If ever there were anyone who had an excuse to grind axes, it would be Eva Gabrielsson, who lived with author Stieg Larsson for thirty-two years but who, through a loophole in Swedish law, inherited nothing upon his death at age fifty in 2004, his entire estate going, by law, to his estranged brother and father. Gabrielsson has often said that she is not personally interested in the enormous sums which his Millenium Trilogy sales have generated. As dedicated to social causes as Larsson was, she is fighting, instead, for control of his literary legacy, especially alarmed because, she fears, that if present trends continue, she could even see his name on beer cans.
Remarkably objective and straightforward for most of the book, Gabrielsson describes Larsson's early life in the remote north of Sweden, where he lived with his grandparents from infancy until the age of nine, absorbing his grandfather's stories and pacifist political views. After his grandfather's death, Larsson rejoined his mother and father in the city, six hundred miles to the south. Though Larsson felt comfortable with his mother, he never formed a strong bond with his father or younger brother, according to Gabrielsson. In 1972, just after his eighteenth birthday, he met nineteen-year-old Eva at a rally in support of the Front National de Liberation in Vietnam (FLN), a Trotskyite group. Soul-mates, she says, they simultaneously supported communist causes and a strict, old-fashioned morality, believing in justice but also in vengeance. Later, when Larsson began to write for a series of newspapers, he was a crusader for human rights for those suffering from discrimination, and often received death threats, especially from neo-Nazis.
Gabrielsson does not really tell much about their lives together, except within the context of their shared beliefs, and neither of them truly comes alive here. Gabrielsson's descriptions of her grief at his sudden death certainly ring true, but much of this grief was also connected to their devotion to causes, some of which began to languish after his death. She is passionate about what she regards as the complete violation of Larsson's wishes after his death--that the profits from his books should serve causes in which he so strongly believed, not personal greed. Despite her obvious grief, Gabrielsson still comes across as rather cold, single-minded, and uncompromising about all aspects of Larsson's legacy. Though his father and brother have been incredibly selfish, to say the least, she sometimes seems equally tunnel-visioned, equally close-minded. And as the wrangling between Gabrielsson and the Larssons plays out, I cannot not help feeling that parts of this saga have been left out.
Does Gabrielsson, in fact, really hold the "ace" in this high-stakes game of Larsson's legacy--the mysterious computer with an outline and part of a fourth book? That is never clear. Though she says the computer was returned to Expo magazine the day Larsson died, Expo denies that they have it. She has also said that she is determined that the fourth book, if it exists, not be completed--she wants no ghost writers involved. Gabrielsson's own co-writer, Marie-Francoise Colombani, says in the Foreword, however, that if Eva's request for legal control of Larsson's literary estate is granted, that "she will clear up the mystery shrouding the fourth novel," then adds, "Let [her enemies] tremble...Eva, tempered in the fires of adversity, is poised to write the final words of their fate and lead a dance on their graves." You decide. Mary Whipple