl. She appears to be a young teenager, bloody and dirty and severely wounded. She has duct tape on her hip and shoulder; it is a clever way to keep the blood in and the germs out. A bullet has passed through her hip, damaging the muscle tissue. The bullet wound on the back of her shoulder has no exit wound. She is fortunate the bullet did not puncture her lung. Jonasson is appalled when he removes the girl’s head bandage. She has been shot in the head, and there is no exit wound. He hears the nurse telling him who the girl is: Lisbeth Salander, wanted for three murders in Stockholm. Jonasson sees she is correct, but his job is to save his patient’s life, murderer or not.

Salander is in critical condition. Jonasson has never had a patient with a bullet in her skull. He has theoretical knowledge but has never performed brain surgery. Fortuitously, one of his friends, a brain surgeon, is in town to give a lecture on brain research. He calls Dr. Frank Ellis. Jonasson describes the injury and Ellis is hopeful—anyone who has a bullet in her head and is still alive gives him hope. Ellis agrees to come supervise his friend and make sure he does not do “anything stupid.”

Brain injuries are always puzzling, and how patients will respond and recover—if they recover—is still a mystery to Ellis. Jonasson will extract the bullet through the same route it entered, through Salander’s temple. It is lodged against the lateral ventricle and needs to be removed. Ellis is more worried about the many bone fragments around the entry wound; he sees at least a dozen that are several millimeters long. Some are embedded in her brain tissue, and these could kill her. Jonasson comments that the area in particular danger from the bone fragments is the part of the brain associated with numbers and mathematical capacity.

It is 3:00 a.m. and Mikael Blomkvist is handcuffed,...

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Chapter 2 Summary

Friday, April 8

Modig and Holmberg arrive in Goteborg and wait for Erlander and Blomkvist. Niedermann has abandoned the patrol car and left no trail. Blomkvist asks about Salander; the bullet in her head has been removed but she has not yet regained consciousness. Zalachenko, known here as Karl Axel Bodin, was operated on for deep gashes to his face and leg. Both patients will live.

Blomkvist tells them everything he knows. He found the secret report in Salander’s apartment but will not give the police her address. She is not a criminal but has had her reputation destroyed by police accusations, and he is going to protect her. Bjurman’s reason for wanting Salander killed is “complicated” but Blomkvist assures them it was an exceptionally strong motive. The officers assume Bjurman sexually assaulted her, based on the tattoo on his chest. The tattoo is news to Blomkvist and he bursts out laughing. He reminds them Salander was placed in a mental institution the last time she tried to explain what kind of man Zalachenko was.

Prosecutor Richard Ekstrom sits across the table from Chief Inspector Bublanski and is nervous. His murder investigation has turned “chaotic and ominous.” It started with one clear suspect with a well-documented record of instability and mental illness. Now it appears that Salander may be innocent and the real murderer is running loose. He hates Salander for putting him in this predicament.

Bublanski explains that Salander is innocent and the case revolves around a man named Alexander Zalachenko, a Russian hit man—and Salander’s father—who defected to Sweden in the seventies. He connected with two men in Sapo who covered up his crimes. One of them ensured Salander was locked up in a children’s psychiatric clinic after she inadvertently threatened to expose Zalachenko’s true nature.

After reading the confidential report, Ekstrom still wants to arrest Salander for attempted murder and assault. Bublanski advises against it. Ekstrom wants to keep Gunnar Bjorck’s role in the matter from the press because Bjorck is assistant chief of the immigration division of the Security Police. But Bublanski says he is bringing Bjorck in for...

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Chapter 3 Summary

Friday, April 8–Saturday, April 9

Zalachenko’s face is heavily bandaged after extensive surgery. Although he is in immense pain and has been given large doses of painkillers, he is relatively lucid. Modig addresses him as Zalachenko, but he says his name is Karl Axel Bodin. When she tells him she has read his file from Sapo, he says that was a long time ago and he is Bodin now—and he wants to report an attempted murder by his mentally ill daughter.

The officers ask about Niedermann. The old man claims he hired Niedermann as an assistant to protect him from Salander. In a weak voice, Zalachenko says he is now afraid of Niedermann. Modig plays “bad cop” and asks him if he beat Salander’s mother so much that she suffered permanent brain damage and whether the incident was covered up in a top-secret file written by Bjorck. Zalachenko claims Bjorck was delusional and says he has never been convicted of, or even questioned about, any crimes. He appears to be grinning beneath his bandages and reiterates his desire to press charges against his daughter. Modig says she understands why Salander “felt an uncontrollable urge to slam an axe into his head.” Modig talks to Bublanski, and they realize this crafty old man will be able to explain away any evidence.

