Mikael meticulously combs through evidence, following every lead, going to visit and talk to people who knew his murder victim, and refusing to leap to any conclusions, which means his insights into the crime, the reasons why, and what happened to Harriet are all slow in coming. He almost turns down the job in the first place, because he assumes if Henrik could not find Harriet (and gathered an enormous amount of detailed information about him), there’s no hope for him to find her. That has “been done.” But he still re-interviews everyone the original investigator did, and eventually theorizes that all the victims of a serial killer must be Jewish, because they all have Bible names. He only reaches this conclusion after Lisbeth finds evidence linking Harriet to a series of serial killers and rape victims. He sneaks into the murderer’s house to collect evidence, but cannot think fast enough to get himself out of danger, forcing Lisbeth to rescue him. He is compassionate and concerned for people’s feelings, noticing that his questions are making the old investigator sad and apologizing for bringing up a “painful past.” He easily feels sympathy for a lost cat and brings it into the house, feeding and taking care of it, and is distraught to find it dead as a threat. He suggests that if talking about something is too painful, they can discuss it later. He looks after Lisbeth and even offers to feed her, given her skinniness. He isn’t aware of his personal safety at times, in his desire to investigate, but wants to know the who, the why, and the where. Mikael isn’t good about having boundaries, and is permissive in his morals, going along with an affair that “ruined my marriage… but not hers.” His intuition is very slow and rather poor, in that even when he has made the connection between the deaths and Harriet, he forms the wrong conclusion about who is responsible for her death. He is open to considering, after finding evidence to support it, that she might still be alive.

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Mikael asserts himself and then backtracks on it, at first refusing to investigate a crime and then going along with it when he thinks he will allow it to “stick it” to the man whose reputation he tried to ruin through his investigative journalism. He is polite and does not stay where he is unwanted, retreating and offering to come back at a later time. He smoothes over misunderstandings and never loses his temper, remaining calm in difficult situations. When Lisbeth aggressively pursues sex, he simply lies back and lets it happen, then falls into a sexual relationship with her—much like, probably, the one he has with his editor at the magazine. He is willing to find leverage again immoral people and break the law to get things done, by hiring a hacker and looking for ways to exploit people he considers to be bad. He exhibits occasional flashes of anger and a willingness to confront people, but it soon subsides into agreeableness.