This is my review of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (Millennium Trilogy Book 3) by Stieg Larsson.
I found this quite gripping, although I only read it “to complete the trilogy” and find out what happened at the end – after being very disappointed by Part 2 “Played with Fire”. This final section has a much more detailed and meaty plot and seems to be better written, not just short scenes with plenty of gratuitous violence for the inevitable film. The “Hornets’ Nest” reminds me of a soap, with different sub-plots and characters coming to the fore in turn e.g. Erica’s trials as the editor of a declining paper – I liked the “topical touches” such as her outrage that the bosses should award themselves large bonuses for laying off the journalists!
There is real menace in the questions as to whether Salander will be further attacked when lying vulnerable in the hospital, or whether she will be incarcerated again in a mental institution for the convenience of others. The dialogue in the trial scene is also quite dramatic and well-handled.
Some “professional reviewers” have described this as the weakest book in the trilogy, too rambling and tedious because the author’s untimely death prevented a thorough edit. I agree that some sections are too long and dry e.g. Gullberg’s involvement in Sapo – yet some of this would have come in handy to explain Part 2! As ever, some parts read more like Larsson’s notes for a novel, rather than the digested end product. Yet, I find some of the excessive detail quite interesting and even laugh out loud when, once again, he lists the various Stockholm streets down which characters walk, drive or stalk each other – this must be entertaining for Swedes in the know, but is meaninglesss to everyone else.
Although this can be corny and hammy at times (can Erica’s husband really be so long-suffering, and is it plausible she would not know where he had gone on his conference?), unpolished and clunky at others, as “pulp fiction” goes this is better than most – good for a long plane flight. Despite the tendency for the “good guys” to win out “too easily”, there is always the possibility that Larsson will sacrifice one of the them. Beneath the thud and blunder, some serious issues are raised about say, the importance of democracy and respect for human rights. I have always admired Swedish society, yet now realise there is an underside of corruption. I had thought Sapo ludicrous until the notes at the end made me realise how much Larsson has been “inspired” by sad reality. As ever, Salander’s super-hacking skills and vast illicitly gained wealth seem improbable and yet we live in an age transformed by computers. Lastly, some of the pathos of her position really comes through in this final novel, including the way she has been hardened and damaged by ill treatment, yet has the capacity to “learn” a degree of empathy, and a better way of living, from her contact with people like Blomkvist.
The “open-ended” yet positive ending also seems to me to strike the right note. The only loose end I could see was the whereabouts of Salander’s estranged sister Camilla. Perhaps, as already suggested, Larsson had a fourth novel in mind, which might also have included depriving Salander of the burdensome fortune which criminalises her to no purpose, since she has no idea how to use it.