THE GIRL WITH THE STURGEON TATTOO: A PARODY. By Lars Arffssen. St. Martin's/Griffin. 201 pages. $9.99/paperback.
In "The Girl With the Sturgeon Tattoo," somebody's strangling female reindeer all over Sweden. These strange deaths are somehow tied to the decapitation murders of two writers: the author of a bestselling book on Baltic sturgeon and a thriller writer with a manuscript that reveals the Nazi origins of furniture giant UKEA.
As for the Swedish authorities, they think a single culprit is responsible, someone described as "a psychopathic serial killer who's probably also a world-class surgeon ... or an experienced samurai warrior."
"Sturgeon Tattoo" is the kind of book Stieg Larsson might have dictated from beyond the grave to Mel Brooks.
Or to the Swedish Chef on "The Muppet Show."
When flabby, crusading journalist Mikael Blomberg becomes involved in trying to solve one of the murders, naturally he winds up involved in the entire mess -- and so does a skinny computer hacker named Lizzy Salamander.
Is it any surprise that a book's being published that lampoons one of the hottest publishing phenomena in recent years, Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy?
The only surprise is that it didn't happen sooner.
Maybe it took this long for the author, Lars Arffssen (really?), to cook up a bunch of syllabic mouthfuls to make Larsson fans feel right at home (and just as disoriented). From the first page, readers will be tripping over references to the Nykterhetsrorelsens Scoutforbund (that's the Swedish scouting organization), the Torbjorntorp jazz scene and ice-cold glasses of choklad mjolk.
"Sturgeon" takes place after Larsson's trilogy ends and loosely relates to it: Lizzy's living quite well on the millions she siphoned from a corrupt corporation; she's also managed to survive gunshots to the head with no apparent damage (but it has improved her chess-playing skills). Still, she gets tired of people saying she'd be a dead ringer for Pippi Longstocking if she grew out her hair.
And she still has a tendency to grab furniture legs to club mean husbands, earning her a reputation as a "gender vigilante."
Her violent history makes her an obvious prime suspect for the decapitations of the two male writers, but investigators also have an irrefutable piece of evidence: a hidden security video that shows Lizzy using a samurai sword on one of her victims.
Wait, is it her? Lizzy has a dinosaur tattoo on her back, but the murderer in the video has a caviar-producing fish tattoo. What's going on? Is Lizzy being framed? The local paper doesn't sweat over the details. Its headline declares: "Sweden's Most Dangerous Woman Under Five Feet Charged in Double Homicide."
The author's familiar enough with Larsson to riff on some of the trilogy's signature themes, and he captures perfectly Larsson's tendency to spend way too much time on extremely useless details about smartphones and computers.
His jokes about Swedish humorlessness are funny too -- did you know that most Swedes suffer from NDS, Nordic Dullness Syndrome? -- but the ones about Nazi ties and anti-Semitism fall pretty flat.
Same goes for some of the sex jokes: For all his writerly faults, which critics never fail to point out, Larsson sheds intriguing light on domestic violence and sexual predation in Swedish society, and it's hard to laugh about that, no matter how corny the jokes are.
And here's something else: At 200 pages, "The Girl With the Sturgeon Tattoo" is about 150 pages too long. At the length of a regular novel, it's got to give the reader something more nutritional than just parody to digest. Without it, the jokes wear out by mid-story.
It's a shame the publisher didn't wait and release this book closer to the forthcoming David Fincher movie of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Then it might have been easier to be less critical about it and just have fun.
Still, this book seems right for any rabid collectors of Larssonalia out there. It might even be ideal reading for their morning commute by car, bussen or sparvagnen (look it up).
-- Nick Owchar
Los Angeles Times