The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

by Kristopher Cook
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest Book Review - Kristopher Cook

If you like your slow-burn courtroom dramas with a touch of Gothic charm, then this is the book for you.

The Millennium series, to this point, has been as an assortment of action crime thrillers; however, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest flips the script.

Although there are still the usual heroic set-pieces, they’re somewhat toned down and reduced.

“What happened here tonight is the culmination of the murders of two friends of mine in Enskede, Dag Svensson and Mia Johansson. And the murder of a person who was no friend of mine . . . a lawyer named Bjurman, also Lisbeth Salander’s guardian.”

Stieg Larsson, Opening Line

Instead, the focus is more on Salander’s imminent recovery and how she’ll fight her legal battle against corrupt lawyers and evil psychologists. Additionally present are Russian spies, illegal deeds, and top-secret plots against everyone’s favourite anti-hero.

From their perspective, if they can have Lisbeth sanctioned back into a mental asylum, then all that she’s about to reveal will lose credibility, thus protecting the identity of her father, Alexander Zalachenko.

End of the Millennium

If you’ve made it this far in the series then you’ll already have a high investment in all the main characters and their credibility, none of which wavers here.

It might not have been apparent, to begin with, but by book three, Salander is clearly the poster girl for resilience. She has taken down biker gangs, pimps, corrupt bankers and ‘rapist pigs’, all in the name of what’s right.

By this point in the timeline, Lisbeth has no interest in money or personal gain. She does these things because she hates those who’re oppressing others, especially if that other is a woman.

My favourite part comes towards the end, when Lisbeth finally encounters her hulking brother, Ronald, in an abandoned warehouse. Not only is it a tense, gritty atmosphere, but he’s around three times heavier than she and clearly has no qualms about killing others.

While he has brute strength, Lisbeth has cunning prowess and agility. The final conclusion is more than rewarding and shows Lisbeth’s true charm, her ability to make calm decisions under pressure.

There are parts of the book that feel a little long, as is the case with all the books to this point, and chapters that add little to the plot. With that said, they do often build upon the ideas already in place, even if it’s in a certain roundabout way.

Unfortunately, this is the last book Stieg Larsson wrote before his untimely heart attack in November 2004.

The Millennium series has been taken over by fellow Swedish writer David Lagercrantz, who’s gone on to write three further novels expanding on Salander’s story.

I’m intrigued to see how he handles such a well-loved, dynamic character such as Lisbeth and whether he can continue with the Millenium legacy, or will it fall faster than Wennerström?

Closing Thoughts

I’d highly recommend reading The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, although only if you’ve read the previous two. It does follow on and would make little to no sense on its own.

In contrast, I enjoyed this book more than The Girl Who Played With Fire, but I’d say The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is my favourite so far.

As I say, this book can be slow-moving, and even static at times; especially in the hospital scenes, but it does offer up a surprising and rewarding conclusion to the Salander saga.

Lisbeth has come full circle, closing her retribution on those that have wronged her. She is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever read.

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