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TGwtDT:Chapter Four

January 31, 2012

Chapter Four

Mikael is cleaning out his office when he receives a call from  a lawyer: Dirch Frode. Frode reveals that his client—Heinrik Vanger— wishes to meet with him. Blomkvist starts at the news. Vanger is an old-school industry mogul who’s been out of the game for twenty years or so, head of the once thriving Vanger companies, which dealt in textiles, mines, steel, etc. It could also be said that he’s one of the few respectable businessmen in Mikael’s jaded eyes because he was an honorable, no-nonsense man who played by the rules. Frode is Vanger’s lawyer and friend, and informs Mikael that Vanger wishes to offer him a job. Not in the habit of taking jobs from strangers over the phone, Blomkvist offers to call Frode back after thinking the matter over.

Frode, we already know, of course, also offered Salander a job investigating the Wennerstrom case. Can we see our two protagonists joining forces in the near future with the trial to bring them together? I certainly hope so. Salander doesn’t seem as prone to flashback-syndrome.

In fact, while Mikael is looking up info on Frode, Heinrik and Martin Vanger, the present CEO of Vanger Industries, Salander spends her Christmas with her forty-six year old mother in a nursing home, who is suffering from some form of mental illness. Exactly what kind of illness isn’t hinted. There’s a lot that isn’t explained as it is elsewhere, and the change is noticeably refreshing.

“Her mother gave up the struggle and looked helplessly at the package. It was not one of her better days. Salander pushed across the scissors that had been in plain sight on the table and her mother suddenly seemed to wake up.

‘You must think I’m stupid.’

‘No, Mum. You’re not stupid. But life is unfair.’

‘Have you seen your sister?’

‘Not in a long time.’

‘She never comes.’

‘I know, Mum. She doesn’t see me either.’”

This is probably one of my favorite scenes from this chapter. It’s short and sweet, but in a book which already seems pretty loaded in the exposition department (approaching 100 pages and it’s not over yet) less is definitely more. Lisbeth’s mother thanks Lisbeth for the gifts, but mistakenly calls her by her sister’s name: Camilla. While Lisbeth is living in her mother’s old house and has taken over the payment, Camilla is elsewhere— perhaps living alone, or perhaps married with kids, but wherever she is, visiting her mother on Christmas eve is clearly not a priority there. But I want to know more, and that’s a good thing. Compared to the breakdown of Blomkvist’s family which we received via Lisbeth’s report, Camilla is someone I’d actually like to know about, at least in relation to Lisbeth.

Larsson’s writing makes me feel conflicted. With Lisbeth, there could not be more than sixty words written and I’m intrigued. Blomkvist hits me with walls of text and I want to put the book down. Is one just a better character than the other? Am I powering through the Kalle chunks to get to the Lisbeth bits?

We learn a lot through reading very little. Lisbeth has a sister, and they aren’t on good terms, presumably. Lisbeth’s father isn’t in the picture, but if her mother’s age is any indication, we might guess that he’s young and healthy— therefore, either he’s run off or divorced her mother when the signs of sickness started to show.

Compare to Blomkvist’s Christmas eve, where the more I read, the less I care.

“Father and daughter spent the time together in her room upstairs. Pernilla’s parents were divorced when she was five and she had had a new father since she was seven. Pernilla came to see him about once a month and had week-long holidays with him in Sandhamm. When they spent time together they usually got along well, but Blomkvist had let his daughter decide how often she wanted to see him, the more so after her mother remarried.”

Make me care, Larsson.

“She had followed the trial in the firm belief that things were just as her father said: he was innocent, but he could not prove it.”

Make me care, damn you! It’s Christmas, this is his daughter, you’re talking about family, Lisbeth and Mom was good, drop dat warm and fuzzy feeling!

“She told him about a sort-of boyfriend who was in another class, and she surprised him by saying that she had joined a church. Blomkvist refrained from comment.”

Goddamnit Larsson. Guess I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up.

Blomkvist calls Frode back and agrees to make with Heinrik, then immediately regrets it. Hedestad is described as small, cozy village covered in a fine layer of snow after the recent storm. In my head I’m envisioning Santa’s village crossed with a retirement home.

