The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest / 978-0-307-59367-2
In my reviews of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "The Girl Who Played with Fire", I noted that the novels start off incredibly slowly, but if you stick with the deliberate pace and careful presentation, it's an incredible story that picks up with a rush a third of the way in. This third book in the series, by contrast, starts off with a bang from the final page of "Played with Fire", and a much faster pace is employed from the very beginning, providing the reader a fantastic ride to the satisfying conclusion.
The signature writing style of the series - slow pacing, careful presentation, and serious attention to detail - works well here in the third book of the series. The plot continues directly on from "Played with Fire" - Salander has been apprehended, and she and Blomkvist must do what they do best (she hacking, and he investigating) if they want to have any hope of acquitting Salander of false charges and exposing the government conspiracy that has literally plagued her entire life. Larsson's wonderful characterization of "supporting cast" works to a great advantage here, and it's nice to see the good police officers, intelligent agents, and online hackers working together with the protagonists to get to the truth and reveal the miscarriages of justice that have taken place. Many of the scenes with the supporting characters are pure gold and a delight to read, and the fact that the two protagonists don't hold a monopoly on talent (and morals!) makes the entire novel come alive in a very realistic way - a difficult thing to accomplish when writing a government conspiracy thriller!
One of the things that is so skillful about this novel is how so much of the plot of the previous two books are gently referenced and (when necessary) tied up neatly, and how all this occurs very naturally within the confines of the plot. The pacing is nothing short of perfect (now that the reader is used to the slower pace in the first two novels, of course!), and there are enough scares and twists and false alarms along the way to the end to keep you on the edge of your seat without the story ever feeling gimmicky or forced. Indeed, everything from the early investigative stages to the conspiracy thriller chases to the final courtroom drama all seems to flow together in a way that always makes perfect sense to the reader - and this is from someone who usually finds conspiracy thrillers confusing to follow!
If you've enjoyed the story of Salander and Blomkvist so far, and haven't been put off by the slow pacing and lavish attention to detail, I can almost guarantee that you will love this superb follow-up to "Playing with Fire". On the other hand, if you've been following the series without pleasure or enthusiasm, "Kicked the Hornet's Nest" is very similar to the previous two books, and you may find that this novel brings you no pleasure at all. If you're unsure which category you fit in, I believe every library on earth now has a copy of this series, so try it out before you buy - if you're hooked by the first 50 pages or so, you'll love the ride to the end.
~ Ana Mardoll
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