Salander wakes up and sees a blond man with “intense blue eyes.” He introduces himself as Doctor Anders Jonasson, and he asks her to say her name and count to ten. She does fairly well with both requests before falling back asleep. She seems to have some shoulder pain, but she will not “end up a vegetable” and he is glad.

Kaspersson stumbles through the woods and is suffering from hypothermia; her hands are still bound behind her back and her fingers are numb. She managed to free herself from the barn where the man tied her up, but now she feels as if she is alone on the earth and wandering aimlessly. She sees a light through the trees and staggers to the door of a small brick house. She kicks at the door with her heel.

Salander opens her eyes and feels so exhausted she can barely think; panic washes over her as she remembers being buried alive and digging herself out of a...

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Chapter 4 Summary

Saturday, April 9–Sunday, April 10

Since Wednesday’s attacks in the warehouse, the violent crimes division has been busy with three murdered bodies uncovered from their graves, the kidnapping and assault of Salander’s friend Miriam Wu, and arson. The shooting incident at Bjurman’s cabin is also connected to these crimes, and Carl-Magnus Lundin is in the hospital with a cast on one foot and his jaw wired shut.

Lundin is charged with kidnapping and arson; the prosecutor will wait until the bodies are identified before charging him with murder. Sonny Nieminen claims he has no connection to Lundin or the warehouse, and authorities have nothing to disprove his claim. The prosecutor is not happy about it, but she may have to release Nieminen this afternoon. Authorities are wondering how the diminutive Salander managed to do such damage to two grown men; they assume she was armed with Mace and a taser but the gun she used belonged to one of the motorcyclists. Salander took the pistol with her to Gosseberga; it has been identified as being stolen from a gun shop during a robbery four years ago.

Nieminen is released. The other six members of Svavelsjo Motorcycle Club are now in hiding, which infuriates Nieminen. With Lundin gone, he is in charge. He wonders who is watching the warehouse. Benny Karlsson is in charge there. Niedermann showed up looking for a place to hide and was invited in because of his past relationship with the two leaders.

Nieminen knows Niedermann as a lucrative business acquaintance, not a friend; the world knows Niedermann as a dangerous psychopath. It would be best for everyone involved if the giant were dead. Niedermann is hiding at group member Victor Goransson’s house.

Nieminen has a short fuse, especially after he has been drinking; he and another member go to Nieminen’s house. Behind the house they uncover an arms cache. He tries to forget about the altercation with Salander and the humiliation he endured when she cut the symbol out of his jacket. He intends to repay her for that to erase his shame, but first he has to worry about Niedermann. The monster does not have a criminal record, but he is a threat to the group...

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Chapter 5 Summary

Sunday, April 10

Blomkvist spends the night with Berger and tells her about Zalachenko. He is not concerned that she will be working for a rival paper, and she has no intention of taking the story with her. After she leaves, Blomkvist calls Erlander for an update on Salander’s condition. She is stable. His next call is to Armansky. Blomkvist asks if he can trust him and if he is willing to fight with him against Salander’s enemies. Armansky is willing to partner with Blomkvist to pay for Salander’s legal defense. They will meet tomorrow night.

Giannini does not want to represent Salander because she has no criminal experience; however, she is a recognized authority on women’s rights and is...

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Chapter 6 Summary

Monday, April 11

Blomkvist writes two lengthy articles focused on the deaths of Johansson and Svensson: who they were, what they were working on, and who killed them and why.

Gullberg visits the new chief of the Section, Birger Wadensjoo, a man he does not really know. They discuss changes in the Section; it is smaller and perhaps more efficient now, but if problems arise it is still so secret it does not exist. Two men join them. Gullberg knows Georg Nystrom; Jonas Sandberg introduces himself as the man who visited Zalachenko. They discuss how things fell apart. It all appears to have stemmed from Bjorck’s giving a top-secret file to Bjurman, Salander’s guardian.

The original plan...

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Chapter 7 Summary

Monday, April 11–Tuesday, April 12

Gullberg takes the train to Goteborg and writes twelve entirely fictitious letters, making sure his fingerprints are on each one. At the station, he photocopies the letters, buys stamps and envelopes, and mails the letters. Exhausted, he checks into a hotel and sleeps.

Salander awakens with a start. Zalachenko is in the doorway of her room. She looks around for a weapon and sees a water glass she can use. He stands there for two minutes without moving then shuts the door and leaves. Salander pulls the electrodes off her body and hobbles to the door, icy with rage and ready to end their battle now.

