The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Millennium Series – by Stieg Larsson
“The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” was for me the most uneven of the trilogy. Larsson’s novel does not really start picking up until around page 300, when Blomkvist hooks up with yet another woman, this time a bodybuilder ex-cop who joins a government police force. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
The first part of the novel picks up where the last one left off with Salander, after having been shot in the head is flown to the hospital and put through surgery. And her father Zalachenko, who somehow survived her axe attack, is sent to the same hospital!
Larsson’s characters are really interesting in how he writes them. I mean he’ll write practically a full biography. If we meet his character in the bathroom, say, then we can be assured of the brand of shaving cream and who owns the building.
Despite this maddening detail, the book is an interesting one, once you plow through all the unnecessary history of Swedish politics.
To summarize briefly, the reader knows of a secret organization within the secret police of Sweden called The Section, or as Blomkvist calls it, the Zalachenko Club. They can’t seem to deal with the current crisis so they call in old spies from the 1960s, one on dialysis and the other dying of cancer, who both feel they have nothing to lose and so proceed to take over and push their weight around. They are above the law.
Larsson criticizes incompetence in many ways as well as writing to what extent the quirkiness of his characters will take them.
Several points of interest:
The author makes a big deal of Salander’s part of the brain getting damaged by a bullet but that damage only pertains to her mathematical ability. She can no longer remember some math theorem eluded to in the second book. Nothing is really made of this.
Second, a story within a story I found fascinating, with Berger’s new appointment to SMP, how the reader is lead to believe that her stalker is one of the crew of her new paper, but we are shocked as to whom it turns out to be.
Third, the book really picks up when we see Blomkvist’s journalistic muscles flex, and Salander’s return to the computer to hack her way to freedom from threats and false accusations.
Much is made of the media and its propensity to grab a news story, usually on the back of someone else’s work, and run with it, making things up as they go along. Salander was painted by the media to be some kind of lesbian Satanist if you could believe that!
Larsson also criticizes the arrogant presumptions of those in authority: the police detective at the beginning, who does not believe Blomkvist’s assertions and through the cop’s incompetence let’s a murderer go free.
Or Teleborian, a psychiatrist to whom others worship and can do no wrong, until Salander’s hacking crew find some interesting photos on his laptop!
Or Clinton, the spy ring master, who feels those around him are incompetent and soft and starts a murder spree across Sweden.
Worthy continuation from the second book. Many points are finally wrapped up but it takes some time to wrap them. Even the escape of the murderer at the start of the story is not even confronted until the end of the book!
Strong women pepper the book in a positive way: Figueroa, Berger, Giannini (Blomkvist’s lawyer sister) and Salander all show some aspect of women that is prideful and fascinating as they make their way through a Swedish man’s world.
And the Blomkvist womanizing, journalistic genius and Salander’s hacking skill from the first book is reprised here, which is what made the book interesting.
Ah, now if we could only have edited out about 200 pages of Swedish politics!
- Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy Deluxe Boxed Set: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Plus On Stieg Larsson
The Man Who Left Too Soon: The Biography of Stieg Larsson
The Tattooed Girl: The Enigma of Stieg Larsson and the Secrets Behind the Most Compelling Thrillers of Our Time