In “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” Stieg Larsson blew a breath of fresh air into the mystery and thriller genres this summer by combining the two genres in an outstanding book where readers are forced to take a second look into a world where nothing is as it seems.
“The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” is the conclusion to the international bestselling Millennium Trilogy, which includes “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” While the first novel is a self-contained story, the third novel is a continuation of the second and devolves into the story of Lisbeth Salander’s past.
Salander is a genius-level computer hacker who is described by some as a psychopath. The third novel finds her fighting for her life in a hospital with her father, former Soviet spy, in the next room. During her time in the hospital, she works with journalist Mikael Blomkvist in order to prove her innocence for her upcoming triple-murder trial.
The Section, a secret government group working against Salander, sheds light on Salander’s past spent in a harsh mental institution and acts as a commentary on Sweden’s inefficient mental health system.
The Millennium Trilogy stands out from others in a genre that usually lacks detailed descriptions of characters and their actions. Often, more focus is placed on fast-paced action than lengthy, detailed scenes. Larsson provides many details in “Hornet’s Nest” without weighing the reader down. This style of writing elevates his plot to a higher level and makes the reader think they are watching the plot happen themselves.
Compared to the first two novels in the trilogy, Larsson spends more time in “Hornet’s Nest” spotlighting a singular event rather than a string of events in progress. Instead of an intricate mystery that spans the entire book, Larsson focuses on the preparation for Salander’s trial and unraveling the mysteries of her complicated life. Through his focus on the trial, he is able to wrap up the loose ends from the second book, which is important to the fans of the trilogy, especially after the second novel ended on a cliffhanger.
Larsson takes the most care in the development of Salander’s character who is unlike typical female leads in mystery-thriller novels who are categorized as dependent sex symbols. Rather Salander is an incredibly smart, independent and reclusive female hacker who doesn’t conform to society’s rules.
Larsson also delves into the character of Erika Berger, Millennium’s editor in chief. After her move to a large daily publication in Sweden, an anonymous stalker starts to leave her notes that address her as “whore.” This subplot is irrelevant to the main plot regarding Salander’s upcoming trial, and can sometimes distract from the main action. However, at times it allows for a refreshing change from Salander’s story.
At points throughout the novel, the author tells the story through different characters’ points of view. This approach opens doors for the reader to become more invested in the characters’ opinions of their surroundings. The novel’s mood is very somber and serious in many ways, particularly in the portrayal of the dreary hospital setting in Sweden. The author’s pessimistic tone nicely complements the larger purpose of the novel to determine whether or not Salander is guilty.
This novel is a must-read for fans of Larsson’s two other books. Unfortunately, Larsson died of a heart attack shortly after delivering his three crime thrillers to his publisher, but his legacy as a mystery-thriller author lives on in “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.”