Sunday Salon – Review of “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest” by Stieg Larsson

The Sunday Salon.com

Note: No spoilers are contained in this review.

Truly there were moments reading this book when my heart was beating so hard I thought it might jump right out of my chest!

This is Volume 3 of the “Millennium Series,” published posthumously after the sudden death of the author in November, 2004. Originally, there were to be ten books in this series, and with each book, one mourns more deeply the loss of such a talented writer.

Volume 3 is divided into large sections, and the introduction to each contains a vignette about females who have fought in wars. And that sums up broadly the focus of this book in the series: women warriors. Indeed, it might even be read as a tribute to women and their strengths: sometimes dependent and trusting; brave and resilient when tried; loyal and loving when vindicated.

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Like the previous books, the beginning of this one is very complex; I kept a notepad to keep track of the characters. (Similar to the first book in the series and of course, to real life, you don’t know at first which of these myriad people will prove to be important later in the story.) I would hate to try to comprehend what was going on without having had the advantage of reading the other two first.

Even with all the background we have to absorb in the beginning, the suspense and excitement begin right away.

We continue with the same characters as in previous books: Mikael Blovkvist, the crusading journalist who probably served as an alter-ego for the author; Erika Berger, his co-worker and occasional lover; and Lisbeth Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo.

Mikael is obsessed with social justice, “loyal to the point of foolhardiness once he had made someone a friend,” but “completely irresponsible when it comes to relationships.” That is, it never seems to occur to him that a woman could get emotionally involved and become deeply hurt when he moved on to someone else.

Erika has had a relationship with Mikael for twenty-some years, although she remains married to a man she loves. She is a strong, tough editor and is greatly admired by women, grudgingly so by men.

Lisbeth, the undoubted star of the series, is 27, small, slight, and goth-looking, and is being labeled in the press as “a psychopath, a murderer, and a lesbian Satanist.” She has powerful friends who know better – who know that she has been systematically abused and used as a scapegoat – and know that in fact she is justifiably distrustful. She is also brilliant, resourceful, and admittedly not the sort of person you would want to cross. But her enemies are even more powerful, and include not only actual psychopaths, but a secret section of the Swedish equivalent of the CIA.

The author, through Mikael Blomkvist, has quite a lot to say about violence against women, but he does so through the mechanism of his plot, so you get the message through the horror of the events he relates, rather than through gratuitous chatter by the characters. (Readers should beware, particularly in Volume One of this series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, of some graphic scenes of abuse.) As Mikael says to his sister in Volume Three:

“When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies; it’s about violence against women, and the men who enable it.”

And that is the heart and soul of this sensational series.

Evaluation: Each book in the series is better than its predecessor. Volume Three will have you not only racing through its 600 pages, but wishing it didn’t have to end. This is an intelligent, heart-racing, gut-wrenching series of books that shouldn’t be missed!

Rating: 4.8/5

Published in the U.S. by Knopf, 2010

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26 Responses to Sunday Salon – Review of “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest” by Stieg Larsson

  1. Marie says:

    I can’t wait to read this. We got a copy from England for my father in law’s birthday last week & didn’t read it first- are we crazy or what? 🙂

  2. Nymeth says:

    Gotta love Book Dep 😀 One of these days I’ll get to this series…

  3. Sandy says:

    I thoroughly loved The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo…one of the best crime novels I’ve read. I was completely taken with Salander. What a strong, enigmatic character! I’ve been on the wait list for the 2nd book in audio form from the library FOREVER. I can’t wait to read them all, but in these cases I will always have some melancholy knowing we will never get another installment.

  4. bermudaonion says:

    I’ve got to get with it with this series since I keep reading such fantastic reviews. I have the first one in my TBR pile.

  5. softdrink says:

    la la la…not reading this post until I get my hands on the book. It’s in the mail, though!

  6. Alyce says:

    I didn’t think this one was available in the US yet. I have avoided this series because I really have a hard time reading abuse stories. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the books though. Yours is the first review I’ve seen of the third installment.

  7. Frances says:

    My husband LOVES these books. Thanks for the Book Depository tip. Now he can have the third for Christmas! Happy reading.

  8. Bella says:

    I’ve never heard of these books, but they look great. I really like the cover, its a little different and intriguing. I may need to add these to my christmas list.

  9. susan says:

    Okay, now I have to get this series on my list even though: a) I typically don’t read series and b) I don’t read books with spies and graphic violence.

    Sad to hear the author died. Thanks for the review.

  10. Bookjourney says:

    Greta idea about the notepad for characters. I get frustrated with books that have too many. I never feell like i fully get to know them and if their names sound similar at all forget about it – I get confused. 🙂

  11. Kerrie says:

    I’m currently reading this on my Kindle

  12. Ti says:

    I’m so glad you liked this one. I still haven’t ordered mine yet. I meant to and then forgot to and it is out of stock again. I want to get it as a Xmas present to myself!

    They are filming the third movie now. It would be interesting to rent the first two.

  13. Smart thinking to order this one from the UK. You out-reviewed them all. I don’t get this whole publishing thing of one country at a time. I’m glad you are enjoying this series. I like the sound of the strong character in this one. Maybe someday I’ll give in and read these.

  14. ds says:

    I am almost glad that this one is not yet available here; that will give me time enough to read #2! Thanks for the heads up.

  15. Staci says:

    Each one gets better than the last one!! I must read the first one over Christmas break!!!!!!!!

  16. Gavin says:

    Wow, I love the quote. I am trying to wait ’til it gets to the U.S. so I can get it from the library, but I may not be able to wait. Thanks for a great review.

  17. Aarti says:

    My gosh, this series is EVERYWHERE. I have heard very mixed reviews about it, though. Well, about the first book. But mostly positives. I like how you gave it 4.8 points out of 5, not 4.5 or 5. Maybe I’ll try to find the first book in the library and see how that goes…

  18. Veens says:

    Wowwwwww! You actually read the 3rd book ALREADY! I am like waiting for it :):)

    I am so glad to hear that it is really good, I am a great fan of this series. I am waiting for the paperback to hit the stands 🙂

  19. caite says:

    Love the first book…liked the second a lot if not as much as the first….but of course with free international shipping, I had to order the third! Thanks!!

  20. Pingback: reviews and Hitchens on Larsson « Scandinavian Crime Fiction

  21. I am so darn jealous of you! I cannot wait for the third installment, but I guess I will have to until Simon Vance’s audio version is released next year sometime. I have been listening to these books and Vance is as much a part of the experience as anything else.

    Thank you for sharing how much you loved this series and this book.

  22. Ann says:

    I’m two thirds of the way through listening to this on the grounds that if I could follow something this complex on audio book I could follow anything. I’m loving it and still with it.

  23. BooksPlease says:

    I still haven’t read the first two yet – they’ll have to wait until after we’ve moved house!

  24. Julie H. says:

    Thanks for the Book Depository heads up….I may have to get in on this early.

  25. Jenners says:

    Oh how exciting! I was wondering how you got your copy … the good old Book Depository. I’m starting this series in the 2010 and I’m getting even more excited.

    Actually, I’ve been thinking of starting my own challenge and naming it after you “The Last Person in the World After Rhapsodyinbooks To Read the Book’ Challenge.

  26. Pingback: 2010: #47 – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (Stieg Larsson) | Confessions of a Bibliophile

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