The Girl Who Played With Fire is the second novel in Stieg Larsson’s bestselling trilogy, the Millennium series. This novel was published posthumously in Swedish in 2006 and in English three years later. Like the first book in the series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the novel’s popularity started in Europe before extending to the United States. Larsson was a journalist who spent his life speaking for equality and against right-wing extremism, and he became one of the world’s experts on the subject.
Like the first book in the series, this novel deals with dark elements of society, in particular the sex trade industry. The “Girl” in all three titles is Lisbeth Salander. She loves journalist Mikael Blomkvist but spends most of this novel running away from him. When she becomes the primary suspect in a triple homicide, Blomkvist is certain she is innocent and works tirelessly to clear her name. In doing so, he discovers the past she has tried so hard to hide, including abuse, institutionalization, and trauma from a system that should have protected her.
Blomkvist and Salander reunite at the end of the novel and will work together again in the third book in the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Larsson builds suspense through the use of flashbacks and partial revelations, which are typical of a mystery/detective novel.
Salander and Blomkvist are memorable characters, and through them Larsson reveals the intricacies of a computer genius (Salander) and a driven investigative journalist (Blomkvist). Readers also discover the intensity of publishing a serial magazine and the inner workings of a police investigation through realistic characters such as Editor Erika Berger and Officer Jan Bublanski.
Larsson includes several stereotyped characters. These include the incredibly huge Ronald Niedermann, who is incapable of feeling pain, and his boss, Alexander Zalachenko, a Russian double agent and the apparent head of the Swedish sex trade industry. With few exceptions, the protagonists in this novel are purely evil while the primary characters are more complex in their morality.
The Girl Who Played With Fire won the Swedish Crime Writers’ Academy Award for Best Swedish Crime Novel, and the trilogy has sold more than sixty million copies in five years and in more than fifty countries. Although Larsson wrote many other novels, this series serves as his legacy. And although the books in the series were written as detective stories, Larsson is unflinching in his denunciation of corruption in societal structures. The Girl Who Played With Fire is primarily an exposé of the corruption in social and criminal institutions, particularly as it affects the most helpless members of society, as demonstrated by Salander’s horrific experiences. All three novels in the Millennium series have been adapted into films.
Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire is the second novel in his bestselling Millennium trilogy. It follows Lisbeth Salander as she tries to put to rest her harrowing experiences from the trilogy’s first novel, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Part 1: Irregular Equations
Lisbeth Salander, the protagonist of the series, basks in the sun of Grenada after spending a year traveling the world. Because of her uncanny research and hacking skills, Salander is independently wealthy and does not need to work, but she has grown restless after being away from her native Sweden for so long. Mathematics have always peaked Salander’s interest, so she has spent much of her time on the island studying Dimensions in Mathematics while she keeps an eye on her hotel neighbors, namely a married couple that has violent arguments each night. Because Salander is a crusader against men who mistreat women, she cannot ignore the bruises on Mrs. Forbes’s face or her passivity.
When a “convenient” hurricane barrels down on Grenada one night, it allows Salander the opportunity to save Mrs. Forbes as her husband attacks her on the beach. Just as Dr. Forbes is about to strangle the life out of his wife, Salander hits him over the head and drags Mrs. Forbes to safety. She discovers the next morning that local authorities have found the doctor’s body swept up on the beach and have attributed his death to the hurricane. Soon afterward, Salander decides it is time to return to Sweden.
In the year Salander has spent traveling in Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean, her court-appointed guardian in Sweden, Nils Bjurman, has been plotting his revenge against his wayward ward. In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, after Bjurman was assigned to handle the affairs of the supposedly mentally unstable Salander, he abused his power and raped her. Although the diminutive Salander looks like a defenseless teenager, Bjurman chose the wrong person to abuse because Salander not only recorded the rape and uses the recording to control him; she also broke into his apartment one night, handcuffed him, and crudely tattooed “I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist” just below his navel. Bjurman is trapped by Salander, who seems to be ubiquitous and tracks his every move. But he is determined to use his connections in the government to access and expose files about Salander to get revenge.
(The entire section is 2791 words.)
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Chapter 1 Summary
She has been imprisoned for forty-three days, strapped to a narrow metal bed. She is not particularly afraid, but she does feel “a great, pent-up rage.” When she does feel fear, she finds strength in visualizing ways to feel powerful, such as burning him alive in his car. She dozes off but wakes when he enters the room. He is tall, with tangled reddish-brown hair and a thin goatee; he wears glasses with black frames. She does not know how old he is. She hates his smell, his voice, his silence, his touch. He is annoyed when she does not respond to him, and he tightens all her straps. She tries to kick him, but he is prepared: the blow is ineffectual. It is her thirteenth birthday, and she is helpless.
Thursday, December 16–Friday, December 17
Lisbeth Salander sits near the pool and sees the woman from room 32 walking unsteadily in her direction. An American, she could be any age from twenty-five to fifty. For the past four nights, Salander has heard awful sounds from the woman's room next door to hers. The woman’s husband leaves the hotel every morning after drinking his coffee; he wears a jacket and tie and carries a briefcase. At night the couple maintains a repetitive, long-running argument: he whines that he is a fraud, she disagrees for a long time, finally she agrees with him, and then he slaps her. Looking at the woman now, Salander sees some faint bruises and a scrape.
In the last year, Salander has developed an intense interest in the study of mathematics; she carries Dimensions in Mathematics in her bag. She has spent the last several months island-hopping in the Caribbean during the off season.
Mikael Blomkvist visits Salander’s apartment as he does every week, hoping to find her home, but seeing junk mail piled up in her mailbox, he knows she is still gone. The two grew close as they worked together on an investigation of Wennerstrom, which turned into a terrifying hunt for a serial killer. They had been lovers at her initiative, and she had saved his life. Her skills as a computer hacker are astonishing; she is known online only as Wasp. Blomkvist’s interest in Wennerstrom waned just as Salander disappeared from his life.
He saw her twice after they spent Christmas together. Once she said she never wanted to see him again, and once she looked through him “as...
(The entire section is 886 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
Friday, December 17
Advokat Nils Erik Bjurman is thinking about Lisbeth Salander, as he often does, and he is angry. The young girl “crushed him”; he will never forget—or forgive. She abused him in his own home and then humiliated him by tattooing his entire chest with damning words: “I AM A SADISTIC PIG, A PERVERT, AND A RAPIST.”
The fifty-five-year-old lawyer knows what he did to Salander was wrong by anyone’s standards, and as he is her guardian, it was reprehensible. He had been tormented by thoughts of her since he had met her two years earlier. When the waiflike girl in her mid-twenties had been deemed legally incompetent by the courts, he had assumed complete control over her life. The power had been intoxicating. Her files said she was promiscuous and may even have solicited sex from an older man in a public park. She was no innocent, thought Bjurman; she was the “ideal plaything—grown-up, promiscuous, socially incompetent, and at his mercy.”
Salander was the only client he had ever exploited. He had tried to dominate his wife and various prostitutes to meet his sexual needs, but when they could not satisfy him, he had victimized Salander. Suddenly, though, she destroyed him. She videotaped the violent rape and her near-murder by asphyxiation and used the tape to blackmail him; she forced him to write reports to the courts attesting to her competency, with the eventual goal of Salander's being declared competent.
For months Bjurman was virtually paralyzed, unable to work or conduct any business. He removed the mirror from his bathroom because he was traumatized by the sight of the tattoo. When he finally returned to his office, he transferred his cases to his colleagues; now his only active client is Salander. Acquiescing to her demands, Bjurman sends positive reports about her to the courts. Not a word of them is true, but he has no choice.
Bjurman goes to France and consults a cosmetic surgeon about removing the tattoo. He is dismayed to learn that he will need time-consuming and expensive skin grafts. He did not see Salander after she took over his life, until the night he wakes up to find her at the foot of his bed. She apologizes for waking him and tells him she will be out of town for some time. He is to continue writing his reports, sending copies to her via e-mail. When he begs her forgiveness, she tells him he will be free when she is declared...
(The entire section is 953 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Friday, December 17–Saturday, December 18
Salander wakes early and rents a dune buggy for the day from Freddy McBain at the front desk. At breakfast she works on Fermat’s proof until Dr. Forbes arrives, cleanly shaved and professionally dressed. He eats breakfast alone and then leaves in a taxi at 8:30. Salander follows him.
