Salander, who is under state legal guardianship due to diagnosed mental incompetency, is appointed a new guardian, lawyer Nils Bjurman after her previous guardian has a stroke. Bjurman abuses his authority to extort sexual favors from Salander and then violently rapes her not realizing she has a hidden video camera in her bag. At their next meeting she stuns him with a Taser, anally rapes him with a dildo and marks him as a rapist with a tattoo on his chest and stomach. Using her video recording she threatens blackmail, insisting that he writes a glowing progress report and giving her full control of her money.
Blomkvist's daughter visits him and notes that the numbers from the notebook are Bible references. Blomkvist tells Vanger's lawyer Dirch Frode that he needs help with his research, and Frode recommends Salander based on the work she did researching Blomkvist himself. Blomkvist hires Salander to further investigate the notebook's content. She uncovers a connection to a series of murders of young women that occurred from 1947 through 1967, with the women either being Jewish or having Biblical names; many of the Vangers are known antisemites. During the investigation, Salander and Blomkvist become lovers. Henrik's brother Harald identifies Martin, Harriet's brother and operational head of the Vanger empire, as a possible suspect. Salander's research uncovers evidence that Martin and his deceased father, Gottfried, had committed the murders.
Blomkvist breaks into Martin's house to look for more clues, but Martin catches him and prepares to kill him. Martin brags about having killed women for decades, but denies killing Harriet. Salander arrives, subdues Martin and saves Blomkvist. While Salander tends to Blomkvist, Martin flees. Salander, on her motorcycle, pursues Martin in his SUV. He loses control of his vehicle on an icy road and dies when it catches fire. Salander nurses Blomkvist back to health, and tells him that she tried to kill her father when she was 12. After recovering, Blomkvist deduces that Harriet is still alive and her cousin Anita likely knows where she is. He and Salander monitor Anita, waiting for her to contact Harriet. When nothing happens, Blomkvist confronts her, correctly deducing that Anita is Harriet herself. She explains that her father and brother had sexually abused her for years, and that Martin saw her kill their father in self-defense. Her cousin Anita smuggled her out of the island and let her live under her identity. Finally free of her brother, she returns to Sweden and tearfully reunites with Henrik.
As promised, Henrik gives Blomkvist the information on Wennerström, but it proves to be worthless. Salander hacks into Wennerström's computer and presents Blomkvist with damning evidence of Wennerström's crimes. Blomkvist publishes an article which ruins Wennerström, who flees the country. Salander hacks into Wennerström's bank accounts and, travelling to Switzerland in disguise, transfers two billion euros to various accounts. Wennerström is soon found murdered. Salander reveals to her former guardian that she is in love with Blomkvist. On her way to give Blomkvist a Christmas present, however, Salander sees him and his longtime lover and business partner Erika Berger walking together happily. Heartbroken, she discards the gift and rides away.
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