the girls in the spiders webThe Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth and latest installment in the Swedish Millennium series. Fans assumed that the series was finished as the series’ author, Stieg Larsson, had passed away with only writing the three books. But alas, the series has been revived by Swedish journalist and author David Lagercrantz. Let us rejoice!

Langercrantz does a fantastic job on many levels. He keeps the focus on Salander and her past, but develops the story into a plausible continuation for the series. Salander shines, finally living up to her full potential. She is a true heroine. More characters, unique in their own right, are introduced, and a slew of old ones are weaved in. Blomkvist is constantly on his game and devoted more than ever to helping Lisbeth. The story is fast paced and contains plenty of suspense, intrigue, computer hacking, and mathematical equations that only a handful of people in the world can understand. The best part is that it is clear that Langercrantz will not stop here. The door has been left wide open for the next Lisbeth Salander adventure.

If you are looking to start a new series, give this one a try. I have found it is more enjoyable and easier to follow the Swedish names and genius jargon when I listen to the audio books. Simon Vance is the reader of this series and really brings the story life. The first book in the series is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This book exploded and was even made into a movie in the United States in 2011 starring Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomvkist. Sweden has made the first three books into movies and those are all available on Netflix.

March 6

Footloose – Julianne Hough, Dennis Quaid

Ren MacCormack moves from Boston to the small town of Bomont, where loud music and dancing are prohibited. Not one to bow to the status quo, Ren challenges the ban, revitalizes the town, and falls in love with the minister’s troubled daughter, Ariel. Rated PG-13

March 13

Melancholia – Kirsten Dunst, Alexander Skarsgard

In this beautifully filmed movie about the end of the world, Justine and Michael are celebrating their marriage. A planet called Melancholia is heading directly toward Earth and threatening to collide. Meanwhile, tensions are mounting and relationships are fraying as the family deals with their fears. Rated R

My Week with Marilyn – Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne

In the summer of 1956, Colin Clark worked as a lowly assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, the film that famously united Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. When his diary account was published, one week was missing. This is the story of that week: an idyll in which he escorted a Monroe desperate to get away from Hollywood hangers-on and the pressures of work. Rated R

March 20

The Muppets – Jason Siegel, Kermit-the-Frog, Miss Piggy, Amy Adams

On vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world’s biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary and Mary, discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets’ former stomping grounds. To stage the Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater, Walter, Mary, and Gary help Kermit reunite the Muppets. Rated PG

J Edgar – Leonardo DiCaprio

J. Edgar Hoover was head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 50 years. Hoover was feared, admired, reviled, and revered, a man who could distort the truth as easily as he upheld it. His methods were at once ruthless and heroic, with the admiration of the world his most coveted prize. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career, and his life. Rated R

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo– Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig

Hoping to distance himself from the fallout of a libel conviction, journalist Mikael Blomkvist retreats to a remote island where the unsolved murder of a young girl still haunts her industrialist uncle forty years later.  Blomkvist’s investigation draws him into the secrets and lies of the rich and powerful, and throws him together with one unlikely ally: tattooed, punk hacker, Lisbeth Salander. Rated R.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Gary Oldman, Colin Firth

At the height of the Cold War, a precarious operation goes deadly wrong, and the head of British Intelligence wonders if a double agent is leaking vital secrets. Brought out of retirement to expose the potential mole, master spy George Smiley is the only one who can be trusted to expose one of their own. Or can he? Rated R



Camilla was 29 when she published her first novel, The Ice Princess, in 2003. Three years later, her prize-winning books were topping the Swedish bestseller lists. She based her books in her own hometown of Fjallacka Sweden. The Main characters are Patrik and Erica. Patrik is a policeman and Erica is a writer. Her books are a wonderful blend of suspense, mystery and romance. She has become the top selling writer in Sweden. She has written 7 books in her mystery series, but only 2 have been published in the U.S.

Ice Princesss ( 2009) After she returns to her hometown to learn that her friend, Alex, was found in an ice-cold bath with her wrists slashed, biographer Erica Falck researches her friend’s past in hopes of writing a book and joins forces with Detective Patrik Hedstrom, who has his own suspicions about the case.

Preacher (2011) The discovery of two murder victims who were killed twenty years earlier is complicated by the body of a third, recent victim at the same location, a case that compels detective Patrik Hedstrom to investigate a feuding clan of misfits, religious fanatics, and criminals.

What could be more festive than flaming candles in a girl’s hair or drinking cup after cup of strong coffee accompanied by pastries? This time of year makes you think about the customs of cold weather countries.

Lucia Day often begins with the daughter of the house bringing breakfast and coffee to her parents (adorned with a wreath of candles). How to Make a Swedish Christmas and Christmas in Scandinavia have recipes and instructions for making  ornaments like woven heart baskets and straw horses.