Forbes exits the taxi and walks the beach. For four hours, she follows him as he walks up and down the streets of St. George; though he walks at a leisurely pace, she struggles to keep up with him. He enters the Turtleback restaurant and sits on the veranda with a soda, as he had done the day before. The only patron in a suit, he seems untroubled by the heat. He sits until 3:00 in the afternoon and then gets on a minibus to go back to the hotel.
As Salander soaks in her tub, she wonders why Forbes wants everyone to think he is attending meetings about opening a school but actually spends his days doing nothing. The only person for whom he must keep up this charade is his wife. Salander wonders why they are here on Grenada.
Plague e-mails her with the research assignment Salander requested. Someone named “Bilbo” sent an eight-page report and nearly ninety pages of documents on Dr. Forbes and his wife. Three photos show forty-two-year-old Forbes and his wife; the fourth shows him behind a pulpit. Forbes is on staff at the Presbyterian Church of Austin South, serving under Reverend Duncan Clegg; in this position, Forbes is responsible for education programs at the church.
Bilbo’s report reveals Forbes’s many jobs before joining the church staff, including studying archaeology, managing a Christian rock band, and being a certified public accountant. He met Geraldine Knight, the daughter of a wealthy rancher, at the church, and his “star in the church has risen” since their marriage in 1997. Forbes is the head of the Santa Maria Corporation, a group which organizes charitable education programs.
Forbes has been arrested twice: once for assault after a car accident and once for embezzlement from the band. He was acquitted of both charges. He was accused of investment irregularities with Santa Maria funds, but the investigation found nothing. His annual salary is $60,000, but his wife, after her father’s death, owns $40,000,000 in assets. They have no children. Forbes is obviously financially dependent on his wife—a bad position for...
(The entire section is 906 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Monday, January 10–Tuesday, January 11
Exhausted, Salander lands in Stockholm at noon, carrying a bag that contains only her computer, the Dimensions textbook, and a change of clothes. It is bitterly cold; she splurges for a taxi, remembering she has in the bank billions of kroner, stolen from Wennerstrom. She gives the driver her old address, forgetting that she has moved. Before she goes to her new apartment, she stops at a convenience store to buy a few essentials and hopes she will not run into Mikael Blomkvist. Inside her building, she goes to the top floor and enters a door with “V. Kulla” on the nameplate.
When she got the money, her first major investment was an apartment. Until then she had lived in her childhood apartment, having assumed the lease once her mother could not live there on her own. Salander had no experience shopping for property but knew she wanted plenty of space, a balcony with a view, a bathroom with a window, and space in which to keep her motorcycle. The first man she dealt with was so condescending she went home and hacked his company’s computers to discover he had significantly under-reported his income over the past few years; she sent the documentation to the tax authorities. After searching the company’s holdings online, she found a suitable apartment and arranged the purchase through the lawyer who helped her establish and manage the accounts where she deposited her stolen money.
After buying the new apartment, Salander paid in advance the rent and utilities on her old apartment, made a nighttime visit to Nils Bjurman, and left for the clinic in Italy to have her surgery. Afterward, she had pondered her next steps. She did not see herself as a permanent employee of Milton Security, and the thought of seeing Mikael Blomkvist kept her from wanting to return to Stockholm right away. He had behaved decently toward her and was not to blame; she was angry at herself for falling in love with him when he had clearly moved on to someone else. She does not understand why he is so persistent in trying to contact her; she does not understand his version of friendship. The last time she had seen him, Salander had forced herself to ignore her feelings and tell him she did not want to see him again; now she forces herself to delete his e-mails without reading them. She bought a ticket to Tel Aviv and has been traveling until now. The only task she had to complete...
(The entire section is 870 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Wednesday, January 12–Friday, January 14
It is odd for Salander to return to the nursing home where her mother spent the last ten years of her life before dying at age forty-six. Her mother suffered a series of cerebral strokes years before when Salander was twelve years old; from the age of fifteen, Salander had visited her mother twice a year. The box of her mother’s belongings weighs only five or six pounds, not much for an entire life. She used to wish her mother would recover, and they would be reunited; the truth was that her mother rarely even recognized Salander when she came to visit.
Her mother had been short and thin, but Salander is a waif in comparison. Salander was born first, but her twin sister Camilla was born beautiful. As different from one another as they could possibly be, from an early age the sisters never got along. Camilla was popular, smart, and outgoing, just the opposite of Salander. She would not even walk the same route as Lisbeth on the way to school. Her sister was also disturbed. Lisbeth is the sister who was deemed legally incompetent, but Camilla is the crazy one. When the girls were twelve and All the Evil happened, they were sent to separate foster homes. The sisters have not seen each other since their seventeenth birthday—a visit which resulted in a black eye for one and a bruised, swollen lip for the other. Salander has no interest in locating her “insincere, corrupt, and manipulative” sister. After depositing the box of her mother's possessions in a closet, Salander goes shopping for clothes.
Berger, Blomkvist, and the managing editor of Millennium, Malin Eriksson, are dining at Svensson and Johansson’s apartment. The evening was designed to be a simple planning session for the May issue of the magazine, but Blomkvist finds that he enjoys the younger couple’s company. Johansson reminds the Millennium editorial staff that she is writing an academic dissertation primarily about the very young and disadvantaged girls and their exploitation by males who have told them a series of lies to get them to come to Sweden. Once here, law enforcement and the courts are complicit in keeping them enslaved in the sex trade. The girls are trapped because their passports have been taken from them, they do not know the language, and they do not know the laws.
The girls are returned to their homes after several weeks or months....
(The entire section is 740 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Sunday, January 23–Saturday, January 29
Knowing the security guards would not be watching this floor at 3:10 a.m., Salander lets herself into the third floor of the Milton Security offices with a card key she made more than a year ago. She is always surprised at how lax security is at this security company. Her bare cubicle is unchanged. Using the same pirated card key, she enters Armansky’s office and installs a program on his computer, a program she wrote that will allow her to copy everything from his hard drive onto a hard drive in Holland, which she can access. He will never know she is watching his computer activity. While she is waiting for the program to install, she looks at the files of the most important cases Milton Security is working on. She walks out of the building at 4:12 a.m.
At home, she calls up the computer in Holland and searches the names: Wennerstrom, Bjurman, Blomkvist (which she almost deletes), and finally the newest file, Armansky. Her intentions are not malicious; she simply wants to see the kinds of cases the company is working on these days. She stays up all night reading and sleeps until nearly noon.
On the last Friday in January, the Millennium board meeting takes place. This year the magazine is in significantly better shape financially than two years ago after Blomkvist’s conviction; the group decides to set aside some of the profits for future expenses and improvements and to award staff bonuses. Afterwards, the partners—Berger, Christer Malm, Blomkvist, and Harriet Vanger—meet. Vanger is present to represent her uncle, Henrik, who helped save the magazine. The two-year partnership agreement is now complete. Malm does not know about the events at Hedestad but trusts Berger and Blomkvist to do what is best for Millennium.
Blomkvist has earned enough to buy out the Vanger shares, but Harriet would prefer to stay on as part of the Millennium team, for she is inspired by their working to make a difference rather than working only to make money. Despite her passionate plea to stay, the group buys her out and conveys their gratitude for her uncle’s willingness to invest in them when conditions were bad. Vanger accepts the offer dispassionately, though she is disappointed. Berger then makes a surprising new offer, to Harriet Vanger personally, inviting her to become a full partner in Millennium.
(The entire section is 698 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Saturday, January 29–Sunday, February 13
Svavelsjo Motorcycle Club is an old building about five hundred feet outside of a small village. A car driven by a large man with blond hair pulls up and stops; the driver takes a black sports bag from the trunk. He is unafraid of being seen, although he does not want to go inside the building which has been raided by the police several times. Carl-Magnus Lundin (Magge), the club’s president, comes out to greet the visitor. Lundin has a police record for several crimes, including one which put him in prison for a year. The huge blond man is here to do business.
Lundin likes doing business with his visitor because the man is straightforward in his dealings: he supplies the meth and they split the profits, fifty-fifty. The man could make more money by handling the distribution himself, but he is interested in a smaller, safer income. The man also deals in weapons; when one of Lundin’s deals went bad, the man did not get angry, knowing that was sometimes the cost of doing business. He is an honest, reliable man with whom to do business. Lundin does not even check the contents of the bag before paying the man his share.
