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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nestby Steig Larsson

I’ve finally, now, read the conclusion of the Milennium trilogy, Steig Larsson’s best-selling books that have become movies and so on.  The end is just as great as the other two books, I’d say.  A few thoughts, without much for spoilers:

  • The pieces are in place for the novel’s action within the first seventy-five pages or so, which makes it impressive that Larsson keeps the narrative going as long as he does.  I’ve heard some complaints that the book could be tighter, but I’m not sure how much more I would have trimmed it — the side plots and extra characters fit the story well, and bring it all to a nice head.
  • In many ways, this book feels, to me, like watching a spinning-plate act at a circus.  He has so many things to keep track of, so many rabbit trails down which the plot must go, that he does an excellent job checking in with each one to let us know what’s going on.
  • Minor spoiler: That said, unlike the previous books where I felt real danger for the characters, the likely foregone conclusion that Mikael and Lisbeth will come through mostly unscathed left me with less suspense than I felt in previous books–like a long-running television show, I couldn’t conceive that these two would do anything other than win.  I thought the tension in the narrative was great, but it didn’t carry the heart-aching suspense I felt in the first novel.  At the same time, death haunts this book and takes when he feels like it.
  • I’d heard this book was all about the trial of Lisbeth Salander, and from one perspective it is, but it’s also NOT.  The trial takes up a very short piece of the novel, but it’s a satisfying piece.
  • In the last book, I lamented that it seemed like there were an awful lot of people who secretly hated women.  A cynic might complain that this book has an awful lot of people who are a bit smarter than the average bear, and want to do the right thing.  From that perspective, the villains in the piece really exist as a great source of suspense, but never a serious threat. (See bullet 3, above.)  From that perspective, this book helps show how the trilogy functions in the same way the original Star Wars trilogy did.  The down ending of The Girl Who Played with Fire makes the up ending of Return of the Jedi that much sweeter.

A very satisfying end to the series.  Not quite as good as the first two, but still a very good book.

See Also: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire

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