This whole re-read review is chock full of spoilers.
I want to talk more about Dragan Armansky’s idea that Lisbeth is the perfect victim. I touched on it in my 2012 review, but it has stayed with me. Everything in this book points to him being right. Lisbeth’s past, and current events involving the triple murders that Lisbeth is blamed and hunted for, they perfectly prime her to be someone who is easily blamed or taken advantage of. The first thing being she doesn’t trust authority figures at all, and she works alone. She doesn’t for one second consider going to the police and telling them the truth, because those people have never helped her, in fact they locked her up as a child when she needed to be protected most. This leaves her without allies (aside from Blomkvist), and it leaves those on the other side with no information to balance out false narratives and fearful assumptions.
What they are left with are the bits and pieces of Lisbeth’s life that she hasn’t been able to keep private, and that without context or compassion, lead everyone to think the worst of her. She is quiet (sullen, most likely unintelligent), she wears all black and has all those piercings and tattoos (criminal, social outcast), she has a previous sex partner who is a woman (lesbian) and acquaintances who are in a metal band (Satanist Cult), she was picked up in the company of an older man once (prostitute), she’s been arrested for assault and locked up in an asylum (she is violent and deranged), etc. etc. All of these things make sense in the context of her life, but because she’s so private and doesn’t share information, her Otherness makes her visible. It makes her a target, with no one but Blomkvist willing to put in the work of figuring out what’s really going on; he’s the only person that investigates assuming she is innocent. Even Armansky believes she’s guilty of the murders, though he believes she was probably somehow justified or provoked.
Not to mention that we find out late in this book that she is a literal sacrificial pawn by the Swedish government, who prioritized keeping the secret of their defected, violent, criminal Soviet spy over the rights and freedoms of his daughter.
With all of that stacked against her, she is still resourceful and proactive. When we finally get to that climax, having learned so much more about her over the course of the book than we were shown in the first book, it’s agonizing to watch her suffer. For as smart as she is, going it alone does not work out for her. The only reason she survives is because she let Blomkvist back into her life a tiny bit, and he was able to figure everything out and get to her before she died. If I’m remembering correctly, the next book is about bringing all of this into the light, and watching as the small circle of people that care about her come to her defense, and watching her let them in, and allowing them to help her. This book blows everything up. The next one puts it all back together.