Last night I finished reading The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest and already acute withdrawal symptoms have begun. What is on Stieg Larsson's laptop? Could there really be a fourth novel, and outlines for six more books on the hard drive?
We have been privileged to witness, with his Millennium trilogy, the growth and development of Stieg Larsson as a writer from the clunky and turgid journalistic approach of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, through the much more exciting The Girl Who Played With Fire, and on to this final triumph with Hornets' Nest. It makes his early death even more tragic when we consider how many more more books he might have written if he had lived a full span. In making my journey from sceptic to fanatic I was lucky enough to spend a day with the translator 'Reg Keeland' [Steven Murray] in May, and learn that we were in for a real treat with this final book in the series. By the way 'Reg' did a fantastic job completing the huge task of translating this monumental work into English.
In the first hundred pages or so of Hornets' Nest Larsson reminds us of the events at Gosseberga, and how Salander and her father, the Soviet defector Zalachenko, ended up under guard a few doors from each other in Sahlgrenska Hospital.
The story then moves on dealing with four multilayered plots, each fascinating and worthy of our attention on their own, but skillfully interwoven into the complete story.
I thought Dragon Tattoo could have been edited down by a couple of hundred pages but Hornets' Nest in my opinion would have suffered if anything from the sub plots was lost.
Firstly there is the revival of the plan to silence Salander instigated by the Section for Special Analysis, a secret unit within SAPO, the Swedish security police.
Secondly, Mikael Blomkvist,and the staff at Millennium magazine, who along with Armansky's Milton Security organization and Lisbeth from her hospital bed, work to expose the breaches of Salander's constitutional rights going back over years by the secret Zalachenko clique.
Thirdly we follow Erika Berger in her new position as editor-in -chief at Svenska Morgen-Posten, S.M.P., where she discovers that when running a newspaper not all the problems are financial.
Finally there are the 'good guys' in the Security Police led by Torsten Edkinth, Director of the Constitutional Protection Unit, who are also investigating the Section for Special Analysis, and who luckily for Blomkvist have among their number the attractive Monica Figuerola.
The narrative moves back and forth between these gripping plot lines and there is considerably less information dumping than in previous books, despite the inclusion of some chunks of Swedish politics, and the history of the Swedish security services. Interestingly for a book in which one of the main themes is the mistreatment of women by men there are some wonderfully strong female characters.
Lisbeth Salander, whose character develops becoming a bit more human and even showing some empathy towards those trying to help her, while still retaining that ability to surprise and shock.
Erika Berger, lawyer Annika Giannini [Blomkvist's sister], security police woman Monica Figuerola and Milton Security's Susanne Linder would probably rate number one billing as a female lead in any book that did not feature Salander. I do find Blomkvist a little bland compared with these feisty women but that may well have been Larsson's intention.
The four strands of the story come together in a satisfying climax, and [minor spoiler alert] in a brilliant court room drama that had me shouting yes, yes, yes!
Stieg Larsson was a writer who had a deep hatred of injustice and a crystal clear view of what was right and wrong. The Millennium trilogy is mainly concerned with the the mistreatment of women and the breaches of Salander's constitutional rights, but because of Stieg Larsson's anti-fascist stance at Expo magazine I think the books are also intended to send a message that when any state regards some citizens as less important than others, we are on that slippery slope to totalitarianism.
More on Hornets' Nest.
[My thanks to publishers Quercus, who supplied the book for review. Regular visitors, there must be a few, will know that I always give my honest appraisal of a book even when it gets me into hot water.]