Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 2010 Bookers Minutes - The Trilogy Series by Stieg Larsson

                  The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
                   The Girl Who Played With Fire
                                               The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest
                            by Stieg Larsson

“Sweden tended toward sin, nudity, drunkenness and suicide,” Dwight D. Eisenhower

Welcome back to our 7th year of Bookers and we would be remiss not to once again thank Jean Alexander for suggesting the Pinnacle Women’s Club needs a book club, and to MN for taking the ball and never looking back!

I guess we were all ready to get back to Bookers as a record number – thirty-one – attended our kick off meeting.  Colleen Hinckley and Melanie Prebis joined us for the first time and Susie Johnson returned to see what we have been up to for the past six years.  We hope you enjoyed your Bookers’ experience and will join us again.  Unbelievably, our e-mail list has grown to 68 book lovers interested in what we are reading.  Thank you for your continued support!  We are part of a book club population exceeding 5.2 million in the United States alone.  Not surprisingly, the majority are women with the average member reading thirty-six books a year.  A non-book club member reads only five annually.  There’s power in those numbers ladies!

We were submerged in high technology in the “trilogy series,” so we took a small step out of the dark ages and created a Bookers’ blog,  It is still in diapers, but so far, all the books we have read have been posted as well as the minutes of our June, 2010 meeting.  You can freely read all the blogs, but if you want to make a comment (and that is what a blog is all about), you must become a “follower.”  It’s simple – click the “follower” button and post your comment at the bottom of the page.  The minutes will still be sent to each of you via e-mail, but if you want to “chat,” please feel free to blog away!  We have applied to and are awaiting approval to become an Amazon Affiliate, which is the free marking program that enables you to link directly to Amazon from the blog to purchase products.  Bookers will be credited with a percentage each time a transaction originates from the blog link.  I promise neither MN or I will be leaving the country with the proceeds, but plan to redistribute them back to Bookers in the form of a gift card or something else creative that MN will come up with.  I will keep you posted on this, but it sounds like it might be a very easy way to purchase our books.
Speaking of gift cards, Bookers generously donated $150.00 to support the 2010 PWC golf tournament.  Three $50.00 gift cards were purchased, and because the tournament was “tornadoed out” all prizes were given away at the Tornado Recovery party, one of which had MN’s name on it.  We began the meeting this morning with a “Welcome Back to Bookers” drawing for the gift card – won by Sandy Molander. 

Leslie Mullins agreed (with a little gentle arm twisting by our persuasive leader) to take on the review of this trilogy series.  In doing so, she tackled twelve hundred pages of crime fiction, chocked full of words we could not pronounce, places we had never heard of, and technology that scared us to death.  Add to that the eccentric, Lisbeth Salander, described as  “Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft with Mr. Spock’s intense braininess and Scarlett O’Hara’s spunky instinct for survival,” combine a middle-aged journalist with raging hormones whose nickname was a fictional boy detective, Mikael (Kalle) Blomkvist, then top it off with dozens of other equally peculiar characters and tie it all together succinctly in a presentation to the group.  Leslie not only did all of this, but also showed up with dragon tattoos on her forearms.  Rounds of applause for this Truman-ess effort!!  Well done!

                 In Leslie’s words
                                                                               THE LARSSON TRILOGY

“At the time of his death in November of 2004, Stieg Larsson was employed as a journalist and magazine editor of “Expo” in Stockholm, Sweden and had written three unpublished novels. He was a fan of crime fiction and spent evenings developing his stories often mirroring his personal life. The fictional magazine  “Millennium” plays a prominent role throughout all three novels. Today, the trilogies sit atop the bestseller lists.

“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” is the first in the series in which we are introduced to Mikael Blomkvist, a middle aged journalist who has just lost a libel case and is facing 3 months in prison. His magazine “Millennium” is now losing revenue and he decides to step down from the Board.
Henrik Vanger, an aging industrialist, hires Blomkvist to help him find out what happened to his great niece, Harriet, who had disappeared 40 years earlier. Vanger believes she was murdered by someone in the family. Blomkvist, after much soul searching and promises from Henrik Vanger agrees to take the job.

Lisbeth Salander, the girl in the title, is a 24 year old computer hacker with a photographic memory, a violent temper and a history of unspeakable abuse as a child. Lisbeth occasionally works for a private security firm headed by Dragan Armansky, and through this connection, Henrik Vanger hires Lisbeth to investigate Blomkvist before he offers him the job. When Mikael discovers how much information Lisbeth has been able to uncover about him, he decides to hire her to assist with the research in finding out what happened to Harriet.

