I really should have read this straight after finishing The Girl Who Played With Fire. But I was distracted by other books and didn’t get to it until a couple of months later. In a way, you lose some of your reading momentum so it took a lot longer to finish it. But as usual, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest delivered. It was relentless in keeping the suspense and I have to say that I felt apprehensive the whole time I was reading, wishing that nothing worse would happen to Lisbeth Salander. For of course, as many of you may know, Salander is what keeps readers coming back to the Millennium Trilogy.

Personally, I would have preferred it if she wasn’t so battered and put through the grind so often whilst retaining all her cool skills, but I guess that is what makes her vulnerable/strong dichotomy so irresistible. And Larsson does a magnificent job in creating truly evil characters cloaked in the air of venerability and office. The Sweden he writes about is a really frightening place. Especially since he layers the bad bits with the genuine warmth of Mikael Blomkvist’s family and friends. I kind of liked the naiveté interlaced with the hard-nosed journalistic worldview. And I also liked the strong female characters that populate his books.

In The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest, we finally meet Dr. Teleborian who was instrumental in locking Salander up when she was twelve, after her failed attempt on her father’s life. Salander is slowing recovering in hospital and she is set to go on trial for murder. She is under close observation and has no access to the internet. Frightening thought. Salander without net access is akin to her without a lifeline. Sweden’s secret service (Säpo) and a sinister splinter cell within the organisation are preparing to silence Salander forever. However, Blomkvist is determined to save his friend and rounds up Salander’s supporters to plan a strategy that will protect and release Salander from this nightmare. Will he be able to save Salander? And will she be able to thwart Dr. Teleborian’s plans to get her under his control once again? You’ll need to read this book to find out^^ You can be sure that Salander’s not going to be sitting idly letting everyone save her ass.

I have to admit that the final volume of the Millennium Trilogy felt long. It took me a while to get into the story, even though I was dying to know what was going to happen. The first two volumes had more mystery and was more fast-paced and physical whereas this one tied together all threads started in The Girl Who Played With Fire and had less action. As with the previous book, it could have done with a bit more editing. There’s only so much explanation about government offices you can handle. And I wanted to know more about Salander’s twin sister. But, saying that, I did stay up ’til 3am to finish the book which I hadn’t done in a long time. All in all, I really enjoyed this series and Larsson knows how to deliver a very satisfying conclusion.

I read this for the Thriller and Suspense Challenge 2010 and R.I.P. V Challenge.

I picked up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson last year partly because of the hype and partly because it had the word tattoo in it (there’s something about tattoo’s I find hard to resist) expecting it to be a good, solid thriller in the vein of Tana French or Ian Rankin, both whose novels I really enjoy. But I didn’t expect to find a crime novel that opened up a world that was familiar yet so foreign to me as I haven’t really read much Scandinavian fiction. I really enjoyed the fast-paced plot, the chase, the politics and the world of journalism that Larsson discusses in depth and, most of all, the character of Lisbeth Salander. Don’t get me wrong, there were parts that I found extremely disturbing, not particularly surprising when you know the original title in Swedish is Men Who Hate Women. Larsson isn’t afraid of showing the dark underbelly of Swedish society, something we don’t hear much about in the UK. But the book kept me hooked and I couldn’t wait to start its sequel as soon as I finished it. So why did it take me so long to read The Girl Who Played With Fire? Beats me.

The sequel is as strong as the first volume in the Millennium Trilogy and we find out a little more about Salander’s history and background. I have to admit I guessed most of what was revealed, but the pace of the plot kept me reading and I really didn’t know how it was all going to turn out. We meet some new characters as well as some old friends and enemies. And I probably don’t need to tell you that the subject matter is once again gritty and disturbing as both Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist who runs the investigative journal Millennium, and Salander are plunged into the murky world of European sex trafficking.

One of the things I liked about Larsson’s novels is the lack of excessive sentimentality exhibited by the characters. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t care for each other. In fact, Salander seems to become more whole as her past is stripped away, although it is impossible for her to be fully healed. She will always be a loner, misunderstood and targeted. However, she’s not without friends who are determined to save her.

Overall Larsson’s sequel once again gripped my imagination and attention. My only quibble would be that the dialogue could have been tightened with a bit more editing. The translation from the Swedish by Reg Keeland is smooth and natural and didn’t interrupt the reading experience. Needless to say I’ll be looking forward to reading the final volume, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest, and watching the second and third films when they are released next year.

I read this as part of the TBR 2010 Challenge and the Thriller and Suspense Challenge 2010.