Swedish Christmas Crafts by Helene Lundberg has great, and simple, ideas for decorations, such as putting small white candles in a row of bright red apples to use as a centerpiece or using coarse salt for a snow substitute. Or how’s this for a frugal gift idea? Use a tin can after stripping off the label for a container of nuts or candy. Tie a piece of pretty cloth over the top.

Coffee is a central part of a fabulous Icelandic custom called the Four Coffees. Beatrice Ojakangas’ Great Scandinavian Baking Book includes instructions for a succession of cookies, cakes and breads that are eaten. With each pastry, one cup of coffee is consumed. With the fourth cup, you can eat anything at the coffee table.

Embrace the cold and snow season – revel in spicy cookies, lots of candles, and plenty of coffee.

If you’ve caught the recent series on PBS, you may want to go back to the first dvd series of Wallander. Kenneth Branagh inhabits the morose Swedish Inspector Kurt Wallander. He feels the pain and suffering of the world to the extent that it interferes with his relationships with his daughter, father and ex-wife. Always close to burnout, Kurt repeatedly puts his job before whatever is left of his home life, and they are very much aware of that.

The tv series is based on the Henning Mankell mysteries set  near Ystad in Southern Sweden. The tones are bleached out; the Swedish countryside comes off as pale and tired – as if all  vibrant hues  have been drained out out of the world. It sounds incredibly depressing but there’s something about  Wallander’s character and Branagh’s portrayal of him that makes this very complex man impossible not to watch and root for.  Optimism and hope seem misguided if not futile, but Wallander keeps hanging in there.

Those looking for nonstop spectacular violence and pounding background music will be disappointed but if you enjoy complex characters, intricate plots and incredible acting, you won’t be disappointed.

If you have already read Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) and want to try a different type of Swedish crime fiction, I would highly recommend Camilla Läckberg’s first novel, The Ice Princess, set in the picturesque town of Fjällbacka, Sweden.

The Ice Princess centers around writer Erica Falck who returns to her hometown after the death of her parents in a car accident.  Shortly after she arrives from Stockholm she happens to discover her childhood friend, Alexandra, who has died of an apparent suicide.  Grieving for their daughter, Alexandra’s parents ask Erica to write an article about Alexandra for the local paper.  While researching Alexandra’s death Erica runs into an old friend, Patrick, who is a police officer in town.  The two discover many secrets about Fjällbacka’s most prominent family whose past is intertwined with the death of Alexandra and eventually learn that her death may not have been at her own hand.

I’ve also included a beautiful photo of Fjällbacka, Sweden which happens to be the hometown of a friend.  She snapped this photograph over the summer (which was taken late in the evening).  Since Läckberg is also a native of this fishing village, she uses authentic street names, landmarks, and other notable and unique features of the village, including Ingrid Bergman Square, named for the Swedish actress who spent a good amount of time in Fjällbacka.

The final installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, was released at the beginning of the summer to rave reviews along with a bit of sadness that this is the final book in the series due to Larsson’s death in 2004, shortly before this book was published.

The book begins immediately after the epic battle from the last pages of the previous book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, which leaves Lisbeth Salander recovering from her injuries hospitalized in critical condition.  Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has been teaming up with Salander throughout the series, is working tirelessly on her behalf and is determined to get to the bottom of the intricate web of corruption within the Swedish government which runs deep and rampant.  

Blomkvist’s detective work  – exposing those who are trying to send Salander to prison for life by framing her for a variety of crimes – is fascinating and intricately detailed.  The book ends in a thrilling wrap-up of all the carefully interlaced story lines throughout the books. The Milenium Trilogy books are some of the best I have read in quite awhile – I am tempted to go on at length about the book but don’t want to reveal too much to anyone who may pick up the trilogy in the future.  In addition to complex and interesting characters, Larsson gives a vivid account of modern day Sweden.

This great crime novel is translated from Swedish which adds a different flavor to the story. Certain things get added during translation or become more interesting when taken from slang. Sibylla the main character in Missing comes from a privleged background yet has chosen a life of the homeless in Stockholm. Brief snippets from Sibylla’s disturbing past help explain her modern day predicament. Her everyday struggle becomes almost unbearable after she is unjustly accused of a brutal murder. The story continues to pick up speed as Sibylla struggles to stay alive and hidden all the while trying to find the real killer with the help of a high school misfit. Great writer – I was easily transported into Sibylla’s world. The murder plot is well developed and unexpected.

Karin Alvtegen has received and been nominated for several literary awards. Interestingly she is the great-grand niece of the “Pippi Longstocking” series author, Astrid Lindgren.