Mikael unsuccessfully tries to befriend Lisbeth, but because of her horrendous  childhood (declared incompetent and institutionalized at an early age with guardians assigned to monitor her whereabouts), she trusts no one, including him. However, she agrees to help and together they work on solving the mystery of the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. As Mikael gets closer to discovering the truth, Harriet’s brother, Martin (who turns out to be a serial killer just like their father) threatens his life. Lisbeth slowly begins to like and trust Mikael, and is not only responsible for saving his life, but she uses her extensive computer skills to withdraw a large sum of money from the man, Hans-Erik Wennerstrom, responsible for Mikael’s upcoming imprisonment for libel. It was her way of seeking revenge from someone who harmed her newfound friend, Mikael. Lisbeth even purchases a Christmas present for him, but when she sees Erika Berger, Mikael’s boss, and him cozily leaving a hotel room together, she feels betrayed once again. Her anger got the best of her and she tossed the gift in the garbage and disappeared.

When Wennerstrom, who had fled the country and was now living under the alias of Victor Fleming, is found dead by the police, Mikael is now able to turn his efforts toward completely exonerating himself of libel charges.

In the second novel of the trilogy, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” we find Lisbeth enjoying herself traveling, mostly in Grenada. Meanwhile, Mikael is trying to contact her and cannot locate her.
Mikael has been told about a sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden. Dag Svensson, the writer of an explosive article and Mia Johansson, his girlfriend and researcher, have enough proof to ruin a lot of people with their article. In his last conversation with Blomkvist, Svensson tells him that he has a new lead on a mysterious gangster known as Zala, whom he wants to track down before publishing the article. (We later find out that Zala’s full name is Alexander Zalachenko and he is Lisbeth’s father). Svensson calls Mikael, who is visiting his sister, to ask him to come to his home. Lisbeth, who has just returned from her year long trip abroad, hacks into Mikael’s computer and discovers an e-mail that had been sent to him about this mysterious Zala. She goes to Svensson’s apartment and asks him and Mia what they know about Zala.

When Mikael arrives at Svensson’s apartment, he discovers that both Svennson and Johansson have been murdered. When a gun with Lisbeth’s fingerprints is discovered at the scene, everyone but Mikael assumes that she is the murderer.

Meanwhile, Nils Bjurman, Lisbeth’s second guardian who had sexually molested her numerous times, arranged to have her killed. Lisbeth was finally able to get the upper had on Nils and paid him back for the years of abuse with a “wonderful” tattoo on his chest and demanded he follow her specific instructions when filing his monthly report on her condition. Bjurman is found dead in his apartment, naked and draped over the bed and it is assumed that Lisbeth murdered him also.
Mikael still feels that Lisbeth is not guilty of any of these murders. He knows what Bjurman had done to her, but there is no connection that he knows of between her and the 2 journalists. He does not yet know of her questioning the 2 about Zala. He feels that they were murdered by someone or several  people who stood to lose a lot with the publication of the expose. With the help of a police inspector named Bublanski, Mikael tries to prove Lisbeth’s innocence and find out who the real culprit or culprits are.

Lisbeth is on the run and is searching for her father. As a  child she witnessed him brutally beat her mother numerous times resulting in her being institutionalized. Lisbeth finds her father and his assistant, Ronald Niedermann, who turns out to be Lisbeth’s half brother. This search becomes a murderous hunt. Lisbeth is shot several times, once in the head, but was able to strike Zalachenko in the face with the blade of an axe. Her half brother buried her alive, but she somehow clawed her way out of the grave. Mikael finds her and patches some of her wounds with duct tape while waiting for an ambulance.

At the beginning of the third novel “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” we find Lisbeth in the emergency room in Goteborg, still breathing, but with a bullet in her head. The wounds that Mikael managed to cover with duct tape are starting to heal. Lisbeth is operated on by  2 surgeons, one who admits having had too much to drink at a party.

Meanwhile, the man transported with Lisbeth, Alexander Zalachenko, who is a former Russian agent turned gangster, is struggling for survival in another part of the hospital, due to the massive axe wound inflicted by Lisbeth. If you remember, it was inflicted in self defense, although many try to prove otherwise. She will be arrested for the attempted murder of Zalachenko and will be transported to prison once she recovers enough from her wounds. Lisbeth has been protecting herself against Zalachenko her whole life. It is in this 3rd novel that we find out who and what Lisbeth is and the horrible circumstances that caused her to become the person she is. Some people might call her a monster and they may be right, but there are others who deserve the label more that she does.

Mikael knows all of Lisbeth’s secrets and still cares about her. He literally saves her life and becomes her tireless champion, even if she doesn’t want him to. It’s not easy being her friend. When she recovers enough, Mikael, knowing her computer skills, manages to get her access to the internet where she begins working on proving her innocence. This is where she writes her life story, including all that had happened to her. The relationship between Mikael and Lisbeth is the heart and soul of this third novel. Larsson makes them people we can believe in.

