Current Affairs, Thriller

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson – 10/10

Having now finished the third volume in Stieg Larsson’s worldwide bestselling Millennium trilogy, I have to say this has been one of my favourite reading experiences. I haven’t read many trilogies (Harry Potter ended up at 7 books and the Brontës stuck to stand-alone books…) but I enjoyed the way that the circle closed, we had proper character development and plot resolution and mostly just a good fun read! There was a really entertaining mix of detective work, courtroom drama, complex relationships, entertaining subplots and computer hacking throughout.

“Hornet’s Nest” was right back up to the excitement of “Dragon Tattoo” – I have to admit, I am a fan of courtroom drama involving feisty women wiping the floor with idiots, but there was also some good scheming and conniving among both the goodies and the baddies which was fun to follow (or try to follow – I got mixed up with all the surnames ending in –sson). “Played with Fire” is definitely required reading for “Hornet’s Nest” as the action picks up right where it left off at the end of Book Two (dealing with the aftermath of a shoot-out at the Goteberg Corral) so the adrenaline is racing from page 3. They fixed the translation issues in Book 3 too – I didn’t pick up on anything (although I did read the whole book while enormously jetlagged, so…).

So in “Hornet’s Nest” (without giving anything away), Lisbeth somehow survives being shot, Blomkvist puts together the defence against the murder charges made against her, the Swedish secret police are being very bad indeed and are busy corrupting the “everyday” police and lots of bad guys die. Also there’s a massive giant who can’t feel pain, and Erika gets a crazy stalker after she moves jobs.

I think I need a break from Swedish surnames for a while though.

Other bloggers’ thoughts: Literate Housewife, New York Times Sunday Book Review, The Millions

Current Affairs, Thriller

The Girl Who Played with Fire – Stieg Larsson – 7/10

The second tome in Stieg Larsson’s worldwide bestselling Millennium trilogy was not as exciting as the first – I suspect this is because I already knew the characters and their foibles (their many foibles), and also because, having now read the first page of book 3, I can tell that this second instalment is actually the first part of a long second story, which is split over books 2 and 3.

Anyway. This time we delve much deeper into the characters’ personal worlds, with the murder victims being colleagues and friends of our protagonists, and an enormous quantity of back-story for Lisbeth. All of it is still skilfully told, without the exposition feeling clunky or out-of-place. There was also substantial character development (especially for Lisbeth, given all the back-story), which I was really pleased by because so often in series all the character development is done in the first book and after that the protagonist is like one of those paper clothes dolls – just apply a new set of crime mystery.

But all in all I was a little disappointed with this one – it was much slower in the setting up of the mystery. I thought there was a bit too much focus on relationships (casual or otherwise) – an increase for the worse from the first book. I was also underwhelmed by the translation this time – there were a few idioms (including “as tall as a hand’s breath”) which appear to have been transliterated from the Swedish – they applied a sudden jerk to the pace of the book.

Still a good read, but nowhere near as good as “Dragon Tattoo”.

EDIT after reading Book 3 – Book 2 might not be as exciting as 1, but it’s definitely required reading for Book 3.

Reviews from other blogs: The Millions

Current Affairs, Thriller

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson – 9/10

Wow. Seriously. 

I’ve been reading the hype about this one for a few months (well, since I hit on the new method of procrastination that is reading book blogs), and the plot, the characters and some of the writing is really up to the hype.

I say some of the writing because it has been translated from the Swedish and still bears the traces of having been written in another language. On the whole, it has been excellently translated, and it may only be because I dabble in translating myself that I picked it up. However, I think that this is more than made up for by the charm of the Swedish setting. The translator has wisely decided not to meddle with the Swedish street names and newspapers, with the result that the setting is very robustly documented.

But on to a more positive note. The characters are very well-developed, if a little implausible; I have less trouble believing in an abused, pierced, tattooed, anorexic hacker (particularly having just recently watched Hackers) than I do a forty-something successful investigative journalist who makes progress with a missing person case from the 1960s and seems to bed every woman he meets. Each to their own, I suppose. However, the descriptions are intriguing and internally consistent. Larsson doesn’t make the mistake of trying to have too many main characters, but gives us everything we need to know, and just a bit extra for interest, about each of the players.

The plot was the real strength of this book. I do like a good crime novel (see my addiction to anything by David Baldacci, Sue Grafton or Sara Paretsky) and this one had some astonishingly good twists, revelations, dead-ends and tantalising clues dropped in along the way. The ending really surprised me (twice) and, to my delight, the first “ending” came about two-thirds into the book, so there was still plenty of time to rejoice in the cleverness of the discovery; I hate books that end abruptly. What I will say is that it is violent. I thought I didn’t have much of a problem with violence in books (again, see Baldacci, whose adventures inevitably end in a shoot-out), but this surprised me. I don’t think it detracts from the book – this is more of a warning. I won’t be going to see the film.

Will I read the other two in the Millennium Trilogy? Probably. I’m not about to run out into the pouring rain to buy them, but if I happen across them at a bookstall I’ll pick them up.

Reviews from other bloggers: Random Jottings, The Millions, a spoof by Nora Ephron