Overall Impression: A slow burning, gritty crime novel with an ultimately satisfying ending.
(To read my review of the previous book from Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire click here.)
I’ve been having a face off with this novel from its position on my bookshelf for over a year. Most of you will know that I don’t have a particularly good relationship with thriller/crime novels, yet something about this series did keep me hanging on. Having said that, it has taken me over a year each time to bolter myself up enough to pick up the subsequent books. Once I got into this novel though, I did enjoy it! The Millennium Trilogy was originally planned as a ten book escapade, but since the author died while writing the fourth and before any of them were published, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest is the final installment in this famous series. While a bit shaky in places, overall I though it provided a fitting end to the trilogy.
Please note: For those of you that haven’t read the previous books in the Millennium Trilogy skip the blurb as it contains spoilers about previous plots and characters from that book. The rest of the review will contain no major spoiler about The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.
Lisbeth Salander – outsider and apparent enemy of society – is charged with attempted murder. The state has also ruled that she is mentally unstable, and should be locked away in an institution once again. But she is closely guarded in hospital, having taken a bullet to the head, so how will she prove her innocence?
Pulling the strings of the prosecution is the powerful inner circle of Säpo, the state security police. Determined to protect the secrets and corruption at Sweden’s rotten core, Säpo is not an adversary to take on alone.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest
Only with the help of Mikael Blomkvist and the journalists at Millennium magazine can Salander avoid the fate that has been decided for her. Together they form a compelling and dynamic alliance. This final volume of the Millennium Trilogy is the culmination of one of the most mesmerizing fictional achievements of our time.
I always feel cautious about critiquing an author’s writing style when their work has been translated, because you never know whether it reads as smoothly as the original would. Larsson’s books were written in Swedish but for obvious reasons, I can only critique the English version (unless I miraculously grow an affinity for learning languages, which my old French teacher would fervently agree I lacked). So, how to describe Larsson’s style? Factual, clinical, yet oddly entertaining. The strange thing about his writing is that I am yet to put my finger on why I like it. Ordinarily it would represent all the things I dislike. I’m a bookworm with a love of whirlwind descriptions and sweeping metaphors, not inane, to the point descriptions. You can almost grantee every new paragraph by Larsson will start something like this:
Becky woke up at 9am and opened her Dell 3695 Laptop on the wooden table. She made tea and grabbed a bowl of cereal while she was waiting. Becky read though her emails and seeing nothing urgent, closed the laptop and phoned her friend on her Blackberry Z30. Her friend didn’t answer.
This should give you a picture of the pointless details you have to sit through reading this novel, yet for some bizarre reason it has kept me reading through the entire series, so there must be something that works. Having said that, it doesn’t take long before Larsson’s style begins to grate. Although it is written in a smooth, easy to read way when you reach page 300 out of 746 and nothing much has happened yet you begin to lose patience. I feel like I went into pretty description withdrawal and would feel agitated and unsatisfied after I put the book down. It does feel wrong to complain as having read the last two books in the series I knew what I was in for, but because this novel was so much longer than the others I really struggled at points.
The plot was painfully slow and tedious. This was partly due to my dislike of the writing style for reasons I have already mentioned, but also because there were massive pacing issues. The novel takes so long to get going and it regularly switches characters’ perspectives, going over the same things again and again from different points of view, meaning that the story became stagnant and didn’t move forward. There were small character cameo’s that while interesting were unneeded, and Berger’s storyline as much as I enjoyed it was almost entirely irrelevant to the main narrative; it didn’t need to be in there. I honestly wonder if the editors were scared to cut things out because they were worried they would ruin the deceased author’s vision. Maybe similarly to people not speaking ill of the dead, editors feel they can’t butcher a lifeless author’s work. Maybe that’s harsh, but I would never say it unless I believed it to be true!
On the other hand, there were aspects of the plot that I found really impressive. I loved the amount of research Larsson put into his book, the conspiracy theories were highly intricate and impressive, and I applaud him for all the time and effort it must have taken to come up with them. It was for this reason that I kept reading all the way to the end because despite my qualms, I really wanted to find out what would happen! I even felt a little pang of sadness when I reached the end and realised Larsson’s work would never be completed. Luckily, this book wraps up everything sufficiently so readers are not left hanging. Phew.
I was surprised to find that I warmed up to many of the characters in this novel. While I didn’t dislike them beforehand I felt mostly impartial, like a casual observer watching birds outside a window but not in any way moved by their lives. I began this series when I was a bit younger and I think even that small gap in time has made me appreciate Lisbeth the edgy, anti-establishment hacker more. Before I couldn’t understand how people perceived her to be pro-feminist, but she had a real dignity and unwavering integrity in this book that I couldn’t help but admire, even if she made terrible decisions with it. Blomkvist is the James Bond of journalism (hmm, quite literally if you think about it, Daniel Craig played Blomkvist in the UK movie version) and while I can’t stand journalism as a topic he somehow managed to make it cool. He always has all the right answers, the clever ideas and is the one that somehow figures out the impossible when no one else can; I couldn’t help but be entertained by him. I was also caught off guard by how much my opinion of Berger, Blomkvist’s co-worker and best friend changed. Before I found her irritating and couldn’t figure her out, but this third installment gave much more insight into her personality, especially her determination and strength, all things I highly approved of! By the end I found I was really routing for her and I didn’t expect that to happen.
I must admit I did struggle with Larsson’s secondary characters, they all seemed to merge into one with no distinct personalities, and I think this let him down a bit. But for the most part, good job Stieg!
I would recommend this book/series to people who like crime novels, conspiracy theories and unconventional strong female characters. Both males and females would enjoy it and I suggest 16+ due to some of the serious content. (I feel like I just gave out one of those TV warnings that comes on before a film, lol). 🙂
Writing Style: 3/5
Character Development: 3/5
Would I recommend this book? I’m on the fence.
Book Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6979651-the-girl-who-kicked-the-hornet-s-nest