The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest: A Book Review
Book Three of Three
No one can weave a mystery like the late Stieg Larsson, author of his trilogy that follows Lisbeth Salander on her journey to carve out a place for herself in the world. The third book in the trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was his best as far as I am concerned.
The Back Story
Because the story begins right where The Girl Who Played With Fire leaves off, this book is not as hard to get into as the previous two. Readers already know the main characters and the setting so we don’t have to struggle with the Swedish names and places like before. At the end of …Fire, Lisbeth has been shot by her evil father, Alexander Zalachenko, a former Russian spy, and she has tried to slice his face off with an axe. When the third book opens, they are both in the hospital, only two rooms apart. Ronald Niederman, Lisbeth’s half brother is on the run, wanted for the murders committed in the second book. Mikael Blomkvist arrived on the scene in time to save Lisbeth, and he initiates the investigation that becomes the plot of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.
Once the new plot begins, new characters and new places are introduced, but by then tripping over the names is secondary to the movement of the story. Blomkvist has learned enough of Lisbeth’s story to know that through her he has stumbled upon a national scandal, a bombshell that will take down governmental officials, a high ranking psychiatrist and even some Swedish security policemen, and at the same time it will free Lisbeth and punish those responsible for committing civil crimes against her when she was only twelve years old. Blomkvist can’t crack the case without her computer skills, however.
Along with her being under arrest for the assault on her father, Lisbeth’s condition is extremely critical. Yet, once she starts to mend, Blomkvist smuggles her palm pilot into her hospital room by way of her sympathetic surgeon and pays the janitor to plant the cell phone nearby through which her signal travels. Lisbeth eventually recruits her band of nerd computer hackers to do the research she cannot. These characters take us on a bumpy, twisting, most intriguing literary ride.
A Continuity Question
One subplot that at first feels disconnected deals with Erika Berger’s life at her new job as Editor in Chief at SMP, an upscale daily newspaper. Someone at the newspaper seems to be stalking her. The most obvious villain is Anders Holm, the news editor. He and Berger bump heads immediately, and Berger pulls rank on him, threatening to demote him if he doesn’t fall into line. Readers who are familiar with Larsson’s style suspect that he’s just throwing us a bone, so when the real culprit is revealed by Lisbeth’s gang of hackers, we are only slightly surprised. Berger eventually proves that she values a good story more than her new job; she prints a scandalous story about SMP’s CEO and heads back to Millinium just in time to make sure that Mikael’s plan to expose The Section, aka The Zalachenko Club, is a success.
The Girl Who Played with Fire is so full of twists and turns, a reader can easily get lost, and the book is so big (563 pages) with so many characters that it is all but impossible to go back to a section to clarify a point or to review a character’s role. Despite these drawbacks, the story is so compelling that a reader feels he/she must proceed, must discover how in the world Blomkvist can possibly gather the information he needs without being caught and killed by the spies who follow him and those who bug his house and office. One shortcoming that might be overlooked: Larsson glorifies computer hackers by painting them as benign nerds who see themselves as technological “Robin Hoods” pitting themselves against the bad guys and avenging the oppressed.
No More Lisbeth
The sad thing about The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is that it ends the trilogy. With the untimely death of Stieg Larsson, readers are denied the chance to see Lisbeth Salander open herself up and invite others in. We know that’s where Larsson was heading because in each book, we learn a little more about his strange but brilliant heroine, and she learns just as much about herself. In book one Lisbeth is almost completely detached. She has only one friend, and Lisbeth treats her badly. She becomes a tiny bit introspective in book two, recognizing that she does not feel connected to any other human being even though several people go out of their way to try to connect to her. In book three we learn her entire back-story and now understand her darkness. She is finally diagnosed as mildly autistic and that helps us see a reason for her odd solidarity. When she opens the door to Blomkvist on the last page of the novel and, “let[s] him into her life once more,” readers expect this to be the beginning of her opening up. Unfortunately, that will not happen. However, even though we won't get inside Lisbeth, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest gets her inside our hearts.