Blomkvist writes all night. Salander’s story is...

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Chapter 8 Summary

Sunday, May 1–Monday, May 2

It is Berger’s first day at Svenska Morgon-Posten (SMP). At this moment, she wonders if she is the right person for this job. She is moving from a small monthly publication with a handful of employees to a daily paper with eighty reporters and ninety other employees—plus a publishing house, production company, and management company. She has more than two hundred employees in all, and she wonders if coming here was a mistake.

She meets with Hakan Morander, the outgoing editor; she will spend the next two months working together with him before he leaves. He tells her to expect some adversaries, veteran editors who have built their own “empires”...

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Chapter 9 Summary

Wednesday, May 4

Three days after Berger becomes acting editor-in-chief of SMP, the outgoing editor, Haken Morander, collapses in his office. He is dead before the paramedics arrive. The newsroom is uncomfortable until CEO Borgsjo gathers employees for a brief memorial. After a moment of silence, Berger asks Morander’s closest colleague to write his obituary and asks news editor Peter Fredriksson to be her adviser. This is Morander’s final issue of the paper; she asks them to get it right for him.

Bublanski’s team is frustrated that there is no forensic evidence to indicate Bjorck died other than by suicide. It is too coincidental for them that he died on the same day as Zalachenko,...

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Chapter 10 Summary

Saturday, May 7–Thursday, May 12

Blomkvist has been writing articles for the summer issue of Millennium, but it is too much. He has decided, as he did at the end of the Wennerstrom affair, to write a book. The easy parts are finished. He has covered Johansson’s and Svensson’s murders and his role in finding them; he has also written about how Salander came to be a suspect and how Ekstrom directed the investigation solely toward her. He has explained Zalachenko’s arrival in Sweden and the series of events that caused his daughter to end up in a mental institution.

His accounts of Bjorck and Teleborian are scathing, and he quotes directly from the 1991 report to establish the threat...

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Chapter 11 Summary

Friday, May 13–Saturday, May 14

Making sure he is not being followed, Blomkvist takes Salander’s car and drives to Goteborg. Ghidi shakes his hand and invites him in with a limp. Ghidi makes it clear he will do nothing illegal, and Blomkvist assures him that his request is unusual but not illegal. It will take Ghidi only a minute each day for several weeks, and Blomkvist will pay a thousand kroner a week (unreported). Ghidi nods in agreement.

Superintendent Nystrom visits Prosecutor Ekstrom. What he tells him is completely off the record but endorsed by the highest authorities in the Security Police. He confirms what Blomkvist has been saying, that Zalachenko was a defector and former Soviet...

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Chapter 12 Summary

Sunday, May 15–Monday, May 16

Superintendent Torsten Edklinth is the director of Constitutional Protection Unit at the Security Police, and he is Armansky’s friend and dinner guest. Armansky explains Salander’s situation, and Edklinth is stunned to think the Security Police would be involved in such activity. Armansky makes it clear he believes these things have been done by only a hidden faction of the organization, unsanctioned by its leadership. When Edklinth sees the photos of the man getting into a car with KAB on the license plate, he asks Armansky if this is a practical joke.

After twenty-one years in the Security Police, Edklinth finds it troubling to think that what Armansky told him...

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Chapter 13 Summary

Tuesday, May 17

Figuerola prepares a memorandum of her findings after one day of research, and she gives it to Edklinth. After he reads it, he comes to the same conclusion Figuerola made—Chief of Secretariat Albert Shenke has to be involved in this somehow. She requests permission to examine Gullberg’s personnel file from the fifties because he seems to have somehow vanished from all records then; however, Edklinth does not want to draw any undue attention until they have more to act on. He tells her to find out what Martensson is working on now.

As Salander is finalizing her plans to break out of the hospital and start her life with a new identity elsewhere, Jonasson comes to visit her. He...

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Chapter 14 Summary

Wednesday, May 18

Yesterday Figuerola compiled information on Martensson, and the only area of concern to her is that he has licenses for at least sixteen weapons. This is perfectly legal, but it is of concern to her. Today she sits outside his apartment and waits.

Salander has developed a prolonged headache and fever. Jonasson orders a cranial X-ray that shows a slightly darkened area near the bullet wound. It is possible that there is minor bleeding, so Salander should remain under strict observation until further notice.

Berger receives another crude and vaguely threatening e-mail, again from a false address and sender. She creates a folder and saves both messages.


