(major spoilers ahead)
The mystery is set up as if it’s a whodunit — island cut off from the mainland at the time of the murder with finite suspects. But really only one suspect ever makes sense. The crimes are sexual in nature and perpetrated towards women, so the suspect can only be a man. There is only one male suspect of an age or physicality capable of pulling off the crimes.
The book goes way too hard on the shock and torture porn. Making the killer a serial rapist, murderer, and animal abuser with his own torture chamber almost pushes the novel into parody territory. It undermines the statement the book wants to make about the reality of violence towards women in Sweden.
The novel is a middle-aged man’s wish-fulfillment fantasy. Let’s look at Mikael Blomqvist’s life by the end of the book:
- He has an ongoing, no-strings-attached sexual relationship with his best friend.
- He has a summer fling with a schoolteacher.
- He has a third sexual relationship with a young, badass, punk-rock hacker chick.
- He is an expert sailor.
- He owns an expensive flat in Stockholm and a custom-designed vacation cabin in the woods.
- He solves a decades-old murder mystery, then gets to play savior to a wealthy family by not ratting them out.
- He is the CEO of a counterculture investigative magazine with a wealthy and benevolent benefactor.
- He is considered a martyr for journalistic ethics.
- He uncovers Sweden’s financial crime conspiracy of the century.
- He is a best-selling author and media darling.
- He is father to a mature, self-reliant teenage daughter who loves and worships him despite his abandonment of her.
Despite all of the book’s flaws, I still found it riveting and enjoyed my time reading it. I think I’m going to avoid the sequels, at least for now.