Blomkvist and Armansky attend the funeral of Salander’s mother. When Blomkvist drops her off at Hedeby, Salander explodes in a rage at Harriet Vanger, saying she could’ve stopped Martin years ago. Blomkvist tells Henrik Vanger the entire story about Harriet and Martin and arranges for him to see Harriet. Later, Salander returns and admits reluctantly that she enjoys Blomkvist’s company. The next day, Frode returns with two pieces of bad news: Henrik no longer wants Blomkvist to write a history of the Vanger family, and Henrik’s information on Wennerström is all but worthless. Blomkvist despairs, but Salander, as a form of compensation for her work, demands that Frode attempt to identify the families of the dead women and that the Vangers donate yearly to a woman’s charity. That night, she wakes Blomkvist up and tells him that she can prove Wennerström is a gangster because she possesses the entirety of his hard drive on her computer.
Blomkvist goes through all the information on Salander’s computer. When Salander hacks into Dahlmann’s computer and confirms him to be the mole at Millennium, Blomkvist calls a meeting of the magazine staff and asks them to pretend that Millennium is on the verge of collapse in order to trick Dahlmann. Though Berger seems wary of his methodology and feels unhappy being left out of his doings, she trusts Blomkvist and allows him to do what he feels necessary. In order to assuage her fears and reveal the explosive new information about Wennerström, Blomkvist introduces Salander to Berger and the two women share an awkward exchange. Though they both agree that hacking is unethical, Blomkvist and Berger desire to use the illegal information and acknowledge only that it comes from an anonymous source. Blomkvist sets about writing an expose and admits to Berger that he doesn’t yet feel able to speak about the events that occurred in Hedeby.
Salander occupies herself with learning about Wennerström’s financial affairs. She asks to borrow a significant sum of money from Blomkvist and then flies to Zurich with a fake passport that identifies her as Irene Nesser. There, she purchases material for an elaborate disguise and books a room under the second assumed name of Monica Sholes. She makes a deliberate spectacle of herself during the trip and flirts, tips, and behaves outrageously. Then, under the assumed identity, she systematically drains money from Wennerström’s private, hidden accounts for her own use.
Millennium’s expose about the Wennerström financial empire rocks the financial world. Berger, immensely pleased, becomes a potential candidate for major journalism awards. Blomkvist finishes his book on Wennerström’s misdeeds, and after a period of absence, grants interviews where he declares that journalists have a responsibility to investigate the excesses and corruption of the financial world. Wennerström, thanks to a tip from Salander and some unresolved Colombian debts, dies in Spain after being shot three times in the head. As time passes after the expose, Salander comes to the conclusion that she loves Blomkvist. Uncertain of how to proceed, she buys a Christmas present for him as an excuse to see him and confess her feelings. However, when she goes to see him she glimpses him in Berger’s company, and after she chides herself for being a fool, she throws the gift away and leaves without greeting him.
The final chapters of the novel force Blomkvist into two separate ethical dilemmas, both of which require him compromising his beliefs in order to achieve his main goals of clearing his name once and for all and saving Millennium. He first confronts this moral dilemma when he finds himself on the losing end of an argument with Salander and Frode about whether or not to cover up Martin’s crimes. While Salander argues that exposing all the sordid details of the Vanger family will not help anyone and will in fact only hurt Harriet, Blomkvist finds it difficult to willfully conceal the truth. Though he ultimately agrees, the perpetual anonymity of the dead women and the perpetual assumed innocence of Martin Vanger cause him to despair. Later, confronted with Salander’s illegally obtained information about Wennerström, Blomkvist must battle with his integrity yet again. In this case, he again compromises his ethics to expose corruption in the financial world and bring about Wennerström’s downfall. His acceptance of this situation illustrates that, in some instances, there is no clear moral answer or satisfactory solution to ethical dilemmas. In order to restore his good name, Blomkvist must in some ways sacrifice the integrity he prizes.
The final chapters also close the novel with an emphasis on the necessity of justice, whether at the hands of the individual or the collective. Even though the mystery of what happened to Harriet has been solved, the novel continues on, shifting focus to Wennerström’s punishment for his misbehavior. On a large scale, Blomkvist’s exposé and book about Wennerström and the corruption in Sweden’s financial sector serve to expose Wennerström to the collective justice of Swedish public opinion. Specifically, Wennerström comes to be regarded as a criminal. The novel, in this case, posits journalism as a means of social justice and an antidote to systemic corruption. On the smaller, more individual level, Salander’s draining of Wennerström’s personal accounts, as well as her indirect role in Wennerström’s death, serves to punish Wennerström for his cruel treatment of women. Thus Wennerström is punished both publicly and privately. Another example of justice being served centers on Harriet’s new role at the Vanger companies. Harriet replaces Martin as the head of the organization, symbolically suggesting she has ultimately triumphed over her brother and his cruelty.
Ultimately, the epilogue serves to address most of the remaining questions in the novel, but leaving Salander’s and Blomkvist’s relationship in question. The Vanger family, long haunted by its broken past and present misdeeds, becomes whole once again, financially and otherwise, when Harriet reunites with Henrik. Salander’s theft of Wennerström’s hidden funds solves the financial issues she encountered as a result of having Bjurman acting as her legal guardian. Blomkvist’s restoration of his good name, his renewed importance in the journalistic world, and the salvation of Millennium resolve the problems that have beset him since the very beginning of the novel. However, the relationship between Salander and Blomkvist is left on shakier ground than ever at the novel’s end. The two part ways with mutual respect and fondness for each other, but Salander’s aborted Christmas visit to Blomkvist after she glimpses him with Berger indicates both her uncertainty about how to handle her own feelings and possibly Blomkvist’s unawareness of them. Consequently, though The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo solves the mystery within its pages, the relationship between Blomkvist and Salander demands a resolution that unwinds only in the succeeding two books of the trilogy.