On the Millennium Trilogy

Broken

How the Combination of Genes and a Rough Childhood Contribute to Violence

By Joshua L. Gowin

Violence in the Blood

Most women have a few standard deflections to cut the conversation short when they receive unwanted attention from a male suitor at a bar. They may mention that they have a boyfriend, or perhaps they’ll employ a friend to come to their rescue. After an evening of come-ons from Chris MacAllen at a hotel bar in Grenada, Lisbeth Salander pushes her pursuer into a swimming pool. A few weeks earlier, when she’s had enough of a local’s antics at a bar in Saint Lucia, she knocks him over the head with a brick, pays her tab, and then skips town. Clearly, Salander is not most women. She’s not like most anyone.

You might expect that kind of violence from a sociopath–someone without regard for the suffering of others–such as Alexander Zalachenko, Lisbeth’s father, or Ronald Niedermann, her half brother. Zalachenko regularly beat Lisbeth’s mother, Agneta, while Lisbeth was growing up. When Lisbeth was twelve, he beat Agneta so brutally that she became permanently brain damaged. When asked about his actions, he justifies his violence by saying that Agneta was “a whore.” He offers no other explanation and never indicates that she provoked him in any way.

Niedermann shows a similar callousness. He commits nearly all of the murders in the second and third installments of the Millennium trilogy. In addition to the planned murder of Nils Bjurman, Niedermann impulsively decides to knock off Dag Svensson and Mia Johansson when he finds out they’re investigating Zalachenko and threatening to expose  …

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