- Rape in Stieg Larsson´s Millennium Trilogy and Beyond: Contemporary Scandinavian and Anglophone Crime Fiction ed. by Berit Åström, Katarina Gregersdottir, and Tanja Horek
Rape in Stieg Larsson´s Millennium Trilogy and Beyond: Contemporary Scandinavian and Anglophone Crime Fiction is a collection of essays on one aspect of a trilogy of more than one thousand pages. The eleven contributors, from several Anglophone and Scandinavian countries, deal with subjects such as serial-killer narrative, rape and the avenging female. The book is organized as a movement from close readings of single aspects of Stieg Larsson’s texts to broader readings that compare Larsson’s texts with other crime stories and bring Larsson into dialogue with different contexts, such as Anglophone crime fiction, Scandinavian crime fiction, and the Scandinavian model of welfare.
The book shares a crucial problem with other books of the same kind: collections of critical essays disguised as monographs. The theoretical and the methodological-analytical grounds are unarticulated, and this requires the reader to figure out the premises and decide to which extent the investigations are comparable.
Because the chapters use rape as their common point of departure, the discussion is to some extent repetitive. This points out some crucial weaknesses of the book and the way it is organized. With the contributions in a numbered order, the book compels the reader to regard every essay as one step on the road to a conclusion. Unfortunately, the insight the book produces is fragmented, and all the valuable [End Page 337] interpretations of the trilogy—focusing on Lisbeth Salander, rape, sexual violence, revenge and crime fiction—are not put into one collective image. Despite my reservations regarding the design of the book, it is my point of view that, if each contribution is regarded and treated independently, the book is an important collection of essays. The interpretations of Stieg Larsson’s trilogy and the other crime novels that are undertaken by these scholars are very qualified in every respect. They manage to draw connections from observations of minor details to issues concerning the genre of the crime novel and the organizing of gender in the Scandinavian model of the welfare state.
Although the main concern of the book is the representation of rape and violence, many of the essays manage to establish a high standard of insight in the literary aesthetic strategies in the Millennium Trilogy and the other crime stories they examine. One of the highlights of the book is Yvonne Leffler’s contribution, “Lisbeth Salander as a Melodramatic Heroine.” She shows how Lisbeth Salander, through the strategies of the melodramatic, becomes an enigma that fascinates the reader:
As a melodramatic heroine, Salander is made to embody the purest moral and emotional conflicts and issues of the stories. Compared to the other characters she speaks very little. The reader very seldom shares her point of view. […] As in melodrama, the plot centres on her in order to dramatize her nightmare struggle for recognition and her escape from primal horror. One of the reasons why she has become such a popular victim-heroine is […] because she is an enigma: who is the emotionally complex Lisbeth Salander and why is she the way she is.(61)
Despite my enthusiasm for Yvonne Leffler’s enlightening points on the melodramatic in Stieg Larsson’s trilogy and in Scandinavian crime fiction, I believe that more scholarly works on this subject should have been taken into account. Peter Brooks and Gunhild Agger are, no doubt, experts, but others may have something different to say on the subject.
The key concept of the Scandinavian crime novel that the book promotes and relies on seems very narrow, for several reasons. First, most of the Scandinavian authors mentioned, or whose novels are analyzed, are Swedish; one exception is the Norwegian author Jo Nesbø. Second, most of the research articles and books that the contributors draw on are Anglophone, and only a handful of scholars with a Scandinavian...