If I start on The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, I reasoned to myself, I’ll be able to read it on the iPad, won’t need the lamp that so bothers my wife and we won’t have to have our usual conversation about whether it’s time to turn out the light or go to the other room to read–neither of which I usually want to do. I can ration myself, just read a bit every night. I’m strong. I won’t get sucked in the way I did with the other two Larsson books. Pure rationalization, of course. I had a bout of
insomnia (not uncommon) that night, read a couple of hundred pages, then just kept right on reading, forsaking all other activities till the thing was done. And I’m not sorry, either. I should probably get a collection of books on the iPad to solve the night reading dilemma, but nothing would solve the Steig Larsson dilemma except to let the disease run its course. And so I did.
Hornet’s Nest is almost not a separate book in the trilogy. Its first chapter could easily be the “next” chapter in its predecessor, The Girl Who Played With Fire. Not a criticism. There’s no sense of incompleteness at the end of Fire. It’s quite whole in itself. Besides, combining the two would have made an 1100 page book, and who wants that? Put down your hand, smartass.
Hornet’s Nest, then, obviously continues the case and the characters we’ve been following since page one of Tattoos. Salander is still demonstrating her considerable survival skills and instincts despite being under arrest in a hospital room with a severe bullet-wound injuries from head to hip. Now, however, she’s no longer in a position where she can refuse support. She needs doctors, and she has to talk to them to get well. She’s going to trial, so the legal system will slap a lawyer on her whether she needs/wants one or not. Her computer’s gone, so she has to figure a way into cyberspace, something she can’t do alone from a locked, guarded hospital room. And when she’s well enough, she’ll be going to prison, which will make it even harder. Since she’s confined, we don’t get to see much of the physical prowess she’s demonstrated earlier, at least not until the end.
On the outside, things are boiling. Mikael Blomkvist, our journalistic white knight is on an expose tear, trying track down the murderers of the three victims from Playing With Fire as well as uncover the conspiracy from within the secret police that got poor Lisbeth railroaded in the first place. He’s also as horny and as inappropriate in his relationships as ever. While there are hardly any police in Tattoos, both Fire and Hornet teem with them. Dumb cops, smart cops, tough cops, weak cops, corrupt cops, honest cops–they’re all over the place. Eventually Blomkvist gets tangled up with them, too, in both nice and ugly ways.
The climax of the book is the trial. An interesting event in itself, but doubly so because the rules and procedures are so different from the American version. Defense and prosecution, for example, (or so I infer), seem not compelled to reveal their evidence to one another beforehand the way our courts require, so there are plenty of surprises and great consternation.
In some respects, this is the best novel per novel of the the three. More tightly plotted, with good subplots and lots of good description and turns of fate and mistakes by the main characters. But through it all, the element that makes everything else work is our Lisbeth. Our brilliant, asocial, binge-drinking, hard-nosed heroine. Long may she thrive.