Before the “blond giant” leaves, he offers Lundin another job. He hands the biker an envelope containing a passport photo and a page of personal data. His employer wants the woman in the photo, Lisbeth Salander, to be “delivered alive.” She may be out of the country, but when she returns, Lundin will receive ten thousand kronor to drive to Stockholm, pick her up, and deliver her to the man. Lundin agrees to the deal.
Salander is visiting her former apartment. She has to decide whether or not to keep it, but she is hesitant to get rid of one of the few “fixed points” in her life. Though she never felt safe here, this is her only mailing address, and she wants to keep her new address from the authorities. Salander calls Mimmi and offers her the apartment rent-free, as long as she lets Salander know if there is anything of note in the mail. Mimmi is thrilled and accepts the offer. Next Salander checks her personal checking account (which has a modest 82,000 kroner in it) and withdraws the money deposited from her mother’s estate. She sends the money anonymously to a women’s crisis center.
Berger has finished editing the next issue of Millennium. Feeling tired, she considers her life thus far: She is...
(The entire section is 668 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Monday, February 14–Saturday, February 19
One evening, Salander goes to visit Armansky at work. He is surprised to see her after more than a year, and his surprise soon turns to annoyance as she remains uncommunicative. Realizing she owes him some explanation since she left without saying good-bye, Salander tells him she spent most of the last year out of the country traveling. Even knowing she does not owe him any more information, Armansky remains annoyed with her; he accuses her of abandoning her former guardian and friend, Holger Palmgren.
Salander is shocked to learn that Palmgren is alive. She was the one who found him after his stroke and sat with him for three days in the hospital where the doctors said he was unlikely to come out of his coma; she had never considered that he might have recovered. Armansky says Palmgren can do a few things for himself but needs help with most tasks in his life. There are tears in her eyes, because of her former boss’s furious attack and because of her own disregard for someone who had meant so much to her for many years.
Though Armansky says he will never hire her again, he knows Salander is a first-rate researcher; she tells him she is financially independent but would be willing to work an “interesting” job, in the field rather than behind a computer. As she leaves, she tells Armansky one of his current clients is perpetrating a hoax on Milton Security. Armansky cannot figure out how she learned about the client. He sends an e-mail ordering the installation of a surveillance camera in his office.
After a phone call, Salander discovers Palmgren is in a rehabilitation home. She is nervous about seeing him but plans to visit tomorrow. When she arrives, she has to wait, as her former guardian is in physical therapy. When she finally does see him, he is struggling to feed himself. He does not mind the other indignities forced upon him by his stroke, but not being able to feed himself makes him angry. Suddenly Salander is sitting next to him, feeding him. He allows her to continue, knowing that she is performing an act of contrition. She explains why she had not come to visit him and expresses her guilt for assuming he was dead. He cannot speak very clearly, but he lets her know he understands.
She looks more mature to Palmgren, but when he asks about her new guardian, she changes the subject—a tactic he knows she uses to avoid...
(The entire section is 873 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Sunday, March 6–Friday, March 11
Dr. Sivarnandan is always surprised to see Salander spend most of her Sundays with Holmgren. They spend several hours playing chess, and she never treats the older man as an invalid; instead, they seem to squabble quite regularly and comfortably. The doctor does not understand the peculiar young woman who seems so suspicious and humorless and secretive. She created a non-profit foundation with 2.5 million kroner dedicated solely to the care of Palmgren. Although the doctor pondered the ethics of this arrangement, he determined it is odd but acceptable; consequently, he hired Karolina Oskarsson, an experienced therapist, to work with Palmgren. Her first-month's salary was paid in advance by the foundation, so the doctor knows Salander is a woman of her word.
After a month of extra therapy and Salander's visits, Palmgren has made significant improvement. One day the doctor watches them play chess. The young woman clearly has not studied the game, but she has an uncanny knowledge of game strategies. The doctor thinks she would be an interesting psychological case study, but he is thankful for her presence.
A dispirited Bjurman arrives home after spending four weeks at his summer cabin. He is no closer to killing Salander than when he left, although his contact, the giant blond man, has arranged, for 100,000 kroner, to have her kidnapped once she returns to Sweden. Bjurman does not sort his pile of mail until later; when he does go through the mail, he finds a notice from Salander’s bank. He sees she has withdrawn some money and realizes she is back. Using a prepaid calling card, he calls the blond man to tell him; the man tells Bjurman the matter will be taken care of but not to call him again.
Salander spends a lot of time with Mimmi—too much time—and has to remind herself not to get too close to anyone again, for someone will undoubtedly get hurt. Mimmi gives Salander a cigarette case for her birthday the previous year; she is the only person in Salander's life who remembers the date.
Svensson is working late in his Millennium office. He is surprised to hear someone else in the building. It is Blomkvist, who has come to pick up a file. He asks Svensson about his progress on the book. Svensson says he is having trouble tracking down Bjorck, a member of the Security Police and part of the hidden sex-trafficking business. Blomkvist...
(The entire section is 903 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
Monday, March 14–Sunday, March 20
Her journeys to visit Palmgren are time-consuming and inconvenient, so Salander buys a car. She does not want to connect her car to her new apartment, so she asks Mimmi to procure the next available garage at the old apartment. Though she can afford a luxury car, she buys a four-year-old Honda. She pays in cash and gives Mimmi a set of keys.
Before going home, Salander stops at a cafe. She recognizes Bjurman and immediately moves so that she can study him unseen. Bjurman arouses no emotion in her. He is alive only because he is useful to her, though she believes the world would be a better place without him. The blond man with him is at least six-foot-six, powerfully built. He speaks to Bjurman; they shake hands, though the lawyer withdraws his hand quickly. When the giant leaves the cafe, Salander follows him as he boards a train, leaves it, and walks to another cafe. Salander again senses something sinister is happening. The blond man meets another man: beer-bellied, with a ponytail and a narrow, untrustworthy face. He is obviously a biker.
The man gives some instructions to the biker, leaves the cafe, and gets into a white Volvo. Salander memorizes the license plate. The biker walks into McDonald’s; she sees him talking with another biker wearing a vest which says “Svavelsjo MC.” Salander’s “internal warning system has suddenly gone on high alert.”
Salander re-examines Bjurman’s computer and finds only one discrepancy. Usually he writes his reports early in the month, edits them, and sends them punctually on the twentieth. It is now the middle of the month, and no reports have been written. She wonders about the anomaly and scolds herself for getting lazy in monitoring him.
At 2:30 a.m., Salander visits Bjurman armed only with a taser. Bjurman is sleeping with a lamp on and an empty whiskey glass on his nightstand. He looks and smells unkempt. At his desk, Salander notices his files are thinner now than they were a year ago when the reverse should be true. She gets into his locked drawer and sees a Colt .45 Magnum.
Berger and Blomkvist have been good influences in Svensson's career. He is often frustrated by their criticisms and editing suggestions, but his reaction is always to come home and work harder. Johansson considers telling him she may be pregnant but decides to wait a few weeks. He has received a tentative...
(The entire section is 890 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
Wednesday, March 23–Maundy Thursday, March 24
The week before Easter the Millennium staff is on vacation; Blomkvist is alone in the office, editing Svensson’s book. Fifteen years younger than Blomkvist, Svensson has the same passion Blomkvist once had when he published his exposé on second-rate financial journalists. That book made a lot of enemies; Svensson’s will do the same. The younger man is an effective writer, and most of Blomkvist’s editing has been requests for clarification and documentation. He will not publish the book until every allegation and assertion has been substantiated.
Svensson will submit the final three chapters in the morning, and next Tuesday everyone will meet to sign off on the final version of the book. It will be ready to print soon after that. Blomkvist sets the manuscript on Berger’s desk and thinks once again about the incident outside Salander’s building. He stops at her apartment every day now, but no one ever answers the door. The nameplate outside reads Salander-Wu, but he has had no luck tracing the other name. He finally sent Salander a letter telling her he understands she wants nothing more to do with him, but he is concerned about her and would love to meet her for a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly, he receives no answer.
He still has her handbag. It does not hold much out of the ordinary, other than a notebook containing pages of mathematical equations. Blomkvist is not a math scholar, but he recognizes Fermet’s Last Theorem. Salander obviously has been working on the classic riddle. The last page of the notebook contains some notes and another equation:
(Blond Hulk + Magge) = NEB
The equation means nothing to him. He notices at the bottom of the page a phone number and the name of a car rental company. He makes no attempt to interpret the notes and leaves for his sister’s birthday party.
