The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest: Review

“It was, on the contrary and to put it mildly, decidedly unsimple.”

Today I start with a quote from the book of which I speak. I sat for a long time, having finished the novel, considering how one could describe the experience and I find Larsson sums it up rather eloquently.

It’s strange. Normally when I read a book I come out with a defined response, good, or bad, and while I might appreciate the shades of grey each different novel entails, I have that initial gut reaction that – fundamentally – says what I thought about it. This book baffled my gut. I honestly cannot say if I enjoyed it, hated it or found myself somewhere in between.

Let me try to explain.

Larsson has a ‘gift’ shall we say, for complicated. Its what made Dragon Tattoo so unusual and stand-out above a mostly saturated market and its what made Played with Fire so insanely clever. He also has a love for intricacy of details. And I think that’s why this book, for me, failed.

There was just too much going on. In book one, there was one main plot plus the running back-story of Salander, Wennerström and Millennium  The last three of which were carried over into book two as well as adding three new murders, complications with the sex trade, a plethra of new characters and a top layer of conspiracy and corruption. Book three not only carries all this across but adds yet another bucket load of murders, I would estimate double again the number of characters, digs even deeper into Salander, gives Berger a secondary (and oddly spurious) plot AND attempts to add a level of, shall we say, romantic tensions.

I’m sorry, but no book can handle all that. And even if author and book can, the reader can’t.

This book felt almost rushed. There was so much Larsson tried to fit in, and in all honesty, there just wasn’t the time nor space. In places, it grinds to an almost complete halt where he slows it down with in depth histories that just aren’t necessary. Gullberg is a good example of this. The main premise explored in this section is repeated almost endlessly through the book. Having it so painstakingly slowly laid out just slowed the book to the point of boredom. In other places, the book rockets through so fast it leaves your head spinning.

There are some absolutely excellent sections. For example, I adore the court sequence at the end, which is both clever and well paced, likewise the relationship between Johansson and Salander, but compared to his previous two books, these are few and far between. I’m sure someone will explain to me, but for the life of me I could not understand the relevance of Berger’s side-plot. Rather, I understood perfectly the story and its conclusion, I simply do not understand why it was felt necessary. As far as I could see it was just a rather long winded way of spoilers: getting her back to Millennium. It’s not even that it was used as a red-herring for the main plot. It was just, in a word, spurious.

Also, and this is my biggest nag with this book, it leaves a lot of loose ends. Now, whether this is because Larsson intended on writing more in the series I guess we’ll never know but it is infuriating. Spoilers alert: From simple things like why Salander does indeed have a dragon tattoo, to the bloody solution to the Fermat riddle which in the end I decided to google because it drove me so nuts the book never resolved it. But also plot details like considering the amount of page space wasted on the attempted love triangle between Blomkvist, Figuerola, Berger and Salander, he makes no attempt to bring it to any conclusion – even just to hint that Blomkvist has reverted back to his womanising ways – and then there is the illusive twin sister who, considering how powerful her testimony could have been was never approached by either side. The ending left me disappointed and wondering if I was missing the last ten pages.

In some ways, this book is just as brilliant as its counterparts. Certainly, Larsson has reached his stride with his narrative style and the core characters have become so familiar that they feel like family. But is also has gaping holes that are unlike Larsson who normally ties up all his various plot lines neatly. I honestly cannot say if I loved or hated this book but I will conclude this. Firstly, I enjoyed reading it, despite its pitfalls, it is still written well and  the primary plot is engaging and interesting (if a tad far-fetched and over complicated). Secondly, it disappointed me. I had high expectations that it just didn’t reach. Thirdly, I would still recommend it to someone who has read the other two as it does at least give some form of conclusion, however, as a stand alone, I would be reluctant to promote it.

So…

Rating: 5-10: I’m sorry but on the whole this book was a disappointment. It just didn’t give me the answers it had promised.

Favourite (3) Quotes: “What the hell? Is there some sort of spy convention on Bellmansgatan today?”

“This was only the first day of the rest of her life.”

“It was, on the contrary and to put it mildly, decidedly unsimple.”

Favourite Character: Lisbeth Salander (and often saving grace)

Least Favourite Character: Erika Berger – her pointless plot really got on my nerves.