Friday, June 11, 2010

Please excuse my incoherence

I had a late night last night finishing The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson. I had been anxiously awaiting the final installment in the Lisbeth Salander story, and while I would have preferred to wait for the audio book, I was delighted to get the book not long after its release from my local library. It was with some sadness that I started this book, knowing that it would be my final meeting with the anti-social, spunky and totally unique Salander.

The story begins right after the events of the previous book, The Girl Who Played With Fire (which I believe was overall the strongest of the 3 books in the Millennium series). Salander is in the hospital, being treated for horrific injuries, and is still a suspect in several murders. The journalist Mikael Blomkvist is once more in her corner as he attempts to unravel the conspiracy that has led to this tragic point in Salander's life.

There are quite a few problems with this book, so far as it concerns American readers. First of all, there are SO MANY characters -- doctors, policemen, journalists, government officials, secret police, etc. Add to it that some are part of a conspiracy while others are working to expose the conspiracy, and all of those characters also have varying degrees of knowledge about what is going on. It's really hard to keep up with, not only a character's role, but also how much he or she knows and whether they are pro- or anti-Salander.

The other major problem is that the book concerns a number of people and events from the last 50 years of Swedish history. Some people are mentioned with an asterisk following their names, which indicates there is a short explanatory note at the end of the book. Other things are just mentioned without any sort of explanation what so ever. The first 1/4 or so of the book is also tedious when it DOES explain the long and tangled history of the Swedish intelligence service.

It was also a bit disappointing that Salander, injured and without her computer, has a somewhat limited role in the events in the story. Although she is central to the action of the story, most of the work has to be done by others on her behalf. The book does pick up as she recovers and events move toward her trial. Once the trial opens, the cross-examination by her lawyer of some of her old enemies is truly page-turning. There is also a side story involving Blomkvist's former boss/sometime lover Erika Berger and the difficulities she encounters in her new job as editor of a major newspaper.

Although it has been rumored that author Stieg Larsson left outlines for a total of 10 books in the series at his death in 2004, this book ends with most loose ends tied up, so it's a fitting end. I'm anxious to see the other two films in the series. Hope they are released in the US soon!
Final Verdict for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest: Four Gherkins, for a slow start, but a page-turning ending!

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