I mentioned earlier that there are some people who deserve to be called monsters. There are also some who are stupid. A cop named Paulsson refuses to listen to Mikael’s warning about Ronald Niedermann and sends a young policeman to his death. Dr. Teleborian writes his psychiatric profile of Lisbeth before he examines her, hoping to paint her as a sociopath. Lisbeth has a past with Dr. Teleborian and it is not good. Niedermann likes to bury his victims alive, as he did with Lisbeth. Due to his lack of feeling pain, Zalachenko uses him as an assassin.

When the time for Lisbeth’s trial nears, Mikael pleads with his sister to represent Lisbeth in court. Although not a criminal attorney, she takes the case. With Lisbeth’s life story finished Mikael’s sister is able to use it as evidence and win the case for Lisbeth. Once a victim she fights back and wins. Shortly after the trial is over, Mikael goes to Lisbeth’s apartment only as a friend. She hesitates on letting him in, but when she thinks back on the past 2 years and all that the two of them had been through, she decides that he can be trusted and lets him into her life again.”

Many in our group enthusiastically embraced these novels.  But for some, the trilogy clearly was not “their cup of tea.”  That is what makes Bookers unique.  We are all challenged on different levels with each book selection.  Personally, I was on the fence with these choices, but loved his descriptive prose…imagine that.  I felt some of the novel was lost in translation…there were several incidents where a sentence made absolutely no sense. I appreciated the focus on the sexual harassment statistics and the plight of Swedish women who are abused, but sadly, for me the emphasis lost some of its strength in the repetition of these issues.  I tried to figure out the significance of the math equations prominent in the second book, but was only reminded of why I struggled so in algebra, and lastly developed a strong distaste for coffee.  Having said this, I did love the character development of Lisbeth.  You were compelled to root for her…how would you like to walk in those shoes…revenge was indeed sweet for her character.  As a defense mechanism, she embraced her outward appearance and in doing so invited everyone to judge her by how she looked.  Larsson did a good job of leaving you guessing and wanting to turn the page or read the next book just to find out what happened, especially leading into the final book.  Several had seen the movies (with subtitles) and reported that they come with a “buyer beware” label for graphic violence and sexual content…not for the faint at heart!  Stay tuned for the American version…it should be a little calmer. 

It is difficult to argue with the success of this series – three of the most successful crime novels in history selling a combined 27 million copies.  How sad that Mr. Larsson didn’t live long enough to see the fruits of his labors.  I can’t imagine where he might have taken us if he had completed his dream of a ten-part collection.  Maybe we would have been reintroduced to Lisbeth’s twin or another evil half sibling or two, or a happily ever after ending with Lisbeth and Mikael settling down to a “normal” life together….hmmmmm?

                                                               What’s on your shelf?

If you haven’t read Bernie’s author-husband’s Grandfather Tales, you are missing a wonderful written tribute to a special family, one to be cherished by generations of Cruddens and enjoyed by their extended family of friends.

Gayle Robinson’s hubby, Gene’s college fraternity brother, John Carver, has written a book, Winning, which recounts small-town Texas high school football. 

Gerry Roeder recommended, Once Second After, by William Forstchon, a post-apocalyptic thriller.  A nuclear bomb explodes unleashing a deadly electromagnetic pulse that disables every electrical device in the US.  (Forward written by Newt Gingrich)

Cherry and Jane both highly recommend The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. We have discussed this wonderful book numerous times and it has been on our recommended reading list.  However, since it is set in the Holocaust “era,” and we have read several books on the subject, we as a group voted not to read as one of our monthly selections.  As it has come up again, please think about whether or not you want to select this as one of our books and we will revisit this next month.

MN and I are checking into Sara Gruen’s (Water For Elephants) new book, Ape House and will let you know what we find out.

Sandy Molander reported another trilogy series from a Norwegian author, Nesbo, might be of interest to those wanting to continue with the same type book as Larsson’s trilogy series.

               On the business side    

Sandy Molander reported that the audio versions of both Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt and Not My Daughter are both available free by using the power card through the Houston Public Library.  More information is available at  

In the spirit of  Leila Meacham’s Roses, please refer to the following color codes to describe our book selections:
                                                WHITE:        Light read
                                                PINK:            Moderately challenging
                                                RED:             Challenging

October 12th:                            Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt, by Beth Hoffman
                                                Recommended by MN & JoDee
                                                Home: Sandy Molander
                                                Reviewer: Lois Welch

November 9th                           Broken For You, by Stephanie Kallos                         
                                    Recommended by Patsy Dehn, MN, JoDee
                                                Home: Melanie Prebis
                                                Reviewer: Patsy Dehn & Patty Evans

December 14th:                        Holiday Party
                                                Not My Daughter by Barbara Delinsky
                                                Recommended by Leslie Mullins, Linda Hoff & MN
                                                Home: Daryl Daniels
                                                Reviewer: Bernie Crudden

January 11th, 2011                The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
                                                Recommended by Pat Faherty, Patty Evans, MN
                                                Home: TBA
                                                Reviewer: TBA

Happy Reading,

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