Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson (hardcover, $27.95)

All I have to say is why wasn't there a guard posted outside Salander's and Zalachenko's hospital rooms? Weren't they each accused of trying to murder the other. Why were they only two doors apart?

Actually, I guess that isn't all I have to say.

I understand the fascination with Stieg Larsson's series, because I have succumbed to the fascination myself. However – you knew there was going to be a "however," didn't you – there were times I was bored silly with the tedious side issues and setting up of the main storylines, even if in the end both the side issues and main storylines were interesting. Larsson also has trouble describing romantic relationships; it borders on the cartoonish. "I like you; do you like me?" might as well be the standard conversation between all the like-struck characters. Five hundred, sixty-three pages (not counting notes) later, this was both (almost) the best book and (almost) the worst book I've read this year.

These are the best parts: The stories are interesting; Lisbeth Salander, the "girl" in all the series titles, accomplishes Boadicean feats, and the courtroom scene at the end of the book built to a yahoo-inducing crescendo.

You've already listened to my rant about the worst parts.

You and all 990,000 of your closest friends are probably going to read this book, whether it's "your kind" of book or not. Sometimes a cultural phenomenon overtakes individual rights or reason, so it really doesn't matter what all the reviews say.

SPOILER ALERT (for the other two books)

I'm now going to talk about the plot of Hornet's Nest, so if you haven't read the other two yet (and what strong willpower you must have), stop and read no further.

At the end of the second book, The Girl Who Played with Fire, Salander, who clawed her way out of a grave, was left more dead than alive, and it was a pseudo-cliffhanger whether she would survive. Mikael "Kalle" Blomqvist is still the relentless investigator who is determined to save Salander when she is about to be charged with attempted murder. His meticulous unearthing of the underlying political issues that have trapped Salander since she was twelve years old was engrossing. The work of the police detectives who defied the directives to leave Salander's case alone was just as interesting. It's impossible not to cheer for the good guys while they battle their own systems to bring about justice for Salander. There are other heroic characters introduced or brought more into the light, including Salander's surgeon and Blomqvist's sister, who becomes Salander's defense attorney.

Dragon Tattoo also suffered from an excess of detail. One of the major mercies of the Swedish movie version was that the director instructed the scriptwriters to wrap up the first hundred pages in ten minutes. He should get the Unsung Hero Award. I can only hope that when the movie version of this book – as sure as the sun will rise – surfaces, that director will also show as much temperate judgment.

So much good. So much schmegegge.

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