Wednesday, 23 March 2011

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

Well, it had to happen and it has. I have finished the last of the Larsson trilogy. I tried to delay the inevitable by limiting myself to reading just a few sections at a time. I even re-read paragraphs that I enjoyed, but eventually I came to the end. And I have to say that it was a very satisfactory end.

This novel follows on from the second one, The Girl who Played with Fire, and so it would be ludicrous to read it without reading this second novel. The continuing theme is of prostitution and sex trafficking and we are also introduced to the workings of the powerful inner circle of Sapo, the state security police. Needless to say, it is as corrupt as many of the other Swedish state institutions already highlighted in the previous two novels.

Salander is now seriously ill in hospital and under police surveillance. Without a computer to hack into, she must rely for a time on Mikael Blomvkist, the Millennium journalist who has helped her in the past, Dragan Armansky, who runs Milton Security, and the police department who specialise in protecting the Swedish Constitution. Naturally, they have an uphill job proving Salander's innocence against what appear to be over-whelming odds.

To learn the outcome, however, you'll have to read the novel for yourself!

I can't think of a series of novels that has so absorbed me and it is a testament to the characterisation, plot and sub-plots, and quality of writing that not only do I feel as if I actually know the characters but I still think about them even though I have now moved onto another novel.

What I find particularly exciting is that Larsen has portrayed so many strong women. There's not just Salander, the weird and exciting heroine, but also Erika Berger, who co-owns Millennium with Michael. Then there's Miriam Wu, the sometime lover of Salander and just as capable of defending herself physically against much stronger men.

Salander's lawyer, Annika Giannini, who is Michael's sister, is a pretty tough cookie too, using her intelligence and integrity to defend her client. Police officer Monica Figuerola is someone you would want on your side as is Suzanne Linder, from Milton Security, who is assigned to protect Erika Berger after she receives threatening e-mails.

But mention must also be made of Mikael Blomkvist. He is the central character in all three novels and it is his journalistic investigation at the beginning of the first novel that sets the story moving and introduces us to Lisbeth Salander, who is about as fascinating a character as you would wish to read about.

As for Mikael, he's a man of great intelligence and honesty, dedicated to weeding out corruption, and I liked him right from the start. Although he's not portrayed as a 'romantic lead', he has a certain attractiveness which makes him appealing to women. He's kind and witty and extremely determined. Not full of himself, either. A man to be trusted. A person you'd like to know.

Apparently, Stieg Larsson had completed much of the fourth novel before his untimely death. But it is highly unlikely that we shall ever read it because there is litigation in process as to copyright ownership. Perhaps, in this fourth novel, Larsson intended to introduce a character only alluded to previously but whom I would have liked to have learnt more about. And that is Camilla Salinger, Salander's twin sister!

It's amazing to think that the three novels I have just read and enjoyed so much are actually translations from the original Swedish. These translations are far better than anything I can write in English, sad to say.

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