Thursday, 17 June 2010

A Year in Books 2010 - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest



"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" is the third part of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. It is a well worn phrase but this really has been a publishing sensation with the Swede's book selling all over the world.
You are probably all aware of the back story. Stieg Larsson was a well respected journalist in Sweden who specialised in racist and right wing extremist exposures. He delivered the manuscript of all 3 books at once to his publisher who didn't' even know he was working on a piece of fiction. He died of natural causes soon after submitting the manuscript and didn't live to see any of it published. As a result the manuscript was published as it stood without the usual editing process and writing of subsequent drafts.
I read the first book "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" when it first came out and got immediately sucked into the lives of the 2 main characters, the out of shape, womanising, crusading journalist Blonkvist and in Salander , the most astounding and compelling female lead in modern fiction. That book is unlike the first 2 in that ,although setting the seen for what was to follow ,it can be read as a stand alone story.
"Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest" starts about 30 mins after the shocking edge of the seat ending of the second book "The Girl who Played with Fire". The consequences of Salander's actions in the second book result in the the drawing of sides. One side, lead by Blomkvist, try to ensure Salander remains free and cleared of all accused crimes and the other ,lead by a small, secret cabal at the heart of the Swedish intelligence agency who, in protecting their inters ts and hiding their actions, want to see Salander committed to an institution with the key thrown away.
The actions kicks off straight away and never lets up, all leading to a dramatic court case where all the various threads are pulled together in an immensely satisfying end.
The whole trilogy is fantastic and the end novel doesn't let the other two down. As ever the characters are well drawn and even the minor ones manage to hold their own against Salander who could have drowned them all out.
What I really like about the series is the familiarity of the thriller style combined with a unfamiliar setting and an almost a crash course in Swedish modern history (it made me want to read more on Olaf Palme who all I knew about was that he was assassinated and has a Jazz Butcher song named after him)
The only slight flaw is that everything builds to the trial which is so well written that when it finishes , well what comes next although needed to tie up loose ends seems bolted on and feels more of a throw back to the second novel and as a result a bit out of sync with the third one.
Very rarely do things match the hype but if you have been resisting fearing all the publicity is a bit DaVinci Code, then give in now and get all three books.
Whilst you are at it the Swedish film of the first book is also well worth seeing.... quickly before the planned Hollywood version sanitises and glamorises the whole thing


You can buy the trilogy here

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