Pros: Just as good as the previous two novels.
Cons: A very great pity that the author passed away soon after completing this book.
I don't get grabbed by series that often any more, and most of the time to prolong the pleasure that I get out of reading a particular author, I try to limit myself to one of their titles every month. Let's face it, I don't have the stamina or concentration that I did as a teen any more! But with the three novels that Stieg Larsson wrote, I simply had to know what happens next at the completion of each one.
Opening just as the second book in the series closes, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest takes the reader on a high pitched journey through Sweden's legal system, the world of hackers, corrupt politicians, publishers and one of the most compelling characters that I have ever read about -- Lisbeth Salander.
At the end of the previous novel, Lisbeth Salander was in a world of hurt. She has finally met the man who made her childhood a living hell, and despite being shot and buried alive, she has managed to work her own revenge on him -- by burying an axe in his head. Never say that Ms. Salander does things by half measures. And somehow, she has survived, but just barely, in a Goteborg hospital.
To make it worse, Alexander Zalachenko, one time Soviet defector and monstrous brute, is in the same hospital, clinging to his life. What he knows may topple Sweden's government, and at the very least, send plenty of people to prison. And as many of these people are rather ruthless, there starts an intricate cat-and-mouse game between a secret division of the government, and Lisbeth Salander.
Of course other characters in the series are not forgotten here at all. Most prominent among them is Mikael Blomkvist, who still cares very much for Lisbeth, and determined to see that she keeps her freedom. While he's scrambling to complete a book, he's also struggling with the news that his longtime business partner, Erika Berger is leaving to take on the job of running the Swedish Morning Post, one of the country's leading newspapers. But there is someone who doesn't want her to be there, sending her sexually harassing emails and taunts, culminating in an attack on her home. Needless to say, poor Erika is having a hard time coping, especially when the editorial staff at the newspaper isn't happy at all that she's the one in charge.
And finally, there is Lisbeth, trapped in a hospital bed, who will go on trial for the attempted murder of Alexander Zalachenko. Without access to a computer, without communication with anyone, and with a lawyer she can’t quite trust, how in the world is Lisbeth going to free herself from the tangle that she’s in?
Especially when there is a cadre of espionage agents who want to see her silenced for good, or at least, locked back up in a psychiatric hospital. To keep herself free, Lisbeth will finally have to face down the specters of her past, and rebuild herself yet again…
This was another entry in the series that conspired to keep me up all night reading, as I was not able to put the book down. The overall arc of the story is a tight one, and the fact that the second and third books were neatly bookended into each other kept the tension high throughout the series. While Mr. Larsson had a bit of a problem with telling rather than showing his readers what was happening – one of the capital sins of fiction writing – I still was hooked, and not at all annoyed by it. Another problem with the book was that it would get bogged down when the author paused to explain various bits about Sweden and espionage history, including several scandals that rocked the country. Finally, one bit that caused me to grit my teeth was the encounter between Gullberg and Zalachenko – I won’t give away what happened, but hang it all, I wanted it to be something more after the long build up.
However, I did manage to find these annoying bits bearable, and in the overall effect, not that much of a problem. The various characters in this drama, from Salander and Blomkvist, to Berger and her husband, to the various bad guys, were all interesting and vividly drawn. Two minor characters really stayed with me, especially Dr. Jonasson, and the policewoman Figuerola, who has a very interesting relationship with Blomkvist.
Sadly, Mr. Larsson passed away soon after the first three books were written, and I've heard rumours that he had originally planned for ten volumes in this series. This was originally written in Swedish, and was published under the title Luftsdotter som sprangdes. Translation into English is by Reg Keeland; as I do not speak or read Swedish, I can not comment as to the quality of the translation, but the entire book read very smoothly.
Five stars overall, highly recommended.
The Millennium Trilogy:
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl who Played with Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest -- you are here
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Stieg Larsson, trans. Reg Keeland
2010; Alfred A. Knopf, Random House Publishing, Inc.