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The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest – A Review

March 15, 2011

I have to say, I finished the final (well…) installment of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who…” trilogy with relief. As with the other two, I found The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest enjoyable enough, but there was nothing about it that made me really think “wow, this is a book I MUST recommend to everyone I know!” and overall, my feelings about the book and the whole trilogy can be summed up in one word: predictable.

And predictable The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest is. Aside from the subplot of Berger’s harrassment, there are absolutely no surprises about how everything pans out. Of course everything works out OK for Salander. Of course she and Blomkvist manage to forge some kind of friendship out of everything that has happened. Of course Blomkvist falls in love (and not with Berger). The way everything wrapped up so neatly left me a bit flat; instead of the flurry of excitement-generating action towards the end of the novel, the plot concludes incredibly anticlimactically. Even Salander’s acquittal is surrounded by less drama than it warrants considering that the whole story pivots around this strange woman’s life.

So, as with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire, pace is a bit of a problem in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest. The story commences at the exact point The Girl Who Plays With Fire leaves off, and not only does it again take a good hundred pages for anything significant to happen (other than Salander surviving a gun shot to the head without any long-term consequences, which it was obvious that she would anyway – Larsson wouldn’t have written a 736 page novel about her dying!), but Larsson spends a rather long time re-capping over what happened towards the end of the second novel at every opportunity that presents itself. While this may benefit SOME readers, most, I would imagine, read the three books together in a gallop the same way I did, and so have the events of the second novel fresh enough in their minds that to be reminded about what happened in that book is completely unnecessary.

The words wasted on re-caps could have been much better invested in further evolving some of the novel’s subplots, such as integrating Niedermann’s story better into the novel as a teaser rather than lumping it all together in a bundle of an epilogue after the reader’s interest has already dwindled. Larsson manages to integrate other subplots together to keep the reader guessing, so it seems a shame that Niedermann should be left for an epilogue that would perhaps have been better suited to housing a brief overview of what happened to the members of the Section after they were arrested, or what became of the chief of the board at SMP that Berger exposed. For him to slink away with his tail between his legs never to be heard of again was somehwat of a disappointment.

On the other hand, in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest, Larsson manages to iron out a lot of the kinks that bothered me before, especially with characterisation. Even though a lot of new characters are introduced, such as Edklinth, Figuerola, Clinton etc, it somehow doesn’t seem as though there are as many names to remember and the characters Larsson creates are better developed so that it is more difficult to confuse them. I still got a bit confused about Malin Erikkson, who is referred to by both her given name and her surname without much consistency such that she sometimes appears to be different people, but this is more of a personal niggle than a real criticism of Larsson’s work.

As I said at the beginning of this, I finished The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest, and therefore my self-imposed Larsson marathon, with a great deal of relief. A lot of reviews have popped up about Larsson’s work and unfortunately not many of them positive, which inevitably shaped my opinion of the novels and left me with a sense of dread about reading them before I’d even started. This is a huge shame, because I really enjoyed The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and thought the sequels would be much more impressive than they transpired to be. I do not feel in any way as though I have wasted my time reading Larsson’s trilogy, but should the unthinkable happen and further sequels start to appear, I don’t think I’ll be bothering with them too much. The trilogy has not been an absolutely abhorrent experience, and it would be slanderous to Larsson’s memory for his work to be diminished by the production of a series of second-rate sequels in which I can only assume that Blomkvist, Salander and Figuerola would band together to form some sort of crime-fighting trio with the occasional investigative help of Millenium and Milton Security.

So it is with great happiness that I put these books aside. Larsson spun a good story, but it has ended. And I am very much looking forward to sinking my teeth into something a bit different for a while!

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