Steig Larsson’s last ‘Girl’ is worth the wait, say most reviewers
If the phrase “at the center of it all is a rogue unit of the Swedish Security Service” strikes you as risibly absurd, then The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the last volume in Steig Larrson’s global phenomenon, the “Millennium Trilogy” (40 million sold!), is probably not for you.
Sweden has spies? I thought people in the Nordic utopia of socialism were too busy taking eight-week vacations, driving Volvos and shopping at Ikea to bother with anything as impolite and unsanitary as espionage or corruption.
And yet, early reviews of The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet’s Nest, which goes on sale tomorrow here in the U.S., are surprisingly strong. I say “surprisingly” because Larsson, a Swedish journalist-turned-crime novelist, wrote all three books only to die at age 50 before they could be published– with the implication that the last still needed some work.
In the Los Angeles Times, Richard Schickel certainly thinks so. A perceived lack of polish grates on Schickel, who takes off points for “a banal style” and “slapdash manner,” while Joy Tipping, in the Dallas Morning News, calls Hornet’s Nest “definitely the weakest link, with little of the action and suspense that enthralled readers in the earlier books.”
At The New York Times, Michiko Kakutani, one of the toughest book critics in the business, arrives at the opposite conclusion. She describes the new book as a “thoroughly gripping read that shows off the maturation of the author’s storytelling talents.” Indeed, Kakutani dismisses The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, first in the trilogy and the one that hooked its worldwide audience as “a preposterous mashup of bad serial-killer movies.”
The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second book in the series, showed Larsson’s increasing narrative sophistication. The final book is even better, less Silence of the Lambs horror than “something by John Le Carre.” That’s high praise, especially coming from Kakutani, who has been known to savage everyone from E.L. Doctorow to Anne Tyler to Jonathan Lethem.
Likewise, Publishers Weekly calls Hornet’s Nest the “exhilarating conclusion to bestseller Larsson’s Millennium trilogy.” Over in Britain, where the novel debuted last Fall, the London Times says Hornet’s Nest “confirms Larsson as one of the great talents of contemporary crime fiction.”
The Guardian calls the last in the series “a grown-up novel for grown-up readers, who want something more than a quick fix and a car chase.” Maxine Clarke, writing for EuroCrime, says Hornet’s Nest “pulls you right in on page 1, and is terrifically difficult to leave behind on page 600.
Caveats and interesting factoids: Some of these reviews, especially The New York Times‘ give away too much of the plot, so if you hate spoilers then proceed with caution to any of the links above. The heroes — journalist Mikael Blomkvist and goth computer hacker Lisabeth Salander — are supposed to be grown-up versions of Pippi Longstocking and Kalle Blomkvist, from the children’s books by Astrid Lindgren.
Larsson himself, in real life, was a crusading journalist, focusing on women’s issues and on right-wing fascist groups in Sweden, as well as the Swedish spy service (yes, they actually have one).
So tell me: Are you planning to read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest? And if you already have, let us know: Better than the rest? Not as good?