Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Stieg Larsson

Knopf
563 pages
Mystery / Suspense / Foreign

Buy it from Amazon here

I used to have this thing where, if something is really popular, I will avoid it until I’d inevitably succumb to peer pressure a year or two late.  That’s what happened with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I avoided it for a year or two before giving in and, for the most part, enjoyed it immensely.  The excitement continued through The Girl Who Played with Fire, and with the way that one ended, I thought the last in the trilogy would be equally thrilling.  Despite that, it still took me another year before I picked up The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and fought my way through it.

WARNING: Spoilers for all three books in the series.  I normally avoid spoilers in my reviews, but couldn’t justify my response without them this time.  Everyone has already read this one anyway, haven’t they?

Stieg Larsson was in desperate need of a harsher editor with this one. There were entire plot lines that had absolutely nothing to do with the main story, particularly everything associated with Erika Berger. She was never a central character and barely had much relevancy to the main storyline in the previous books, but really, the whole stalker thing didn't make any sense or come into play in the main storyline at all.

Larsson also made the mistake of forgetting his most interesting character was Lisbeth Salander. She's hardly in the book and when she is, it's in a reactionary, silent role. It's not until the end that she gets to show off the badass that she was in the previous books.  Instead we got secret police companies made up of old retirees, a government agency full of characters we’ve never met before, and of course the slew of police officers and security consultants we’re already familiar with.  There are so many characters in this book, most with their own individualized storyline that it’s nearly impossible to keep track of them.  To be honest, I’ve always had a hard time with the Swedish names and with 30+ characters, it became even more of a chore.

The story picks up directly where The Girl Who Played with Fire ends: Lisbeth has been shot in the head, her father has an ax stuck in him, and her can’t-feel-pain brother is getting out of police custody because the cops are stupid and don’t listen to Blomkist, who is the smartest man on the planet (insert sarcasm font here).  Lisbeth spends three-fourths of the book in her hospital bed recovering from the gunshot to the head while all the cogs of Swedish government and law enforcement work to unravel the crazy shenanigans that led to the conflicts in the previous book while a group of super-secret agents (who all happen to be just on this side of death’s door) attempt to cover everything up.  It’s all highly complicated and even more ridiculous.  And of course, all the men are sexist pigs who are trying to destroy all the women.

The last 100 pages or so were awesome.  Blomkist’s sister saved this book with her badassness.  If it wasn't for the smack down that she gave during Lisbeth’s the trial, I don't think this book could have been saved. I actually cheered out loud during that part.  Finally a female character other than Lisbeth was demonstrating strength and intellect all while taking one of the more evil characters in the book down with simple logic.  I love smart women.

Larsson has never met a boring detail that he didn't include, though thankfully there wasn’t another Ikea shopping spree in this one. That's been a problem with all three books, but it was more obvious in this one because of all the nonessential story lines and the fact that I just can't buy that every woman in the world wants to fall into bed with Blomkist upon meeting him. Author insertion at its very worse.  While Blomkist is a pretty good investigative journalist, he’s not exactly the most charismatic guy on the page.

Not a suiting end to the series at all and I really hope the supposed "fourth" book that's lying around doesn't ever get published.  Larsson was never an outstanding writer; he was just able to put together a compelling story.  I think the decrease in quality as the trilogy went on is a testament to that.

 

C

Lost the elements that made the previous books exciting (mostly Lisbeth); too many characters and too many non-essential storylines bog the whole thing down