Berger is jogging, pondering an offer she has been given: editor-in-chief of the Svenska Morgon-Posten. Accepting the offer would make her one of the most respected journalists in the country—and one of the richest. She likes working at Millennium, though, and knows this move would separate her from her long-time friend and lover. By the end of the run, she knows she must accept the offer; she dreads having to break the news to Blomkvist.
Dinner at the Gianninis’ is...
(The entire section is 890 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
Maundy Thursday, March 24
Annika and Blomkvist arrive near Berger’s home. Blomkvist convinces his exhausted sister to let him take a taxi the rest of the way so that she can go home. It has been several years since he has been to Berger’s home, and he has only been there a couple of times. Berger and Blomkvist’s twenty-year relationship has not significantly changed, even with her marriage to Beckman. Early in their relationship, after Berger confessed her affair with Blomkvist, Beckman paid Blomkvist a visit. They got drunk together, and Beckman made the situation simple: As long as the relationship was based on physical desire and Blomkvist did not try to break up the marriage, Beckman was satisfied with the arrangement. All Berger has to do is tell her husband she is with Blomkvist, which she does with some regularity, and Beckman is content.
Despite Beckman’s acceptance and approval, Blomkvist is still not entirely at ease being near the married couple and avoids it unless he must attend a social gathering where his absence would be conspicuous. It is 5:00 in the morning when he rings the doorbell. A bleary-eyed and angry Beckman opens the door, surprised to see his wife’s lover on the porch. He can see that something is terribly wrong and immediately invites Blomkvist inside. Berger appears and can see Blomkvist is upset. He tells her that Svensson and Johansson have been murdered, saying he did not want her to hear it on the news.
By 7:00, the editorial staff of Millennium has gathered. Several staff members cry when learning the news, but Blomkvist is numb; he simply tells them what he saw and what he knows about the murders. They have two issues to discuss. First is the question of Svensson’s book and whether or not they can or should still publish it. Then they must consider the reason for the murders. They may have been random; however, they could have been connected to the couple’s research on the sex-trade industry. Their work exposes many prominent people, and it may be that these people wanted to stop publication of material which would ruin them.
The murders, as described by Blomkvist, seemed to be the work of professionals. Malm points out that Svensson characterized the sex-trade mafia as unprofessional and unintelligent. Even so, Millennium now appears to be a possible threat to the murderers and should probably increase its security....
(The entire section is 659 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Maundy Thursday, March 24
After he is briefed on the case by the criminal duty officer, Ekstrom realizes how explosive this case will be in the media: a double murder of a criminologist and a journalist who were lovers. Ekstrom calls Criminal Inspector Jan Bublanski and asks him to postpone his vacation to work on the case. The twenty-nine-year veteran of the force is respected and successful, though his colleagues find him slightly odd because he is a practicing Jew. After he is briefed, Bublanski agrees that this case will garner intense media scrutiny, since the dead man is a journalist and another journalist, the infamous Mikael Blomkvist of Millennium magazine, is the one who found the bodies. He is promised whatever resources he needs to conduct his investigation.
At 9:00, Bublanski assembles his team. Sonja Modig is young but very experienced; she has “imagination and the ability to make connections.” Jerker Holmberg is not particularly imaginative, but he is the best crime-scene investigator in the Swedish police force. Curt Andersson has a reputation for being hot-tempered but tough; though he barely knows him, Ekstrom respects the skill of the taciturn man. Hans Faste is the final member of the group and the only reason Ekstrom is not completely satisfied with his team. Though Faste is experienced, he is also an egocentric loudmouth. He has served as a mentor to Andersson, who does not seem to mind Faste’s rather obnoxious personality.
The team is briefed by the officers at the scene who interviewed Blomkvist. The gun and one bullet fragment have been sent to the National Forensics Laboratory (NFL), and photos of the scene have been taken. The investigators’ impression is that the murders were the work of a professional killer. He entered the room and took...
(The entire section is 877 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
Maundy Thursday, March 24
Modig keeps trying to reach Bjurman. She calls his apartment and his cell phone and visits every neighbor who is home. She finally leaves a message on his answering machine and places a note on his door, asking him to call her. When some instinct moves Modig to try the door handle, she discovers the door is unlocked and goes into his apartment. One of the first things she sees is an empty Colt Magnum pistol box. She pulls out her revolver, feeling as if something is amiss. She walks through the bedroom door and finds Bjurman, naked and kneeling beside his bed, as if he were saying his prayers. He has been shot through the head, and he is undeniably dead. Modig calls Ekstrom.
Bublanski is at the offices of Millennium, and Faste and Andersson are watching Salander’s apartment when Ekstrom calls at 4:40 to tell them Bjurman has been murdered and has been dead at least twenty-four hours. Salander is now wanted for all three murders. Bublanski sends people to secure her apartment and issues a country-wide alert. Salander is to be considered armed and dangerous.
Though it may seem insensitive to be working rather than grieving, Blomkvist is acting as the efficient journalist he must be in order to conclude Svensson’s work and secure his legacy. It is now Berger and Blomkvist’s duty to finish the book and discover who killed their friends, and why. He has determined that with some additional scrutiny of sources, the book can be published. He will write the final chapter as an afterword, a tribute to Svensson explaining his motivation for writing, as well as the kind of person he was.
The May issue of Millennium is nearly finished. Berger is surprised the victims’ names have not been released; the fact that it was Blomkvist who found them also has not been made public. He assures her the authorities will keep that information from the press as long as they can, for they understand the “media circus” which will follow both announcements. Berger is feeling the strain; she remembers that soon she will be editor-in-chief of one of the largest newspapers in Sweden—but this is not the time to tell Blomkvist that news. Blomkvist assumes the book or the research has prompted one of the offenders who is about to be exposed to kill the couple.
Bublanski comes to the Millennium offices to interview Blomkvist, who explains exactly...
(The entire section is 852 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
Maundy Thursday, March 24
Christer Malm has just arrived home after an exhausting and miserable day at Millennium when the phone rings. It is Berger. She tells him Blomkvist’s former researcher is the prime suspect in three murders, and the police are looking for her. A press conference will be held later this evening.
Holmberg, astounded at the amount of blood he finds at the crime scene, agrees that hunting ammunition must have been used. The technical examination has been completed, but now the real investigation begins. It is his job to find clues about the killer and his—or her—possible motive. Holmberg methodically searches the apartment, documenting what he finds and confiscating anything which might be helpful to the investigation. In general, he finds nothing embarrassing or alarming as he searches every room of the apartment.
Saving the desk for last, Holmberg discovers Johansson’s thesis and research documents. He thinks her work is so impressive she could have been a police investigator. Searching further, he does not find any of Svensson’s files. Since he was a journalist, he must have a computer. Holmberg finds a black bag with space for a computer, but there is nothing in it. He notes the missing item in his report.
Bublanski and Faste meet Ekstrom at the end of the day to report their findings. Faste is convinced that Miriam Wu is the only woman living in Salander’s apartment and, based on the clothes and sex toys he found, she is a prostitute like Salander. Bublanski tempers Faste’s hasty judgments with reason. Salander did have two questionable incidents in her past; once when she was sixteen or seventeen, she was in the company of an older man, and on another occasion, she was arrested for public intoxication, in the company of a considerably older man. There were no police reports connected to either incident.
Ekstrom supposes Johansson’s research somehow might have provoked the murders. Bublanski, again the voice of reason, says that might be true, but the investigation will have to support that assumption. The most important thing now is to find Salander. She is obviously not living in her old apartment, and finding Wu should help them find their suspect. Andersson is at the university talking to Johansson’s thesis supervisor; when he returns, he will visit each of Salander’s foster families. It is all they have to go on, since...
(The entire section is 894 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Good Friday, March 25–Easter Saturday, March 26
Blomkvist and Eriksson spend eight hours going through every note, email, and document Svensson had gathered; they give extra attention to the manuscript. Saturday morning, Annika visits her brother and shows him the outrageous newspaper headlines regarding the murders. The siblings talk for an hour, Blomkvist explaining why he believes Salander could not be guilty of these crimes. He asks if she will consider representing Salander, since Annika is experienced in cases of violence against women. Salander is his friend and would probably trust his sister more than anyone else. Annika reluctantly agrees to at least talk with the girl.
