Book review: Go ahead and kick the hornet’s nest

Adrienne Savoldi

Some of us have tattoos, and some of us play with fire, but there are not many of us who would dare kick a hornet’s nest.

Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” tells the story of a young woman, Lisbeth Salander, star of Larsson’s previous two novels “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played With Fire.” Salander is a hacker with a photographic memory as well as a troubled past. She is wanted all throughout Sweden for numerous crimes.

In “Hornet’s Nest,” Salander is hospitalized after being shot three times and then buried alive. She has just confronted a group of men including her father and brother, both of whom she detests on legitimate grounds. As Salander recovers from her wounds, she risks going to prison or into a psychiatric ward, just like when she was a child.

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his sister Annika, whom he appoints as Salander’s lawyer, now face the challenge of proving Salander’s innocence for a multitude of crimes and prove that she is mentally competent. Salander, however, is usually self-dependent and is not particularly cooperative, refusing to reveal her deepest secrets to Annika that could help her case in court.

However, Blomkvist won’t let her shut him out as he fights for her release, even smuggling her computer into her hospital room so she can gain access to what happens in the outside world.

“Hornet’s Nest” keeps the reader on his or her toes while following Salander’s story. Salander is one of the most enjoyable characters, despite her “screw the world” attitude. Salander does not trust “crazy doctors” and never speaks to them or police officers. The reader has come to know Salander so well throughout the novel that at her trial her dress and behavior in what is normally such a formal and strict setting is amusing.

Larsson, who died after writing Salander’s stories, writes with such force and makes his characters real to his readers. Also helpful are the footnotes of some Swedish references in the back of the book. Also, there are a number of references to women as warriors, counteracting violence against women and women in high power positions. Annika’s official title is a women’s rights lawyer. However, there is no over-the-top feminism. It’s the perfect blend.

However, the multiple plotlines become complicated to follow, even tangled. There’s Blomkvist and Erika Berger, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Millennium which Blomkvist also works for; Blomkvist and a sexy police officer; Erika’s problems after she leaves Millennium to become editor-in-chief of a national newspaper; Salander; and the gang of men who are trying to keep the story about Salander’s father hush-hush.

Some of the characters names also confused me after a while because some sounded so similar but the more they were repeated the more they stuck in my brain. The hardest names to remember are primarily the ones in the Section, the gang in which Salander’s father is part of.

Try to have some time on your hands when reading this book because it is long. But if you have never read a book in your life, you will not regret reading this one.

Contact Adrienne Savoldi at [email protected].