Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy introduced readers to a very dark side of Swedish society, with Lisbeth Salander’s father, Alexander Zalachenko, being one of the most dangerous characters of all. Larsson’s book trilogy began in 2005 with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, followed by The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest in 2006 and 2007.
The main characters of the trilogy were Lisbeth Salander, a skilled yet deeply troubled researcher and computer hacker, and Mikael Blomkvist, a disgraced journalist. Throughout the novels, Lisbeth and Mikael came across with some of Sweden’s darkest and most dangerous individuals, but the worst of them was, by far, Alexander Zalachenko – sometimes referred to as Zala – who was also Lisbeth’s father.
Zalachenko was a former Soviet spy who defected to Sweden, where he changed his name to Karl Axel Bodin. His move was seen as an intelligence windfall and because of this, the Section, an illegal faction within the Swedish Security Service (Säpo), covered up all his illegal activities – mainly the prostitution ring ran by him and his son (Lisbeth’s half-brother) Ronald Niedermann. Zalachenko made his first appearance in The Girl Who Played With Fire, where readers learned more about him and his relationship with his daughter.
The novel takes a look at Lisbeth’s childhood, explaining that Zalachenko was abusive to her mother. Lisbeth has a twin sister, Camilla, who always took Zalachenko’s side, while Lisbeth did her best to protect her mother. When Lisbeth was 12, Zalachenko beat her mother to the point of unconsciousness, leaving her with permanent brain damage. This prompted Lisbeth to throw a Molotov cocktail to Zalachenko when he was in his car, leaving him with severe burns. Because of this, the Section pulled every string to have Lisbeth declared legally incompetent and sent to a psychiatric hospital, where she was under the direct surveillance of Dr. Peter Teleborian, a pedophile and member of Zalachenko’s circle.
Zalachenko also framed Lisbeth for the murder of three people: journalists Dag Svensson and Mia Johnsson, and Lisbeth’s abuser and legal guardian Nils Bjurman. The first two were writing an exposé on Zalachenko’s prostitution ring, with Bjurman being the collateral damage, as he learned his name was on the list and called Zalachenko. When confronted by Lisbeth, he shot her in the head and had her buried alive, only for her to dig herself out and attack him with an axe. Zalachenko never paid for any of his crimes, and was killed by the founder of the Section in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, in order to deflect attention away from the organization.
Although he didn’t appear in the first novel, Alexander Zalachenko is the biggest villain in the Millennium trilogy as he was not only heavily involved in Sweden’s sex-trafficking industry and other illegal activities for decades, but he was also the one responsible for everything that happened to Lisbeth Salander after the fire incident, changing her life forever in every possible aspect.