Modig comes to Blomkvist’s home that afternoon after reading his letter to Salander in which he told her he has her handbag. Modig wants it. Before giving her the purse, he removes Salander's canister of mace and a small hammer in the front pocket, easily accessible for self-defense. The mace is considered an illegal weapon, possession of which is a punishable offense. Withholding evidence is a crime, as well, but he does not want to give any support to the notion of Salander’s violent tendencies. Modig asks about Blomkvist’s remark in the letter that he owed Salander for the enormous favor she did him. Blomkvist refuses to discuss it and says he does not believe Salander committed the murders. He explains there are many people who might want to kill both Johansson and Svensson for the information they had accumulated; he is not sure how Bjurman’s death is connected—yet.
Modig can see the journalist believes what he says. She asks him to contact the police if he hears from Salander. Blomkvist assures her Salander is unlikely to contact him; however, if she does, he will do everything he can to convince her to turn herself in to the authorities and to get her a lawyer. She hopes it will not be necessary to place Blomkvist under surveillance; he hopes Modig and her colleagues are actively pursuing other suspects. The officer then asks if Blomkvist knows where Svensson keeps his computer. There is a long silence after he tells her Svensson always kept it in a black bag. He surmises that Svensson’s computer is missing.
Blomkvist and Eriksson make a list of people in the book who might have had a motive for killing Svensson. The task is difficult because of the writer's use of pseudonyms and the issue...
(The entire section is 923 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
Easter Sunday, March 27–Tuesday, March 29
Armansky spends Easter Sunday writing a report on Salander, just as he would for a client, including everything he knows about her. Blomkvist gets his first phone call from a journalist friend; the fact that Blomkvist found the bodies will soon be public knowledge. The reporter asks, multiple times, if Blomkvist knows why Svensson and Johansson were murdered and what story Svensson was working on that may have gotten him killed. As Blomkvist evades the questions, he has a sudden inspiration about how he can communicate with Salander.
Salander is probably reading the newspapers, so he has a chance to send her a message. If he denies knowing her, she is likely to interpret this as his abandoning her; if he defends her, others will assume he knows more about the murders than he does. If, however, he makes a statement in just the right way, he might get Salander to contact him. Blomkvist tells his journalist friend he will send him a statement via e-mail in fifteen minutes as long as he is quoted word for word.
The statement expresses his and Berger’s regret at the loss of their colleague Dag Svensson. Among other things, Svensson was investigating illegal computer hacking, but neither Blomkvist nor Berger will speculate about the murders. Blomkvist calls Berger and shares the statement; she realizes Blomkvist is hoping Salander will contact him when she reads the false information. The journalist friend is disappointed, but Blomkvist tells him that is all he will get and he has exclusive permission to print it. Blomkvist then writes a letter that he leaves on his hard drive, hoping Salander will read it.
In the letter, he explains he was the one who discovered the bodies. Blomkvist does not believe Salander killed his friends; he should beg her to turn herself in but knows she will never do so. He writes that when she is eventually found, though, his sister is willing to represent her. The Millennium staff is committed to finding the real murderer by investigating men listed in Svensson’s book who might want to silence him. The one thing Blomkvist asks her to help him with is the connection to Bjurman. He leaves the letter in an obvious place, hopeful that she will find it easily if she checks his computer documents.
On Tuesday morning, Armansky holds a meeting with three of his top employees. He hands them each a dossier of...
(The entire section is 885 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
Tuesday, March 29–Wednesday, March 30
Three investigations are taking place. Bublanski and his team are searching for the one likely suspect connected to all three murders: Lisbeth Salander. Armansky’s team is conducting an investigation subordinate to the police, looking specifically for some mitigating circumstance for Salander’s alleged actions. The Millennium investigation is the most difficult because it lacks the resources of the other two; however, Blomkvist is determined to discover the killer, for he does not believe it was Salander, or if it was, something happened beyond her control.
Hedstrom and Bohman are on their way to join the police investigation. Bohman is rereading the material Armansky gave them; Hedstrom is giddy at the prospect of finally being able to get even with Salander. He is a handsome young man who graduated from the police academy; but he is bitter at having been denied, because of a minor heart defect, admission to the police force. One of his first jobs at Milton Security (a significant step down from his goal) was working a protection analysis for a formerly popular singer; he found some old, erotic photos of her and sold them to the tabloids. Hedstrom does not know how, but Salander discovered he had been the one who sold the photos.
Salander had paid him a visit and told him if he ever did such a thing again, she would immediately expose him to Armansky. Others in the office always thought Salander was peculiar and antisocial, so Hedstrom did his best to undermine her in every way he could. His colleagues had great respect for Armansky, though, and were willing to accept Salander because their boss did. Now, Hedstrom is in a position to get some revenge, risk-free. She could accuse him of anything and no one would believe her, a “pathologically sick killer.”
Six days after the murders, Bublanski gathers his team—including the two men from Milton Security—to evaluate their progress. They have had not been able to find her, but they assume she is still in the country and are reminded that she does nothing without analyzing the consequences of her actions. Her personal bank account has been virtually untouched in the past year, but she has an account to which two million kroner had been transferred from a bank in the Channel Islands.
Reports confirm that Salander’s fingerprints are on the gun, the gun box, and the smashed...
(The entire section is 911 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
Wednesday, March 30–Friday, April 1
Blomkvist begins his search for Zala by looking through Svensson’s files, just as Salander had. The one police contact Svensson mentions is out of town and cannot be reached. Svensson had obviously linked Irina P.’s slow, cruel death to Zala, but he gave no documentation for it. In fact, Zala is only mentioned in working notes and appears to be more like a phantom in the criminal world. He does not seem entirely credible, and there is virtually no reference to him anywhere else.
Blomkvist is still uncertain about Salander, given all the new information he has learned; however, he intends to follow his instinct. He knows she stole billions from Wennerstrom, and he intends to keep that secret along with all the others he knows. He feels a great sense of loyalty to her for saving his life and then his magazine by helping him topple Wennerstrom. If she needs psychiatric help, he will ensure she gets it, but he will not help anyone find her.
Modig and Bublanski discuss Svensson’s computer. Witnesses saw him with it as late as 4:00 the afternoon of his murder, so it is likely the murderer took it—and Salander is apparently some kind of computer expert. They decide they have spent too much time on finding Salander and not enough time on the motive for the murders. Bublanski will examine Svensson’s belongings at Millennium that afternoon.
On Thursday, the phone on Svensson’s desk rings. Blomkvist immediately stops anyone from answering it, remembering the phony company he and Svensson made up to lure Gunnar Bjorck, assistant chief of the immigration division of the Security Police, into a meeting. It is Bjorck, and Blomkvist is able to convince him that he has, indeed, won a free phone and arranges a meeting Friday morning at the summer cabin where Bjorck has been convalescing.
Paolo Roberto, a former boxer, arrives in Sweden after spending the previous month in the United States gathering material for a television show on boxing. He is stunned to see Salander’s face on the front of every newspaper, with glaring headlines about her being a psychopath wanted for a triple killing. He buys them all and sits down to read.
Blomkvist receives another cryptic note on his computer from Salander. She says Ekstrom is leaking information to the media and wants Blomkvist to ask him why he does not leak the old report. Blomkvist...
(The entire section is 878 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
Friday, April 1–Sunday, April 3
Bublanski returns to the interview room and apologizes to Wu. With the tape recorder off, Bublanski tells Wu he is getting opinions about Salander. Wu answers his questions, assuring him Salander is extremely intelligent, is not a prostitute, and has never shown violent tendencies. Later, Bublanski meets with his team and announces they need to expand their investigation to include other possible suspects. Modig is the only one who agrees with this assessment. Modig and Hedstrom are now in charge of looking for alternative killers. Bublanski does not want Wu’s arrival to be publicized.
Hedstrom is frustrated. In a meeting with Armansky that morning, he learned the team could be spared to work with the police for only one more week, and now the focus is diverted from Salander. He has to make something happen, so he calls Tony Scala, a reporter at a major newsmagazine. They meet, and Hedstrom tells him about Wu and the salacious details of their relationship. Scala must avoid mentioning Milton Security in his article, and he must make it seem as if a woman gave him the information.
Roberto has read every word that has been written on Salander. He is depressed and confused at the thought of the “skinny little . . . freaky chick” committing such heinous crimes. He considers doing something about it but is not sure what to do.