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Chapter 15 Summary

Thursday, May 19–Sunday, May 22

Salander reads all of Blomkvist’s Millennium articles and the chapters for the book he is writing. The publishing date is June 20, right before Ekstrom has tentatively scheduled Salander’s trial at the beginning of July. He has a month to finish the manuscript. The most powerful thing she reads is a message from him: she can remain silent and let herself be convicted, but if she wants to win her case and her freedom she must fight. He is asking her for permission to tell the truth about her in his book. He is complicating her life. After some reflection, she begins typing her own story.

Holmberg knocks on the front door of his father’s friend, former...

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Chapter 16 Summary

Part 3: Disk Crash, May 27–June 6

Friday, May 27–Tuesday, May 31

Blomkvist leaves the office without being seen and goes to Salander’s huge but virtually unfurnished apartment. Since his apartment was broken into and is under surveillance, he has been using this as his headquarters. He restored her computer to usable condition and spends several nights a week here. He contacts Salander and she sends him the two new chapters she wrote since they last communicated. Plague copied information from Ekstrom’s computer starting in April, and she has set up another contact group comprised of him, her, Plague, and Trinity in case Blomkvist ever needs it.

Blomkvist goes...

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Chapter 17 Summary

Wednesday, June 1

Blomkvist is surprised to see Monica Figuerola sitting in his stairwell. She does not have to introduce herself; he knows who she is from his research. She needs him to come with her to an important meeting. When he hesitates, she says she understands his reluctance to trust anyone from SIS but assures him they can be trusted. When he walks into a borrowed apartment, Blomkvist is shocked to find the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister with Edklinth.

Blomkvist thinks quickly and realizes Armansky must have contacted someone powerful and trustworthy to get some kind of an investigation started. He also realizes he is in a strong position and speaks with confidence; he posits...

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Chapter 18 Summary

Thursday, June 2

The security specialist arrives at Berger’s in the morning. An alarm will be installed this afternoon, after he has a chance to examine and evaluate her home. The cut on her foot is quite painful and she is late for work. Holm has discovered that she gave Frisk a secret feature assignment; he is incensed and has contacted the board. Borgsjo is coming for a meeting with her at 2:00.

Figuerola meets with her team and gives them their new deadline; Salander’s trial begins July 13, so they have less than six weeks. They assume the Zalachenko club was formed in 1964, before Zalachenko came to Sweden and right after a spy scandal caused paranoia in the country; however, there is no...

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Chapter 19 Summary

Friday, June 3–Saturday, June 4

Salander finishes her autobiography and sends it to Blomkvist. She turned twenty-seven while in the hospital, and she wonders if she will spend any more birthdays in some kind of confinement. She determines she will never accept such a situation again. Her body is nearly healed, and she has done some serious risk assessment. She will take Blomkvist’s advice and test the system; if justice does not prevail, she will simply find a way to escape from whatever institution they lock her into. More than anything, the deciding factor for her decision is simple: revenge. Zalachenko, Bjurman, and Bjorck are dead; Teleborian and Niedermann are not. Undoubtedly there are others who...

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Chapter 20 Summary

Saturday, June 4

Blomkvist prints out Salander’s autobiographical statement and begins to read.

Salander is narrowing the focus of her search for Berger’s stalker, but she still has to take care of her own case and checks the usual places for any new activity. There is nothing new from Blomkvist or Plague, and Ekstrom has little new activity. She always feels a chill when she checks Teleborian’s files, and today she discovers that he has already written his psychiatric evaluation of her even though he has not seen her since these problems began. Salander e-mails the document to Blomkvist and does a routine check of Teleborian’s e-mail. Then she finds a terse e-mail from Jonas to meet...

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Chapter 21 Summary

Saturday, June 4–Monday, June 6

Salander dismisses Holm as Berger’s stalker, though he clearly despises his new editor. Something about assistant editor Fredriksson strikes her as odd, and she asks Plague to follow up on him; if he finds anything but cannot reach her, he should inform Blomkvist. Salander is being moved to prison tomorrow, and “all that’s left is the finale.”

Early Sunday morning, someone trips the sensors on the ground floor of Berger’s house. Linder is prepared to meet an intruder, but it is Greger Beckman, Berger’s husband, who is sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper. She introduces herself, and Greger is stunned to learn that there has been trouble while...

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Chapter 22 Summary

Monday, June 6

For the first time, Berger feels good about going to work. The first thing she does is ask maintenance to pack up Fredriksson’s belongings. Holm nods at her when he arrives, and she thinks he might possibly survive as news editor since he has stopped trying to cause trouble. Soon Borgsjo demands she come to his office. He is white with rage: he has Cortez’s article and research. Fredriksson sent him the file.