Blomkvist is introduced to Heinrik Vanger, who is kind of like a skinny Father Christmas with a mustache. He also couldn’t be any further from Blomkvist’s incoming poverty— he’s got housekeepers and caretakers and a house that’s nicer than yours. As it turns out, they’ve got something in common— Harriet Vanger, Heinrik’s granddaughter, used to babysit him when he was a child and Mikael’s father got a job as a workshop foreman due to Heinrik’s recommendation. All of this seems like rather superfluous information until Blomkvist makes a realization: Heinrik is a cunning mothafucka.

“Blomkvist had the feeling that every that every last thing that had happened since he arrived was staged: the introductory surprise that as a child he had met his host, the picture of his parents in the album, and the emphasis on the fact that his father and Vanger had been friends, along with the flattery that the old man knew who Mikael Blomkvist was and that he had been following his career for years from a distance… No doubt it had a core of truth, but it was also pretty elementary psychology.”

Heinrik is a player, and we don’t need Larsson repeating to us once or twice to figure it out. He’s got Blomkvist over the proverbial barrel— Kalle is unemployed, hurting on funds and disillusioned. He’s tried taking down the bad guy in the manner he’s most accustomed to— good old-fashioned journalism— and got punched square in the nose. The Wennerstrom trial is what he (and to some extent, the reader) are really interested in, and Vanger is acutely aware of that. But more on how he plucks that particular chord later.

Blomkvist wants to know why he was called down, and Vanger obliges: he wants the investigative reporter to write a book on the Vanger clan— “for the most part thieves, misers, bullies and incompetents.” So pretty much like any of its stuffed shirt counterparts here in America. Vanger ran the company for thirty-five years and had to put up with all manner of familial bullshit in the process. But that’s not what really gets his goat, kids.

Nope.

The motive this time is: REVEEEEENGEEE. Because of MUUUUURDDDERRRRR.

Before we can get down to the murder mystery, though, we need to learn about Vanger’s family. The book is prefaced by a rather extensive Vanger family tree which you will flip back to a maximum of three times for reference before declaring ‘Fuck it,’ and powering through Heinrik’s monologue alone.

For those without the books, you get the Cliffnotes version.

  • Richard Vanger is Heinrik’s oldest brother— the eldest, in fact. From the age of seventeen, he decided he liked what the Nazis were all about and went through extremist groups the way a garage rock band goes through band names. Eventually he died in battle and was considered a martyr for the Nazi cause.
  • Before he died, though, he met his eventual wife Margareta and had a son— Gottfried. Richie backpacked around Europe for a while, preaching his brand of Nazi craziness until he got into a huge fight with his father, who was never fond of the Nazi business from the start. Richard is cut off from the family and forced to work for a living.
  • Richie took up domestic abuse as a career: low pay, no benefits, set your own hours. He did this until his death. Gottfried was thirteen when Papa Vanger took him and his mother into his estate.
  • Richie was crazy, Gottfried is lazy. Heinrik tries to do the kid a favor by giving him a job, Gottfried consistently disappoints (‘Y’know my dad owns a dealership?!?). Eventually he marries Isabella Koenig, who is equally as lazy and preferred partying to parenting. They begat Harriet (the chick who babysat Blomkvist) and Martin (the current head of the Vanger company.)
  • Following in the steps of his father, Heinrik cuts off Isabella and Gottfried and takes in Martin and Harriet as his own. Gottfried becomes an alcoholic and drinks himself to death, Isabella has no fucks left to give.
  • “Martin was…to tell the truth, there was a time in his youth when I was afraid he was going to follow in his father’s footsteps. He was weak and introverted and melancholy, but he could also be delightful and enthusiastic. He had some troubled years in his teens, but he straightened himself out when he started at the university.”
  • Harriet was different. “She was introverted— like her brother— and as a teenager she became wrapped up in religion, unlike anyone else in the family. But she had a clear talent and she was tremendously intelligent.” Heinrik is sure she will succeed him one day.
  • Then Harriet gets murdered, and the killer spends the next forty years trying to drive Heinrik insane!

PLOT used THICKEN!

Notes in the Margin

-So now we can guess (if you didn’t already) that Heinrik is our weeping old man in the prologue. Now we just need to find our retired cop.

-Salander’s appearance in this chapter doesn’t seem to serve any purpose beyond reminding us that she still exists, and that the book, is kinda named after her, y’know. We wait with bated breath.

-Wennerstrom’s trial and its importance feels like a bit of a red herring now. I mean, we can probably assume that solving this MURDERRR will take up a good chunk of the book— Harriet is the focus, not ‘strom. That’s just fine, but why did we take up so much time with the trial then?

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