Wu is dismayed at the havoc wreaked on her apartment, but she still refuses to believe Salander committed the murders. Just as she finishes cleaning the apartment, Tony Scala and a photographer appear at her door asking intimate questions and snapping photos. She shuts the door on them. Scala sticks his fat fingers through the mail slot, and Wu smashes them with her fist, vowing to wring Salander’s neck whenever she sees her again.
Blomkvist has visited six men on his list; none of them is the likely murderer. One, a judge, was remorseless and even thought he was doing the prostitutes a favor by hiring them. Eriksson calls to tell him that Salander’s roommate, Wu, is back in town. Five minutes before Blomkvist knocks on her door, Wu leaves to spend the night with a friend to avoid reporters.
Bublanski tells Modig that the prosecutor is outraged that someone on the team leaked information on Wu. Modig assures him she was not the one, and he believes her; they both wonder who the informant is. Bublanski goes...
(The entire section is 913 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
Maundy Thursday, March 24–Monday, April 4
Salander spends the week after the murders sequestered in her apartment. She is astonished at what she sees on the television. Her passport photo makes her look stupid, and she realizes she has become one of the most famous and infamous people in the country. She is appalled that so much of her documented past now seems accessible to anyone who asks for it. One particular report “awakens buried memories.” She was arrested for assault, for kicking a passenger in the face, at a train station.
An unemployed former athlete, Karl Evert Norgren, sexually assaulted her on the train, and she defended herself with considerable force. She was arrested when she got off the train and refused to talk to authorities. Fortunately, several witnesses came forward and testified that Norgren assaulted Salander on the train, but the incident remained on her record and can now be read by anyone on the Internet. Intimate and confidential details of her life are now available for public consumption.
All of the reports assume Salander is mentally handicapped because she did not finish school. When the media discovers her connection to Wu, the sensationalism grows. Soon she is depicted as “a psychotic lesbian who had joined a cult of Satanists that propagandized for S&M sex and hated society in general and men in particular.” And, because Salander was out of the country last year, there may be international implications.
A former teacher claims she and her class had all been terrified by Salander. In fact, the woman was a substitute math teacher who insisted the answer Salander gave to a problem in the textbook was wrong. It was the textbook that was wrong, but neither of them would back down until Salander threw a book at the teacher and a “hullabaloo” ensued. Another accuser says Salander threatened to kill somebody once. He is right—she threatened to kill him, one of the biggest bullies in the school, after he beat her mercilessly one day. She retaliated by smashing a bat against the side of his head and telling him she would kill him if he ever touched her again. Of course, she was seen as the aggressor, and more reports were added to her file.
Dr. Teleborian speaks of the need for a person like Salander to get help, but Salander wonders what people would think if she told them that when she was in his institution, his primary form of...
(The entire section is 898 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
Tuesday, March 29–Sunday, April 3
Salander accesses the criminal register but does not find Alexander Zalachenko’s name there. She is not surprised, as he has never been convicted of a crime in Sweden and is not even in the national database. She asks Plague, the only computer hacker she knows who can do the job, to access Ekstrom’s computer. He does so in an astonishingly short time, and she pays him well. He does not think Salander committed the murders.
Within an hour, she reads every report Bublanski has sent to the prosecutor and learns several important things. First, Armansky has loaned two employees to the police investigation team. Bohman had always been decent to her, but Hedstrom is a “corrupt nobody” who exploited his position in the company for personal gain. Second, it was Ekstrom who leaked so much of her background to the press. Third, Bublanski’s team has no idea where else to look for her. Salander regrets that Mimmi and her friends from Evil Fingers have been dragged into the media frenzy and realizes her small circle of friends will no doubt get smaller before this episode is over.
She cannot fathom why the 1991 police report has not been released along with everything else. After looking through all of Ekstrom’s files, she realizes he does not have it or know about it and decides she needs Blomkvist to do some research on this. She contacts him through his computer and tells him to ask Ekstrom why he has not released the old police report. Blomkvist offers her his friendship, believing she is innocent. This makes her uncomfortable, but she is most surprised to learn that he knows she stole billions from Wennerstrom.
It has been nine days since the murders. There is no more food in her house and she has someone to see, so she dresses as the more conservative blonde, Irene Nesser. Salander finally leaves her house at 11:00 on Friday night carrying a backpack with some stage makeup in it. She eats at McDonald’s before going to Bjurman’s apartment building. One light on his floor is on, so she waits until it goes out before she sneaks past the police tape and into Bjurman’s apartment, a place in which she nearly died.
She is convinced there is a connection between Bjurman and Zala, and she wants to find it. She also wants to know why some of the paperwork Bjurman once had on her is no longer in his files; however, she is unsuccessful in both...
(The entire section is 782 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
Sunday, April 3–Monday, April 4
Blomkvist likes Roberto. The boxer believes Salander is innocent and wants to help prove it. Blomkvist explains two things that might help: finding another suspect or finding Salander. Blomkvist gives him Wu’s number and suggests he might be able to talk to her because of her interest in kickboxing. She may have an idea where to find Salander.
Bjorck spends the weekend assessing his limited options. He despises Blomkvist but knows his fate is in the journalist’s hands. Blomkvist desperately wants information on Zala, and Bjorck desperately wants Blomkvist to keep his sex crimes from being published. Both Svensson and Bjurman were hunting Zala, so Zala is a clue to both murders. Unfortunately for Bjorck, he is the one who gave Bjurman the confidential information, another criminal offense. Since Blomkvist told him about the connection, Bjorck has committed yet another crime by not coming forward with the information he knows.
Bjorck reads all his documents on Zala, the earliest report almost thirty years old and the most recent from ten years ago. Zalachenko’s connection to all three murders and to Salander is clear. How each piece of the puzzle fits is still unclear to him, but he thinks he knows why Salander went to visit the couple. He can envision her flying into a fit of insanity and killing them; he hopes the officer who finds her kills her before she can spill everything she knows. It is clear that Blomkvist is Bjorck’s best option to extricate himself from this mess. He considers calling Zala but has become incapable of making up his mind.
Blomkvist writes detailed notes about any conversations he has regarding the murders and sends them as encrypted files to both Berger and Eriksson. There is nothing in Bjorck’s life or career that is particularly unusual, but there is a connection between him and Zala, and probably also between Zala, Salander, and the murders.
Berger has told no one that she is leaving Millennium. She has only a month left and she is feeling stressed. Blomkvist’s single-mindedness makes him a good investigator, but Berger knows he also becomes ruthless and often depressed until he achieves his goal—in this case, finding Salander. Berger does not know Salander well enough to be as certain as Blomkvist is that she is innocent; what if he does find her and she turns out to be a “lunatic with a...
(The entire section is 915 words.)
Chapter 24 Summary
Monday, April 4–Tuesday, April 5
Sandstrom gets home late, a little drunk and feeling quite panicked. It has been almost two weeks since Svensson was killed. He hated Svensson and had literally begged Svensson to keep him out of the book. When Salander became the primary suspect, Sandstrom’s panic subsided, but only temporarily. He does not know who has access to Svensson’s book or whether the police are going to show up and end his career. As he walks into his apartment, he hears a rustling and feels a paralyzing pain in his back.
Bjorck is awake and still worried at midnight when the phone begins ringing. He finally answers it. Blomkvist tells him he will hold a press conference in the morning to discuss Svensson’s book and will name only one john, him, if he does not agree to a meeting. Bjorck agrees to a Wednesday morning meeting. It is a short reprieve, but Bjorck is ready.
Sandstrom wakes up on the floor. His body aches and his hands are tied behind his back with electrical tape. His feet are also bound and there is tape over his mouth. He is dazed and hears someone rifling through his desk drawers. Eventually he hears footsteps behind him and feels a cotton noose settle around his neck; he can see the rope is attached to a block and hook where his lamp usually hangs. He is shocked to see Salander, the woman from the papers, and is terrified when he sees her face. It is painted white and has a garish red strip painted diagonally across it, a “grotesque mask.” Sandstrom thinks she is insane.
Salander pulls him to his feet by tightening the noose. She sits on a chair directly in front of him and pulls out his gun and loads it. She shows him a picture of a teenage prostitute from his computer and tells him he is a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist. She does not care whether he lives through this night or not. She will take the tape off his mouth. To survive, he must answer her questions and he must tell the truth. If he does not, or if he begins screaming, she will shock him with a Taser; his legs will not be strong enough to hold him up and he will hang himself. Sandstrom believes her.
