Posted by: Jeanie F | July 19, 2010

Upon Finishing The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

It’s going to be difficult – no, impossible – to give you a better review of the Steig Larsson trilogy than you’ll find on The Reading Ape’s Blog or a better parody than Nora Ephron’s column in The New Yorker, “The Girl Who Fixed the Umlaut“. If you’ve read the trilogy, you owe it to yourself to read both of these. Having barely the strength, or the patience, to read the entire trilogy, I certainly don’t want to go back and review all three novels to give you a careful and insightful review myself.

I’ll stick to this last one, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, which is representative of the best, and worst, of this series.

The Good:

In the places where Larsson gets to the plot, it pulls you in and is a page-turner. There is, in fact, a pretty interesting story here. The underlying concept of governmental suppression of individual rights in a supposedly democratic society should raise a few hackles. I know it made me wonder how much of this really goes on (but, of course, one only need read the morning paper about CIA-promoted torture to know that there is truth behind the fiction). And the construct of very-bad-villain versus very-good-hero didn’t become classic archetype for nothing! The book reaches a climax that will keep you reading well into the night and is fair pay-off for the excruciating “Bad” and “Ugly.”

The Bad:

Is it really possible that publisher Alfred A. Knopf doesn’t have an editor who could have removed or improved the terrible writing, the distracting side-stories, the insistence on irrelevant detail (is there a reason every woman in the story wears a red jacket at some point in time?), and the fact that the first 300 pages or so does little more than review the action from the first two books? Larsson’s literary background is journalism, but if his journalist style was anything like his literary style, they should have kept him on the copy desk for the classified ads!

The Ugly:

The terrible things that happen in this book happen in great detail. If you enjoy learning exactly how many nails it takes to nail someone’s feet to the floor, you will enjoy this aspect of the book, but I didn’t. Some very good writers have been successful in crafting terrible, sadistic villains without making the reader’s stomach turn. Steig Larsson isn’t that writer. This book is not for the squeamish!


  1. Totally agree about the editing, but I’ve begun to wonder if the editor(s) were wary of altering the book too much, since Larsson wasn’t around to fight against changes, or at least have a shot to make them himself. That’s giving them a lot of benefit and little doubt, but I could imagine such a scenario.

    • I did think about that, Skip, but I had some of the same complaints about The Girl Who Played with Fire – and he was alive then, wasn’t he? Maybe it had something to do with the legal battles over custodianship of his work.

  2. I ad the same complaints as you and enjoyed the same parts as you. I think everyone seems to be pretty universal in their views of the Millenium Trilogy. Despite the bad editing and writing I still loved it

  3. I thought the editing was poor across all three books. I mean, I really didn’t care about every single thing Salander bought at the grocery store.

    However, I did find the books gripping, and read them all almost overnight, simply because I couldn’t sleep without knowing what happened next.

  4. Becky and Cookie – I agree – where Larsson stuck to the the plot, it was hard to put down! I struggled through the first half, and then devoured the second, reading nearly non-stop!

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