The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson. Translation Copyright 2009. Paperback edition, 655 pages
In the conclusion of the Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth Salander, the book’s female lead, lies in hospital with a bullet in her head. When and if she recovers, she faces a litany of charges against her, including aggravated assault and murder. With the help of Mikael Blomkvist, lead reporter for Millennium magazine, she will have to fight against a government conspiracy and cover-up to avoid a lengthy prison term.
Blomkvist, meanwhile is determined to bring down the “Section,” the secret government organization that has nearly destroyed Salander since childhood.
As in his previous works, Larsson has a no-nonsense, journalistic writing style. He does an incredible job of providing documentation for each bit of evidence presented. No plot holes are left open, and even the implausible seems credible, given his attention to detail.
The story, however, is Larsson’s true strength. The Millennium books work because Lisbeth Salander is a unique character in the midst of a complex and interesting tale. Though it is sometimes easy to tell where some plot lines will end up, it is a rich enough tale that it makes the reader enjoy getting there.
Did I mention the richness of detail? In truth, if details were calories, this book would be an artery-clogging nightmare. I assume that Larsson brought his journalism credentials directly to his fiction. In fact, the book often reads like an intricately documented report, or preparation for the tediousness of trial. In the first half of the book, I counted some 40 pages of details that could have and should have been omitted. Larsson provides background stories on even minor characters. What I wanted to know was who they were, and what they wanted. I didn’t want to know what who bullied them in the 3rd grade. (I’m exaggerating, but not by much.) We are also bombarded with talk of a sister who we never meet.
The first half is sluggish at times, not at all helped by the fact the main character spends most of the book in bed (but not in the fun way). This is problematic because although all the characters have varied behaviors, Salander is the only one with a truly unique personality.
Overall, I give the book 6 out 10 stars. The second half of the book was much better than the first. With characters established, Larsson finally allowed the plot to flow. I was somewhat disappointed in that the conclusion was not suspenseful as I hoped. How things happened was more intriguing than what happened. I was all set to raise my grade up to 7, but even in the final chapter, Larsson once again launched into pointless activity that did not advance the plot. However, if you liked the 1st book, you’ll probably be okay with this one.
– Readers of the 1st two books (You have to read the conclusion, no?)
– Lovers of Crime Dramas and Detail-oriented Readers (This book will be your holy grail)
– Readers who like political intrigue
– Readers Seeking Strong Female Leads – there are many strong female characters
Not Recommended For:
– Readers seeking a fast-paced action thriller
– Readers who skip over description and background. (You will miss half of the book)
– Romantics (there is plenty of sex (none explicit), no romance, and only one major character who doesn’t sleep around)