Chapter 5 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 792

Thursday, December 26

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For the first time in Henrik Vanger’s storytelling, Mikael Blomkvist is surprised. There was no mention of murder in any of the research he did. Vanger continues. On Saturday, September 24, 1966, the Vanger family was gathered at the house for their “loathsome annual dinner.” Because these events usually became opportunities to squabble over business, they were “pretty detestable affairs.” Sixteen-year-old Harriet had attended the local Children’s Day parade and arrived back on the island at about 2:00. At 2:15, a horrible accident occurred between a farmer and an oil truck on the bridge connecting the mainland and the island, resulting in a conflagration.

Alarms were raised and people were suddenly everywhere: rescue workers, fire and emergency crews, reporters, onlookers. Nearly all of them were on the mainland side of the accident; on the island side, only a handful of people were able to help in any way. Although it had nothing to do with any of the Vangers, the accident served as a diversion and as a way to eliminate certain suspects for Harriet’s murder. The bridge was blocked for approximately twenty-four hours, and the minimal boat and ferry activity for non–rescue workers did not begin until very late Saturday night.

Forty members of the Vanger family, plus servants and residents (a total of sixty-four people), were on or near the family estate that day. Because Harriet’s parents were not able to provide a stable environment for their children, Harriet had lived in the main house for the past two years. The rest of the family was staying at various houses on the island. After Harriet arrived, she greeted Henrik’s older brother, Harald, and then saw Henrik. She told him she wanted to talk with him about something. He was busy at the time but remembers she seemed very anxious. A few minutes later, the accident on the bridge occurred—and that was the last time Henrik saw his beloved niece.

Emergency workers sent all but five people on the island away from the accident scene. At 2:40, Harriet was in the kitchen. At 2:55, she stopped to talk to the pastor, but he rushed away to help with the accident. Pastor Otto Falk was the last person to see Harriet alive. No one noticed her absence until around 8:00 that night, when Harriet did not come to dinner; however, no one thought too much about her absence. It was not until Isabelle went to find her the next morning that anyone realized Harriet was gone—“missing without a trace.”

Henrik has had years to think about the circumstances of Harriet’s disappearance, and he knows there are other possibilities besides murder, which Blomkvist suggests; however, Henrik Vanger is certain his niece was murdered. She was not equipped with money or clothes for running away, and there was no body to remain as evidence of an accident or suicide. Many exhaustive searches—by both family and trained professionals—were performed, but there was absolutely no evidence of any kind, and no body was found. There was also no suggestion that a grave had been dug. Every possibility has been eliminated but one: “someone killed her and got rid of her body.”

Lisbeth Salander spends Christmas morning reading Mikael Blomkvist’s book, which is a denunciation of financial journalists. He excoriates reporters who write only what they hear or they are told without doing any of their own research, betraying their journalistic function. The book is an exposé of Swedish and foreign financial reporters who fail to do critical investigations or objective reporting. Blomkvist actually uses a few names, but it is a small fraternity and others are easily recognized. These reporters repaid him with their malicious commentary during the Wennerstrom trial.

At lunchtime, Salander sends an e-mail message: “Have you got time?” She signs the message Wasp and sends it to someone named Plague after running it through her encryption program.

She dresses warmly and conservatively, takes out her piercings, and applies pink lipstick so she looks like any other woman out for a walk—the perfect camouflage “for an expedition behind enemy lines.” Salander waits near the doorway of an apartment building until she is able to see someone use the security code. Once she gets in, she uses the same code to enter the basement. She works her way to a locked door (which she picks open) and enters the electrical room. She finds the meters, the fuse boxes, and the junction boxes and takes three photos.

On her way out, she looks at the tenant list, looking for the resident who lives on the top floor—Wennerstrom. She stops at the National Museum for some coffee and then returns home. She has a reply to her message: 20.

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