Larsson, Stieg: The Millenium Trilogy (2005 – 2007) – Language, Style and Structure

I realised that it’s been a while since I promised to return to Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, and here I am. Better late than never, right? Right.

In my last post about the trilogy, I discussed its publication history. Today I want to talk about the structure of the books and about Stieg Larsson’s language / style.


All three books are divided into several parts that are further split up into chapters.

In the first book, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the title of each part is accompanied by a statistical figure related to crimes committed by men against women. For example, the second part of the book, which bears the title “Consequence Analysis”, states that “46% of the women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man”. I personally think this is a great way to set the tone and introduce the subject matter of the book.

The second instalment of the trilogy is organised similarly, with the difference that in The Girl Who Played With Fire all of the parts are accompanied by definitions of mathematical terms instead of statistics, which – at least to me – was significantly less interesting.

The last part was also split up in several larger segments. However, while the first two parts were consistent in presenting each new segment with a title and a fact, the third part was different in that its segments’ titles were followed by several pages of text that were seemingly unconnected to the main plot. These pages discussed the idea of female warriors throughout time and pointed out how ‘warrior’ nowadays mainly conveys the connotation of a strong male charging into battle, whereas throughout history, there were actually countless famous examples for societies whose warriors were predominantly – if not exclusively – female. While this was interesting and informative, I still would have preferred for the structure to remain exactly the same throughout all three books, but I also realise that it’s possible that nobody else really cares about this subtle difference, so I’m going to let it go for now.

Let it go gif

Moving on.

Language / Style

For me Larsson’s style of writing played a huge part in making these books so enjoyable. His style is very clear, very journalistic, very matter-of-fact, which provides a great contrast to the subject matter. All three books are quite openly critical of some aspects of society – more on this in my next post! – and I think there’s a fine line between being critical and sounding preachy – or even worse: tabloidy (which I realise isn’t actually a word, but it should be). Larsson managed to avoid these pitfalls by choosing to tell his story in a very neutral tone that makes the portrayed events seem even more bleak than a different, more lurid account could have ever achieved.

This becomes especially apparent in the death of some of the characters. I was more than once completely shocked by a sudden unexpected death, and Larsson’s brief way of dealing with death only added to this effect.

The fact that Larsson doesn’t dwell on these things means that the story is overall incredibly well paced. Especially the first two books never failed to keep me curious for what was going to happen next, as I really enjoyed watching the story unfold from several different angles. The third book was somewhat slower, as Lisbeth, whose unconventional ways were the driving force of the first two parts, is suddenly incapacitated. I had noticed this slowing in pace already when I came across the following sentence in the third book:

Thereafter the story became more sluggish.

This is Blomkvist describing his difficulties in typing up Lisbeth’s story for his magazine at a point at which his account still has some gaping holes in it, but I also thought it was a very fitting statement to sum up the third novel – which isn’t to say that I didn’t still really like it, because I did!

Did you follow my advice to pick up this trilogy? No? Do it – you won’t regret it!

What do you think of Larsson’s style? Do you like it as much as I do?

Does it bother you if there are subtle changes to the formatting / structure from one book to the next in a series – or am I actually alone with this sentiment?


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