Study Guide

The Girl Who Played With Fire Criminality

By Stieg Larsson


[Blomkvist] had come to realize she was a world class hacker, and within an exclusive international community devoted to computer crime at the highest level – and not only to combating it – she was a legend. (1.24)

Salander is meant to provoke and test our ideas about crime and criminality. She makes her own laws, sometimes as she goes along, but always in line with her own morality. Blomkvist, it seems, doesn't mind this about her. He might even admire it.

She had not planned to get herself a teenage lover on Grenada. (1.139)

As noted in our quotes about sex, 25-year-old Salander commits a crime by having sex with 16-year-old George Bland. In Sweden this is legal; in Grenada it is not. It's not clear if Salander is aware of this fact, or if she would care if she was. Larsson surely did know, and creates the affair to provoke us and make us think about what we believe.

He's planning to murder her. Forty million in the pot. The storm is his camouflage. This is his chance. (3.79)

As far as we can tell, helping kill Richard Forbes in Grenada by stopping him from killing his wife Geraldine, is the first bit of active crime-fighting she's done since she's been on vacation. Kind of a prelude for things to come.

All her life she had had to choose the cheapest option, and she was not yet used to the idea that she had more than three billion kronor, which she had stolen by means of an Internet coup combined with good-old fashioned fraud. (4.3)

Salander is totally unapologetic about stealing billions from corrupt financier Hans-Erik Wennerström. (Read all about him in Tattoo.) What we are surprised to learn is that she didn't hide her newly acquired assets. The police find out about money in no time. Will she lose the money in the next book? We hope not!

[…] [Palmgren] trusted her enough still to know that whatever she was up to might be dubious in the eyes of the law but not a crime against God's laws. (8.145)

We tend to feel this way about Salander, too, in most cases, even though we are shocked by some of the methods. What about you?

In an aside Svennson mentioned that he had some tentative ideas about an Eastern European gangster named Zala who might get a chapter all to himself […]. (9.115)

Zala is definitely a nasty criminal, into everything from drugs to sex trafficking to murder, probably for fun. Although the good characters in Larsson's novels are nuanced, most of the villains are evil through and through.

Ekström: "I'm going to issue an alert on Salander. She's being sought as a suspect in three murders. […] We have to consider her dangerous and very possibly armed." (14.25)

As much as we'd like to, we can't find fault with Prosecutor Ekström at this juncture. Her prints were on the murder weapon, and we wouldn't like to see what happens to the cop who dares try to arrest her.

Modig to Teleborian: "Are you saying that she should have been locked up before she committed a crime? […] That doesn't really accord with the principles of a society governed by rule of law." (17.130)

Inspector Modig seems like the most sensible person on the police force. She's calling Teleborian on the fact that he advocates denying people thought to be mentally ill the rights under the law that other citizens enjoy.

Teleborian […] was shielded behind a curtain of documents, assessments, academic honours, and psychiatric mumbo jumbo. Not a single one of his actions could ever be reported or criticized. (21.36)

Teleborian is in a position where he can commit any crime he wants against his patients, and it seems he does if Salander's case is any evidence. We, Salander, and Blomkvist learn that he willingly participated in covering up Zala's crimes at Salander's expense.

"I don't wonder at Lisbeth's absolute refusal to talk to psychiatrists or the authorities […]. Every time she did, it only made matters worse. […] She, a child all by herself, tried to save her mother's life and defend herself against a psychopath. […] And instead of saying 'well done' and 'good girl' they locked her up in an asylum. (28.110)

At first, Salander actually tells everybody exactly why she lights Zala on fire. Her unconscious, brain-damaged mother is the proof that she was acting to defend a person who the law already stopped caring about in favor of a criminal. All of this is a horrible crime committed by people sworn to uphold the law.