Borgsjo is scathing in his disdain and calls Berger a “media whore” who has been “looking for dirt” ever since she arrived. She explains the article is going to be run in Millennium but, out of courtesy for her, Blomkvist postponed it for a month to give her...

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Chapter 23 Summary

Part 4: Rebooting System, July 1–October 7

Friday, July 1–Sunday, July 10

Two weeks before Salander’s trial, Blomkvist’s book The Section is ready to be published; he delivers the CD to the printer. At least 500 of the first printing of 10,000 will be ready on the first day of the trial. For the first time since Christmas, Blomkvist goes to his cabin. He readies it for a weekend stay with Figuerola.

Figuerola likes the cabin and wonders whom else he has brought here. Berger and Salander spent time here, and they are his friends. Figuerola says she is falling in love with him and does not want to be just another girl he brings to his cabin. He does not...

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Chapter 24 Summary

Monday, July 11

Armansky calls Blomkvist early on Monday and says he needs to see him as quickly as possible.

Several of Armansky’s best men are pondering a surveillance video from Blomkvist’s apartment. They watch as Sapo officer Sandberg enters Blomkvist’s apartment with his own set of keys and places 120,000 kronor in cash in Blomkvist’s closet and 180 grams of cocaine in a speaker. Linder retrieves it all several hours later. Obviously the Section is getting nervous and wants to discredit Blomkvist before he publishes anything damaging about them. Blomkvist takes two copies of the video, one for Edklinth and one for the television host in case it needs to be aired quickly.


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Chapter 25 Summary

Wednesday, July 13–Thursday, July 14

Blomkvist has a clear view of the defense table. Salander is facing sixteen charges ranging from the attempted murder of her father to several misdemeanors. Prosecutor Ekstrom has leaked information that Salander’s mental condition will feature prominently in the trial. The press also knows Salander has been interviewed seven times, and on each occasion she refused to speak one word despite every form of persuasion. Therefore, the charges against her are based solely on forensic evidence and police investigation.

Ekstrom has made it clear his goal is to obtain secure psychiatric care (not lengthy prison sentences) for Salander, and he believes the declaration...

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Chapter 26 Summary

Friday, July 16

Dr. Teleborian is an impressive witness, answering every question with calm authority. He is unwilling to give a precise diagnosis because he has not examined Salander for many years, though he is certain she suffers from a mental disorder to some degree.

The doctor has read Salander’s autobiography and does not find it credible. The description of Bjurman’s rape is the kind of erotic fantasy that even very young mentally ill children can have. It is not a lie to her if she believes it.

He believes Salander’s depiction of Teleborian as a pedophile is a “manifestation of her inability to interpret reality.” She gives reality her own interpretation and cannot tell...

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Chapter 27 Summary

Friday, July 15

Holmgren joins Giannini at the defense table before she begins cross-examining Teleborian. Giannini reminds the judge that Teleborian claims Salander is a liar; she is now going to prove that every word of her client’s story is true through documents and testimony. The prosecutor has many opinions but is woefully devoid of facts. He believes, he claims, and he assumes, but it is all based on one source—Teleborian. The defense case is simple: if Teleborian is right, Salander should be committed to an institution; if he is wrong, the prosecution’s case disintegrates. Even worse, if Teleborian is lying, Salander’s civil rights have been cruelly violated.


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Chapter 28 Summary

Friday, July 15–Saturday, July 16

Judge Iversen is unsure how to proceed; he asks Ekstrom if he has anything to say. Ekstrom stands, knowing this battle is lost and suddenly afraid Blomkvist will expose him and ruin his career. He was so sure he knew everything and now he realizes he knew only what Nystrom and Teleborian wanted him to hear. They had been so competent and convincing. Now he has to figure out how to extricate himself from the consequences. He considers blaming others but knows Bublanski and others will be uncompromising in their accusations.

Suddenly he realizes Salander is the victim. He requests the trial be suspended until he can make adjustments to his case; however, Giannini...

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Chapter 29 Summary

Saturday, July 16–Friday, October 7

Salander enters her apartment and finds her handbag, her handheld computer, her car keys, and mail from her post office box. She finds traces of Blomkvist everywhere, including an envelope with his cell phone number in it. He has finished the story and put things right; if she wants to contact him, she can do so.

Now that she is free, she feels more claustrophobic than ever. She is indebted to many people and feels the weight of it. Everything is over now, they all believe, and for them it is. For her, though, it is only the first day of the rest of her life. After a sleepless night of thinking, Salander flies to Gibraltar, using her own name and passport. It is...

(The entire section is 869 words.)