Salander asks Sandstrom a series of questions, and she discovers that Sandstrom was able to rape a woman many times because he ran drugs for Harry and Atho Ranto. Sandstrom wanted to have sex with the woman, and they wanted to teach her a lesson. When there was a drug transport...
(The entire section is 904 words.)
Chapter 25 Summary
Tuesday, April 5–Wednesday, April 6
Roberto is so lost in thought that he almost misses Wu approaching her building. As he watches, a dark-colored van pulls up next to her and a “devilishly huge beast” jumps out and grabs her. Roberto is horrified as he watches the woman struggle. She kicks the giant and it should have been an effective blow, but the man is unmoved. He slaps her hard enough that she falls to the ground, then he picks her up and heaves her into the van. As the vehicle takes off, Roberto finally unfreezes and gathers himself enough to follow. Inside the vehicle, Wu’s lip is bleeding and her nose is broken. She tries again to attack the giant blond man, but he is unmovable. He sits on her back, twists her arms behind her, and locks her into handcuffs. Wu cannot move and is suddenly overcome by fear.
Blomkvist is going home after interviewing more johns on the list; none of them is a murder suspect in his mind. He wants to talk to someone, but it is late and neither Berger nor Eriksson answers the phone. Roberto may still be up, so he calls him. Their conversation is disrupted and the call is finally lost, but Blomkvist hears him say something about Wu and a van. Roberto’s phone battery is dead. When he finally confronts the blond giant, he intends to make him pay for beating up a girl. Blomkvist tries to call Roberto once more, with no success, then drives past Wu’s apartment before going home.
Eriksson calls Blomkvist with the results of her research: Bjurman once worked for Bjorck in the immigration division of the Security Police.
The farther out of town the van drives, the farther back Roberto needs to keep his car so he will not be noticed. They are driving near a lake on unfamiliar roads, and soon he loses sight of the van. Wu has managed to prop herself up but is having difficulty breathing since her mouth is taped shut and one nostril is clotted with blood. Roberto is persistent and manages to find the van parked near a large warehouse. A man with a ponytail comes out of the building, and the blond man drags Wu out of the van and into the warehouse. The ponytailed man drives away in the van.
Roberto circles the building and prepares to rescue Wu. He is not particularly afraid of the giant man, but he is unsure whether there is anyone else inside or whether the man is armed. Finally he walks into the well-lit warehouse full of building supplies,...
(The entire section is 902 words.)
Chapter 26 Summary
Wednesday, April 6
Bublanski and Modig meet Blomkvist at the hospital. They learn that Wu was kidnapped and that Roberto beat up the kidnapper (though the boxer looks more like he lost the fight). Roberto explains he got involved because he is Salander’s friend and they used to be sparring partners. Bublanski cannot believe how much more complicated this case is becoming.
Blomkvist says the man who attacked Salander also had a ponytail, so these men have been looking for Salander since before the murders. Svensson had documented the murder of a prostitute who was severely beaten by the kinds of blows Roberto and Wu received from the blond giant. Blomkvist is convinced a man named Zala is the key to solving these murders and that it is all connected to the sex-trade industry. Salander may have been at Svensson's apartment that night to warn the couple their lives were in danger.
The investigation refocuses and the team is now looking for a blond giant and a man with a ponytail, questioning people from Svensson’s research, and searching for Zala as well as Salander. Faste and Hedstrom are unhappy. No one is to reveal Roberto’s role in events, as it would only feed the media frenzy. Less than an hour later, Modig is in Ekstrom’s office, accused of leaking Roberto’s name and Wu’s attempted kidnapping to Scala. Ekstrom dismisses her from the team, but Bublanski tells her to keep working at his command and to ask Blomkvist for help on the manuscript research. They receive word that the warehouse is nothing but ashes due to arson.
Irene Nesser is unaware of last night’s events and makes her way to Bjurman’s cabin; she has to walk the last two miles from the bus stop. She loosens a rear window in case she has to make a quick escape. Her search is fruitless until she discovers a hidden attic; there she finds two file boxes of documents.
The blond giant is worried about the chain of events that leads him to today: The Rantas contacted a frightened Sandstrom and learned that an exposé might reveal all their activities. The ponytailed Lundin had been unable to accomplish the simple task of kidnapping Salander for Bjurman, and Svensson revisited Sandstrom looking for Zala. The blond man warned Zala not to get involved with Bjurman, but Lisbeth Salander was too great a temptation.
The giant was at Bjurman’s apartment when Svensson called. Bjurman...
(The entire section is 911 words.)
Chapter 27 Summary
Wednesday, April 6
Bjorck greets Blomkvist when he arrives and looks pleased with himself. Blomkvist does not shake hands with him, and they make their arrangement quickly. Bjorck will talk if Blomkvist will not write about him in Millennium; Blomkvist agrees as long as Bjorck tells him everything. The journalist knows he is giving up nothing, for it is Svensson’s work that will be published and not in the magazine. If Bjorck withholds information, Blomkvist threatens to expose him worldwide, just like Wennerstrom. Bjorck agrees to tell him who Zala is.
Reports of a shot fired at Bjurman’s cabin create a stir, and Bublanski is contacted. He sends a team to the site, including Holmberg, who is closest to the location. Holmberg announces the identity (based on identification found on the body) of one of the corpses: Kenneth Gustafsson. He has been chopped into pieces, and Bublanski remembers the giant had threatened Wu with a chain saw. There may be a connection.
When the officers arrive, they are met by a shaky man on a Harley. The back of his vest is oddly slashed and an eight-inch square is missing. Sonny Nieminen, a known killer from the nineties, is unwilling to talk about the matter and is placed in the police van. At the cabin, Lundin, president of the Svavelsjo MC gang, is getting his foot bandaged. They search for the missing motorcycle and wonder how the third party—the apparent shooter—got to the cabin in the first place. Inside the cabin, Holmberg finds Bjurman’s reports on Salander and is amazed.
A neighbor confirms that a short girl walked past in the morning; later, two noisy motorcyclists drove by; and the girl drove by on a motorcycle shortly after that. Bublanski is puzzled by the damaged vest. Holmberg reminds him that Salander was attacked by a man with a ponytail. Salander is exhilarated as she rides, but the Harley is almost more than she can handle. The helmet keeps slipping down, despite the piece of leather she stuffed into it. She finally leaves the cycle at some fairgrounds and takes the bus home.
Alexander Zalachenko was born in 1940 in Stalingrad. He remembers growing up in an orphanage in the Ural Mountains, and he was placed in military schools starting at age five. He progressed through the espionage branch of military foreign service until he became one of the elite devoted political soldiers. He speaks six languages fluently and...
(The entire section is 903 words.)
Chapter 28 Summary
Wednesday, April 6
Armansky is devastated at the revelation about Hedstrom. Salander once told him to fire Hedstrom but would not say why. Holmberg calls to let Bublanski know that a second body was found in one of the crude graves. Salander is not a suspect in these apparent murders.
Salander must have gotten the key to Bjurman’s cabin when she broke into his apartment, but the only thing of any interest is several boxes of documents. Bjurman apparently conducted his own investigation of Salander. Several files are missing, so she may have taken them either to hide something she found or to discover something new. Bublanski wonders why her guardian compiled such extensive reports and then hid them; he appears to have had some kind of obsession with Salander.
The blond giant is recuperating in Lundin’s house, concerned that the men have not returned as expected. Though he is not afraid of any human, he is terribly afraid of the dark and of being alone. When he watches the evening news and hears about the afternoon’s shootout, he packs his belongings and drives away in the white Volvo.
It takes Blomkvist a long time to get permission to visit Palmgren. Many journalists have tried to contact him, but he has refused. He has also refused his rehabilitation therapy and spends his days reading and watching everything he can about Salander. Dr. Sivarnandan believes Palmgren is heartbroken that he cannot help his young friend, and only after much questioning does he allow Blomkvist to talk with him.
The doctor stays in the room as Blomkvist explains his two-year relationship with Salander, his investigation of the murders, and his sincere belief that Salander is innocent. He tells Palmgren a man named Zalachenko is involved, and he sees a light in Palmgren’s eyes. Palmgren finally speaks. After asking the doctor to leave, he says Salander told him a story once, and now he thinks he should tell it to someone else before he dies: Zalachenko is Lisbeth Salander’s father.
