The Girl Who Played With Fire
by Stieg Larsson
Our reluctant detective is back! Like Salander, he's partially based on an Astrid Lindgren Character, Kalle Blomkvist, a kid detective. In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Blomkvist publishes The Mafia Banker, his third book of non-fiction, making him a celebrity. As Mimmi, blissfully unaware of the Salander-Blomkvist connection, tells Salander, "That guy over there is Mikael Blomkvist. [He's] more famous than a rock star […]" (9.93). He still works at Millennium magazine and is still a finely tuned journalistic machine. Like Salander, Blomkvist isn't afraid to break the rules to achieve justice, and he has developed a serious vengeful streak.
That Was Then, This is Now
Fame notwithstanding, Blomkvist seems basically like the same man we saw in Tattoo. Unlike Salander, he's not actively trying to transform his life. He has a stable career, a good sex life (maybe unbelievably good…), and an active social life; he doesn't really need to go through big changes (arguably).
So, how does he spend 2004, while Salander is vacationing around the world? As far as we can tell, he doesn't solve any mysteries or get into any trouble. We get the impression he works hard at Millennium, is interviewed a lot about his recent book, sleeps with lots of ladies (as is his custom), and develops a rather uncomplicated sexual relationship with Harriet Vanger. Oh yes, and he tries to talk to Salander, and to figure out what he did to make her so mad. But, as soon as Salander returns home, things get crazy again, and Blomkvist finds himself smack dab in the middle of a murder investigation.
Blomkvist and Violence Against Women
In Tattoo, Blomkvist does undergo transformations. Most notably, after discovering father-son serial rapist/killers, both of whom raped their daughter/sister Harriet Vanger, he becomes even more sensitive to violence against women. So, he's personally invested in Dag and Mia's work investigating the sex trade, as it fits with an issue he feels very strongly about. (Larsson, the author, was also an activist interested in ending violence against women.)
Although Blomkvist doesn't change drastically in this novel, he does change when he begins to learn what Salander has been through, including her rape by Nils Bjurman. He had no idea that the whole time she was helping him hunt men who hate women (which is the actual Swedish title of Tattoo) that she himself had been raped. Since Blomkvist is already devoted to these issues, learning Salander's secret strengthens his desire to fight abusive men and to fight for justice for Salander.
In the beginning of the novel, we are told that Blomkvist "was not in love with [Salander] – they were as unlike as two people could be – but he was very fond of her and he really missed her, as exasperating as she sometimes was" (1.43). This is just a little disappointing. We want him to be in love with Salander! But how could he love her romantically? He thrives on intimacy and trust; he wants his partners to confide in him about their pasts and their presents. Plus, he doesn't really seem to be "in love" with anybody. Even Berger, who he's been with for over twenty years, isn't discussed in terms of love.
So, why then is Blomkvist so obsessed with Salander? For a whole year, he looks for her and tries to reach her. For one thing, she did save his life and he's afraid she's in trouble. But, really, the answer might be very simple – he wants to be her friend. He likes her. Although he has many acquaintances, he really doesn't have a whole lot of close friends, at least not that we see. He knows that sometimes it takes work to establish a friendship, and, for him, a friendship with Salander is worth it.
Getting too caught up in the possibility of a true romance between them might keep us from seeing what could be even more important – the possibility of a true friendship, where Salander might learn to trust Blomkvist as much as he trusts her. Will she be able to do it? After having a real friendship, could they have romance after all?
For more on Blomkvist, check out our thoughts on him in Tattoo.