As a devoted fan of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, I picked up this parody not knowing what to expect. Author Lars Arffssen, who allegedly also wrote A Popular History of the Swedish Meatball, certainly had a good time writing this one. While the original series deals with domestic violence, serial killers, sex trafficking and wrongful conviction, The Girl With the Sturgeon Tattoo contains evil twins, Nazis, ninjas, and many, many boxes of Twinkies.
At the forefront of the crime scene is a reindeer strangler, whose crimes are somehow connected to the decapitation of two men: failed crime novelist Twig Arsson and the world’s leading authority on Baltic sturgeon, Dr. Jerker Ekkrot. Framed for this crime is the heavily tattooed, Twinkie-obsessed computer hacker, Lizzy Salamander (Arffssen’s spoof of the famous Lisbeth Salander). With the help of her friend, journalist Mikeal Blomberg (originally Mikeal Blomkvist), Lizzy sets out to prove her innocence and, in the process, uncovers a conspiracy involving a furniture company and its ties to Adolf Hitler.
Arffssen especially enjoys poking fun at the quirks of Larsson’s characters. While the original Lisbeth is a feminist vigilante, Lizzy Salamander is a rampaging castrator of men who goes by the alias Jane Manhater. While Larsson’s Blomkvist is originally a middle-aged womanizer, his overweight alter ego, whose favorite food is fried eel, comically questions the judgment of women who flock to him despite his clear lack of charm. Additionally, while Larsson originally critiqued the Swedish government through his novels, Arffssen takes pleasure in spoofing the liberal sensibilities and social norms of Scandinavian culture. For example, Swedish police carry squirt guns, because real guns are too violent, and a case of jaywalking makes the nightly news.
Some jokes are overused throughout the novel and quickly become repetitive and tiresome, such as the sex jokes involving Blomberg and his lover, Erotikka (originally Erika Berger). Really, there’s only so far you can go with jokes about naming body parts before it becomes boring. While Arffssen has no lack of comedic material to work with, at times he gets too indulgent and provokes eye-rolling rather than laughs.
Unabashedly silly, bawdy and bizarre, The Girl With the Sturgeon Tattoo makes for good entertainment both for fans of the original series and avid readers of the crime genre. It could be considered the Police Squad! of crime novels, as the sheer absurdity of the crimes committed—such as decapitating a man and playing soccer with his head—should ring true for readers for whom contrived pulp novels are a guilty pleasure. I dare say Stieg Larsson himself would have had a laugh at this enjoyable farce.