Zalachenko was a political refugee who arrived in Sweden in the mid-seventies. In 1977, he met Agneta Sofia Sjolander—young and naive, she was “easy prey” for an older, more experienced man. They had a relationship and soon, twin girls were born. (Blomkvist is stunned to learn that Salander has a twin.) Zalachenko was an evil man and not at all interested in marriage. In 1979, the woman changed...
(The entire section is 909 words.)
Chapter 29 Summary
Wednesday, April 6–Thursday, April 7
Salander thought there might be a mention in the media of the incident at Bjurman’s cabin, but she is unprepared for what she sees. Her friend Mimmi was kidnapped and beaten badly enough to be in the hospital in serious condition. Salander’s friend and professional boxer Roberto rescued Wu, and he looks as if he had “gone ten rounds with his hands tied behind his back.” Two bodies have been discovered in the woods near where Mimmi was held captive; a third grave has been identified and there may be more.
The search for Salander has intensified since she shot and wounded at least one biker, though police concede Salander may have eluded their search. Ekstrom’s press conference is not full of new information, but the prosecutor admits Salander is no longer the likely murderer; now police just want to “question her about the circumstances of the murders.”
On Ekstrom’s computer, Salander finds a scathing memo from Bublanski demanding that Modig be reinstated immediately and that other suspects be considered for the murders. In particular, a man known as “Zala” must be located. Bublanski makes it clear that he will quit the investigation, with some fanfare, if Ekstrom does not agree.
On Armansky’s computer, Salander discovers Hedstrom is no longer an employee of Milton Security. Armansky also made an enquiry of the company’s lawyer regarding how the company might best represent Salander if she is caught. The lawyer replied it would be best for the company not to get involved, but Armansky says he will support any former employee in trouble he believes to be innocent.
Bohman delivers his final report on the Salander investigation to Armansky. The report represents two weeks of research and does not contain any great revelations; however, Bohman is convinced that Salander may not be guilty of the murders and that following Blomkvist’s theory is more likely to help them find the killer.
Salander spends a miserable evening feeling guilty about what happened to Mimmi. She walks out of her building late that night, intending to visit her; however, she sees a police car nearby and keeps walking in the dark. She is freezing when she returns and cries again for what happened to her friend.
Early in the morning, she checks Blomkvist’s computer and finds an urgent message. He has talked to Palmgren and...
(The entire section is 894 words.)
Chapter 30 Summary
Thursday, April 7
Salander’s apartment building is one of the most exclusive in Stockholm. As Blomkvist unlocks the door, an alarm sounds. Salander’s PDA alerts her that someone has entered her apartment; she has rigged a fake fuse box near the door so a paint bomb will activate in thirty seconds. Blomkvist panics as he thinks of possible combinations to punch into the security keypad. Finally he spells out the letters W-A-S-P. The alarm stops with six seconds to go.
Salander is stunned when her alarm is deactivated and dials a number on her phone connecting her to her simple surveillance camera. Blomkvist has discovered where she lives. She knows he will protect any secrets he finds there.
Roberto tells Berger and Eriksson he found information on the blond giant. He was bothered by the fact that the man assumed an accurate boxing stance but was obviously not a boxer. He sent an e-mail to boxing clubs all over Europe and now has a picture and description of the man.
Ronald Niedermann was a boxer in Germany for a year in the late eighties, making him about thirty-five. His older brother was a talented boxer, but Niedermann associated with a gang of skinheads. Niedermann tried boxing for a short time but was no good at it because he was an astonishing physical phenomenon and often hurt his opponents. Niedermann suffers from congenital analgesia; his nerve endings are incorrectly wired and he does not feel pain. Since pain is the body’s warning system that something is wrong, a boxer who can feel no pain is a danger to himself.
Eriksson tells Blomkvist about Niedermann; Blomkvist tells her to follow up on the lead and call him back. He is standing in one of the most sumptuous and spacious apartments to be had in Stockholm, filled with every luxury and modern convenience. Despite that, Salander had furnished only the three rooms she needed, leaving fifteen rooms empty. Blomkvist wishes he could hold Salander close but knows she would probably bite him for the sentiment, and he curses Zalachenko for what he did to her.
Salander’s hard drive has been erased. He reads Bjorck’s 1991 report and finds a DVD labeled “Bjurman.” He is horrified to see the things Salander’s legal guardian did to her. This DVD is how she controlled Bjurman for the past two years, and he had turned to Zalachenko, her father and her worst enemy, for help. This set off an entire chain...
(The entire section is 911 words.)
Chapter 31 Summary
Thursday, April 7
Lights are flickering inside the house. Salander is surprised that Zalachenko has settled in such a remote and rustic place, troubled that it appears so undefended; however, she is sure the men are armed. She is uneasy, but she spent the first half of her life living in fear of her father and the second half wondering when and how he would reappear. This time she will not make any mistakes.
Zalachenko is old and crippled but is also a trained assassin. Just then, she sees Niedermann walk past the window to the left of the door, speaking to someone behind him. Salander assesses her options and decides to enter the house. The door is unlocked and she senses something is very wrong. The hallway is black but she can see light and hear sounds from the room on the left. She opens the door, ready to fire, but the room is empty.
There is a rustling behind her and she feels one of Niedermann’s hands around her neck; the other hand is clamped around her gun hand, and he easily lifts her off the ground. Salander kicks him but the man does not flinch; for her, it is like kicking a tree trunk. After he throws her onto the sofa, she uses her Taser on him but he shows no sign of pain. Salander sees her father in the doorway. He is missing two fingers, leans on a crutch, and has a prosthetic leg. This once-virile man is now tiny and emaciated. The left side of his face is severely scarred, and he is now bald. She says, “Hello, Pappa.” He remains expressionless.
Niedermann turns on the lights. Salander sees now that the entire farm is on camera; they knew she was coming. When she starts to rise, Zalachenko tells her to stay still. When Niedermann gives her a threatening look, she remembers Roberto’s battered face and remains where she is. Niedermann gives his boss a loaded gun before leaving.
Their conversation is limited to exchanging insults. The father calls his daughter a “whore” and her mother “worthless filth,” and the daughter calls him even worse things. He asks about Camilla, but Salander knows nothing about her sister. Salander learns some important details about the events of the past few weeks.
Bjurman had asked Zalachenko to get the blackmail DVD, and they made a deal. Salander says she would never have given it to him, but her father says Niedermann can be very persuasive—especially with a chain saw in his hands. Niedermann killed...
(The entire section is 912 words.)
Chapter 32 Summary
Thursday, April 7
Blomkvist arrives at Goteborg and rents a car; it is 10:30 before he begins driving to his destination.
Bublanski and Modig review Bjorck’s 1991 report. They agree that Bjorck had Salander sent to an institution because she was trying to protect her mother from a “lunatic sadist” who was working for the government. Teleborian was complicit in the cover-up. They will visit Bjorck in the morning.
Berger finally tells her husband about the job offer; Beckman is proud of her achievement. Armansky is shocked by the story Palmgren tells him. They conclude that Salander has gone to kill her father—and that her father may kill her. Despite their commitment to law and justice, they understand Salander has no reason to trust authorities. The only thing the men can do is be prepared to help their friend when—if—she returns.
Wu’s injuries are significant, but she will make a full recovery. Now she wishes Salander would call her and is afraid Niedermann will catch her.
Salander cannot breathe. She knows she has been shot and realizes she is buried underground. Though she is drifting in and out of consciousness, Salander knows she has to get air. With one hand she is able to clear some dirt away from a small area in front of her nose and mouth. Slowly and painfully, for only her right hand is capable of movement, Salander works her hand to the surface until she is able to poke her fingers through the dirt.
Eventually Salander frees herself from the grave and manages to stand against a tree. After she vomits, she begins walking, eyes closed and in tremendous pain, until she realizes she is almost back to the farmhouse and is afraid the cameras and sensors have revealed her presence. She searches the shed for gasoline. There is none. Zalachenko hears the banging of the shed door and goes out to shut it himself. Salander hears her father’s halting steps.
Blomkvist misses a turn and has to retrace his path.
Salander picks up an axe and, with her one working arm and her waning strength, swings it. Her first swing smashes the axe into his face. Her body is not able to do what she asks of it the second time, and the axe lands in Zalachenko’s knee. Salander finds the pistol in his jacket and snorts derisively at the tiny weapon, knowing Niedermann’s gun would have blown a hole through her head. Zalachenko screams like a wounded...
(The entire section is 906 words.)