Note: If you have not read both The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire, the first two books of this trilogy, you might not want to read this review. This book begins where the final scenes of The Girl Who Played With Fire end, and it is impossible to discuss this book without referring to that ending.
“No matter how improbable it might seem, there really was a conspiracy inside S. I. S. [Sapo, the Swedish security police], and a number of individuals were acting outside of, or parallel to, regular operations. Because this had been going on for many years–at least since 1976, when Zalachenko arrived in Sweden–it had to be organized and sanctioned from the top. Exactly how high up the conspiracy went he had no idea.”
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest is a fine conclusion to the Millenium Trilogy, tying up the loose ends that have carried over for three novels and kept viewers around the world panting for the next installment. Though the novel is complex, it is the best and most exciting of the three–and highly rewarding since it builds on all the action that has gone before, further developing the characters we have come to love. Lisbeth Salander, the focus of all three novels, is hospitalized and kept in isolation for virtually the entire six hundred pages here, but she is a looming presence throughout, and when it becomes clear that she will have to face trial for some of the murders in The Girl Who Played With Fire, Mikael Blomqvist, a mentor, finds a way to unleash her formidable, secret skills as a hacker.
Lisbeth has a form of autism which isolates her and prevents her from trusting and making emotional contact with those around her, even those who clearly want to help her. She refuses to have any contact with Blomqvist, the investigative journalist and founder of Millenium Magazine with whom she once had an affair and with whom she worked as a computer expert. He does not know why she will not speak to him, though he is still fond of her and still keeps all her secrets, even from his sister, Annika Giannini, the advocate who will be defending her against murder charges. She has formidable problems with anger as a result of her confinement to a mental institution from the age of twelve to fourteen on the recommendation and evaluation of famed psychiatrist Dr. Peter Treborian. He is actively working to have her recommitted, this time because of the violence with which she has been recently involved. Her father, Alexander Zalachenko, aka Karl Alex Bodin, a Russian defector during the Cold War who is also a vicious sadist, is recovering from wounds just two rooms down from Lisbeth at Sahlgrenska Hospital in Goteborg. Lisbeth has already tried to kill him once, and she still hopes to have her revenge for his crimes against her and her mother.
As Blomqvist investigates the circumstances surrounding the crimes in which Lisbeth has been involved, he is absolutely certain that she should never have been committed to the mental institution at all, and the persistent efforts of the “establishment” to have her recommitted are red flags to him. Why, he wonders, do they care so much about her, and why was it so important that she be committed to a secure psychiatric facility at the age of twelve? He is hoping to find the answers so that he can publish a book about the crimes against her.
Several other organizations are also investigating these crimes–and Lisbeth herself: the Goteborg Police, who were called to a bloody rural scene where Salander and Zalachenko needed hospitalization; the Stockholm Police who are investigating other crimes involving both; Richard Ekstrom, a prosecutor who has already declared Salander to be “a vicious psychopath” and who believes his own reputation is on the line; the Swedish Security Police (Sapo), for whom Zalachenko once worked; and a very special group, the “Section for Special Analysis,” a tiny group spun off from Sapo which is virtually unknown except to its own few members. This latter group operates above the law and is of the greatest concern–their very existence so secret that it can be ascertained only by the process of elimination, their members loyal to the group rather than to any other entity. “We’re the ones who don’t exist,” one member notes.
Larsson spends the first two hundred pages setting the scene, revisiting the action of the previous two books and reminding the reader who is who among the large cast of characters, some with similar names. The action is vivid and detailed, and as the makeup of the Section for Special Analysis unfolds and glimpses of governments past and present emerge, the reader discovers that people once thought to be part of one group are actually part of another, some of them continuing to hold down more than one position. Intrigue in the private lives of the characters and within Millenium Magazine, Svenska Morgon Posten, (Sweden’s largest daily newspaper), Milton Security, the legal system, the police, and the government’s security organizations, keeps the reader constantly challenged to keep track of the details which make this novel so satisfying. The final resolution is a bittersweet experience–hugely rewarding because the important issues are resolved, but immensely sad because there will be no more books in the series. A grand finale to a terrific series.
Notes: The author’s photo appears on: http://www.cbc.ca
THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB by David Lagercrantz continues the series.
The Swedish films made from these books are also reviewed here: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (FILM)