Posted by: Corri van de Stege | October 6, 2009

The girl who kicked the hornets’ nest

Already the fourth day in…. on Cyprus.

This is something we just are not used to in England: hot days, sharp sunshine in October and yes, I totally miscalculated the fierceness of the sun this time of the year.  I’d be wrapping up in cardigans, long trousers, even socks, in England, but here it’s swimming pool, beach and a burnt skin.  My own fault for thinking it would not affect me as much, after having been exposed for a full summer to the English sunshine.  It does not work that way: I am red in the face, literally.

 The girl who kicked the hornets's nest

Never mind, I have not had time to think about any of this as I have been completely and utterly taken up by Stieg Larsson’s third novel in the series: The girl who kicked the hornets’ nest.  I was not going to  buy it until it comes out in a paperback of manageable weight but when I passed by a whole heap of them in the airport I just had to have  a copy.  Never mind that I had four other paperbacks in my suitcase.  I started reading on the plane, woke up the next morning, continued on the beach, at the side of the swimming pool and continued the next day, same routine.  Yes, I did some vigorous swimming in between, even a session in the gym and had lots of good food and nice wine to go with it.  But nothing was going to keep me away from this book for long. 

It is definitely as good as the previous two, and the English translation is superb, again.  Reg Keeland is doing a really superb job there.  

Don’t read it yet if you haven’t read the other two (remember: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the Girl who Played with Fire…  reviewed here) you really want to enjoy them all.   I think you can read this one separately, enough is being explained as you go along, however, it seems a shame and I don’t think you would get as good a feeling for who Salander is, what the various relationships are about and how they came to be this way.  Moreover, you will deny yourself the sheer pleasure of reading the books one after the other.

The plot unravels and there is plenty of explanation of the workings of the Swedish secret service, the bungling and the conspiracies, and it all seems quite believable: the obsession with power and with keeping things as they are, being in full control, such that unforgivable trespasses into human rights are made.  This third and final volume in the trilogy is as intelligent and as well written as the previous two, and I think the reason for being so much more than a ‘political thriller’ or a ‘political crime fiction’ novel is that there is a sharpness and control of language that makes you want to read every sentence and every paragraph.  For me, Niels Larsson is definitely on a par with Le Carre,  set in Sweden and in the world as it is today. 

In addition, these are books that portray women as genuinely equal to men, in their jobs and in their social lives.   There is presumption of real equality and pornography, women trafficking, wife beating and other ills in society are exposed for what they are, without sensationalism but with concern and real condemnation.    However, don’t think that this is about the ills of society, first and foremost it’s a marvellous story about a girl who is a computer hacker, and who is accused of being a whore, a Satanist, mentally ill and everything else under the sun, partly because she is considered ‘strange’ and partly because of who her father is,  and who nevertheless manages to come up swimming.

And now?  Well, I’ve got a few more days to go, here in Cyprus, and so I will start tackling these other books that I have in my suitcase.  Not without a certain regret , however – I just wish I had some  more of the Stieg Larsson books to come!



  1. I’ve been wondering about Stieg L and his novels. Looks like I need to make a plan to read the first one and see if I like him. Enjoy the rest of your holiday! Sounds lovely.

  2. wrote this one on my list. I did buy the first one, based on your recommendation. And then holding it, taking it home, brand new from the bookstore, I suddenly felt like, oh darn it, it should be a gift! For my hubs. He loves a good read. And, if I gave it to him, at Xmas for example, then I could read it later.

    The real question is, can I wait that long to read it?
    I didn’t realize a third one was out already and I do love a good triology or series or set of books.

  3. Pete – you wil like it I’m sure – the psychoogist is one of the baddies, but that is the person, not the profession! And yes, I’m having a great time. Almost up, unfortunately.

    Oh: great to see you on my holidays… Perhaps you can have a sneak read before actually giving it…?? you know, late at night, early morning, when he’s away. But no, it won’t work because once you’re hooked you cannot possibly leave alone. Dilemmas.

  4. The sun sounds wonderful…soak it up for the long English winter ahead!

    I’ve not read any of these books, but have seen and heard good things about them. Better add them to the list (for the long midwestern winter ahead!)

  5. Becca: the memory of sun and warmth is fading fast…
    Yes, I wish I still had Larsson to go, enjoy!

  6. Ooooooo – I am so pleased to find you enjoyed this series – I think it is fabulous!! I enjoyed the first two so much, I ordered the third from and paid the awful shipping charges. It isn’t out in the US until next March, and I couldn’t bear to wait! I am saving it for a long weekend – Thanksgiving coming up – because I know I won’t be able to put it down. Isn’t it terribly sad there will be no more?

  7. qugrainne: I still go around wishing there would be more. I’m actually sorry I finished this trilogy so quickly, but like you I could not bear to wait for paperback to come out and had to have a copy! I agree, it is really really sad there won’t be any more although I gather there are outlines on a computer… who knows, someone might just be able to make something out of this.

  8. Hi Seachanges
    I was wondering if you’d get around to the third Steig L. and interesting (and informative) to read your review of it.
    I’ve been over in the US (from Australia) for 6 weeks – wish I’d had a bigger suitcase to carry back more titles from unknown (to me) American writers.
    Best bookshop ever? the famous Powell’s Bookshop in Portland. I could’ve stayed in there a week.
    Best historical library – the Huntington Estate Library and Art Gallery in Pasadena, LA. Superb!
    Did a bit of blogging too from over there too.

    • Yes, books are just too heavy to carry around in bulk in suitcases, big problem that – I struggle every time I go on holiday somewhere! The Stieg L was a hardback bought in the airport but it was worth it! You sound as if we all need to move to the States if only for the book shops and libraries 🙂 Glad you had such a great time and you’re around again.

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