Note: this blogpost was originally published when the 4th book in the series, Girl in the Spider's Web came out.
It was at the King's Cross station, on a bright summer day, that I threw my hands in the air and finally admitted "I've got to read these books!" While traveling in Europe in the summer of 2010 (by that time 27 million copies of the Millennium Trilogy books were sold worldwide), the ubiquity of bright paperback covers of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Girl Who Played with Fire and Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest was impossible to ignore. Their yellows, oranges and reds teased me at airports, planes, trains, train stations, hotel lobbies and cafes. I am usually wary of very popular titles but something had ignited my curiosity that day while sightseeing in the Bloomsbury district in London.
And so when I returned to Houston, I read all three books in a trance. I couldn't believe what I was reading, I finished them within days. I was in love with Lisbeth and heartbroken that Stieg Larsson had died before his books became an enormous global phenomenon with 80 million copies sold worldwide. The success of these books also triggered a juggernaut of similar titles with a stereotype shattering female protagonist: Good Girl, Girl on the Train, Luckiest Girl Alive, Gone Girl, Girl From the Train (releasing in November 2015) to name a few.
So what is it about the word "girl" in the title that is so attractive to readers? We can't stop reading these books. Is it simply alliterative elegance? Or something more sinister? Is girl more sensational than woman? Perhaps a marketing ploy to target young women? A publishing formula for success? I have read a lot of these "girl" books and I really don't find the word offensive (remember Golden Girls?). Actually, I find it empowering. The girls in these novels are the antithesis of how women are usually portrayed in fictional works. These "girls" are self-reliant, resourceful, socially awkward and sometimes manipulative. Honestly, there's just no equivalent for "guy", "chap" or "lad" for the other gender in the English language! So "girl" will have to do!
It was Lisbeth's determination and her own moral compass albeit sometimes misguided that fascinated me. She unequivocally relied on herself to get out of very bad situations. With these books, we finally have women who are not always pretty, dainty and dependent. These girls are breaking gender expectations and selling books. And I don't see anything wrong with that!
After reading the three books in the series, I discovered other Scandinavian crime writers who also write about similar topics: corruption, immigration, civil service and police work. Some of my favorites include Jo Nesbø, Henning Mankell, Jussi Adler-Olsen, Camilla Läckberg, Karin Fossum and Lars Kepler. The Scandinavian writers have a very good grip on the post-Cold War world as it pertains to national boundaries, soldiers for hire, puppet governments and migrant workers. We encourage you to explore these and other mystery writers by subscribing to one of our e-newsletters.
Share your thoughts. Tell us what you think about these books. Are you looking forward to Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye? What did you think of Girl in the Spider's Web? I am just happy that there is (after a long wait) a continuation to Lisbeth's story. May be we will finally find out why she has a photographic memory!