If you’ve been on a bus, train or beach in the past few years, you’ve probably seen people preoccupied with a bright green novel clutched in their hands. Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster novels “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” already had a huge following in his native Sweden when they were translated into English. But once they hit North American shores, even more readers became obsessed with the dark mysteries that Lisbeth Salander (the novel’s namesake) finds herself mired in, and the phenomenon took on a whole other life.
Although Swedish filmmakers produced three highly lauded films based on the series, Hollywood wanted to have its own shot at the saga. This winter, the American film adaptation of the franchise begins with “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” and a new batch of fans is sure to follow – although with 31 million copies of the books sold, you have to wonder who hasn’t read it yet.
We that if the books can go from Swedish to English and if movie studios can recast the story with American actors, we can imagine what those characters’ work lives would be like in the U.S. So we’ve put together a list of the characters, what their job titles are, and how much they’d make if the stories were set on this side of the pond.
Spoiler warning: Although we don’t give away any major plot points of the trilogy, there are some bits of information from all three novels below, so don’t read on if you’re afraid of getting spoiled.
Job title: Journalist
The job in the book: In “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Mikael Blomkvist is hired to research and write about the Vanger family, because he gained notoriety as a bold journalist and publisher of a headline-grabbing exposé. It’s a suspense novel, so he gets pulled into a web of deceit and gunshots.
The job in real life: In real life, few journalists gain the kind of fame that Blomkvist does. In fact, unless you get caught plagiarizing for a big-name newspaper or you’re Woodward and Bernstein, you spend a lot of your time researching and interviewing without ever making headlines. But we wouldn’t have much to read without their hard work.
Job title: Information security analyst
Job in the book: Lisbeth Salander performs freelance surveillance, but much of what she does falls under the category of hacking into computers. She’s capable of logging into someone’s computer even if it’s behind the strongest firewall.
Job in real life: Many organizations employ information security analysts and risk managers to assess how vulnerable their information technology is. Analysts ensure that a company’s information is secure and incapable of being accessed by unauthorized users. In real life, few information security analysts have a series of books written about them.
Job title: Attorney
Job in the book: Annika Gianinni was once a lawyer with a focus on women’s cases, and she eventually represents a high-profile murder case. She doesn’t have much experience in the way of murder trials, but in Larsson’s world, that doesn’t matter.
Job in real life: Of course the biggest, most controversial murder trials involve attorneys, but usually you need to be qualified and have specialized, relevant experience.
Job title: Editor-in-chief
Job in the book: As editor-in-chief, Erika Berger has the authority to decide what does and does not run in her magazine and what the tone of the publication should be. Her job is far less exciting than the rest of the supporting characters, but it’s not that different from the real-life role.
Job in real life: The job itself isn’t that different from the novel’s, except she spends a little too much time having lunch and smoking cigarettes at cafés for someone who’s trying to make a deadline.
Job title: Security expert
Job in the book: Dragan Armansky not only has a cool name, but he also knows some pretty interesting people. He managed to find Salander and recognize how incredible her investigative skills are and not care that she seems to work at her own pace and do as she pleases.
Job in real life: A security expert can have a job as exciting and dangerous as Armansky’s, but he’s also extremely careful about whom he hires and their background. His lax approach to screening his freelance workers’ backgrounds wouldn’t please most security clients in real life.
Job title: Police officer
Job in the book: In the novel, Jan Bublanski is tasked with tracking down Salander and carrying on a special investigation that could put him in jeopardy, both physically and professionally. By the end of the story, he’s taken more risks in a short time than most police officers are faced with in a career.
Job in real life: Police officers have dangerous jobs as it is, and they regularly deal with bureaucratic red tape. The extra layer of conspiracy and danger that entangles Bublanksi could happen, but officers have enough to worry about on a daily basis. The complicated, high-profile conspiracy that law enforcement deals with in the novels is not inconceivable, but it’s hardly the case for most officers.