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Did I mention the coffee?

  • Aug 17, 2010
One of the biggest mysteries in Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy (perhaps the only one which won't be revealed by the end of this doorstopper of a concluding part) is just what it is about the series that made it such a runaway success in the first place.

There is, of course, the "unpublished manuscript of dead author" angle - call it the John Kennedy Toole factor - which guarantees no following swarm of copycats. All the same, the first 200 pages of the opening novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (a tattoo which, by the way, scarcely rates a mention in nearly 2000 following pages of text) is so leaden, slow and complicated that it is remarkable that this Zeppelin of a series ever gets off the ground.

To be sure, it is difficult to see how else Larsson could have introduced such a complex and labyrinthine scenario. If, like I did, you thought Sweden was a well meaning, well-adjusted, fresh, healthy, happy and therefore fundamentally dull place (I can say this: I'm from New Zealand), then career crime journalist Larsson has a shock for you: Lisbeth Salander's Sweden is a dark, gothic, misogynistic, corrupt and morally bankrupt den of murder, rape and industrial espionage. And they drink lots of coffee. Yet it *still* comes across as a place you'd quite like to visit.

And that, I think, is it. No-one's ever written a thriller about Sweden before. Almost no-one has even been there (but we've all heard stories of racey saunas, abundant shagging, lightless days, darkless nights and £20 pints of beer) and Larsson's major gift is populating and characterising this foreign country, while all the time writing in a way that - even in translation - is undeniably Swedish.

That is to say, a little meandering, a bit right-on in its political agenda and quaintly parochial in the incidental details it records of the various goings on.

Some of these details - such as a painstaking attention to street-level detail in the many characters' many excursions - and amusingly unpronounceable names they are, too - both lend the air of authenticity to proceedings and facilitate the business prospects of would-be tour guides.

Others just add a sense of otherworldliness. The most notable is Larsson's utter fixation with coffee. The entire ambition and reach of the plot can be charted round the caffeine consumption of his characters. On almost every page (of 2000 odd) coffee is brewed, poured or consumed: it is drunk for breakfast, at lunch and at dinner. At morning and afternoon tea. Before love-making and afterward. In espresso, cappuccino, latte, filter and by drip. In thermos and in cafetière. It is ordered, requested and declined. Characters argue about whose turn it is to pour. They refill their flasks of coffee, they wash out their thermoses after drinking coffee. They leave them in the sink or on the sideboard. There is an extraordinary level of detail about coffee, to the point where, if it weren't presented so poker-faced, you'd surmise it was some sort of running joke. It's very Swedish, in any case.

Larsson's plotting is undeniably impressive and becomes more ambitious as the series develops, to the point where, in the last instalment, the scope of the conspiracy is almost Ellroyesque: by the end there are at least four different factions spying on each other for various purposes and thirty or more meaningful characters, most with long, complicated and strikingly similar names - to hold in contemplation.

While Larsson's prose is nothing like as economical or stylish as James Ellroy's - way too much coffee for that - The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest gallops along in a way that few 750 page books I can think of do, and therefore this, and the Millennium series in general, come as a well recommended read which justifies the runaway publishing phenomenon that so puzzled me at the outset of this review.

I suppose I've answered my own question, therefore.

Olly Buxton

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More The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet... reviews
review by . April 13, 2012
Translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland      Kicking a hornet's nest is not a recommended approach to dealing with life's problems, but Lisbeth Salandar is no ordinary girl with no ordinary problems, and her only chance to survive is to stick her head right into the middle of the nest this time.        If you read Fire, you know she was barely surviving a murder attempt by her erstwhile father.   This time around she has to survive …
review by . August 02, 2010
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Having greatly enjoyed the first two thirds of this series, I was eagerly looking forward to the last, particularly because the ending of The Girl Who Played with Fire was such a cliff hanger. Hornet's Nest opens where Fire left off, at the crime scene where Blomvist finds Salander in such trouble. Those troubles persist, big time, throughout this final installment, and it is up to Blomvist to unravel a conspiracy of mind-boggling proportions.      Regrettably, the plot …
review by . June 08, 2010
When we last saw Lisbeth Salander, she was shot in the head and rescued from sure death by Mikael Blomkvist.  As this book opens, Salander is saved through emergency surgery to convalesce under armed guard while the authorities decide what to do with her.  To top it off, her estranged father, Zalechanko, has somehow survived too and is in the very hospital Salander is in only a few doors away.      The inner circle within the Swedish security police (Sapo) realize that …
review by . October 16, 2010
To finish up Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, I recently read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I liked The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo immensely, but The Girl Who Played With Fire was a bit of a letdown. It didn't have the same pace and intricacies, and the ending was a bit too far-fetched for me. Hornet's Nest picks up right where Fire leaves off, with Lizbeth in the hospital and the doctors trying to save her life after the gunshot wound to the head. Even though it's …
review by . August 22, 2010
41/2 Stars.      The spellbinding conclusion to Steig Larsson's "Millinnium" trilogy picks up after the action in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Lisbeth Salander is taken to the hospital after being shot three times. She's in critical condition with the bullet that entered her brain.      Her friend, journalist, Mikael Blomkvist found her and notified the authorities. He also told the police that he had tied killer Ronald Niedermann …
review by . November 08, 2010
This book is the final chapter in Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy. It is the culmination of the many interconnected incidents and affairs that have been explored by a duo of very unlikely protagonists - Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and cofounder of the monthly magazine Millennium, and a brilliant yet very troubled young woman named Lisbeth Salander. "The Girl Who Kicked Hornets Nest" is a true sequel to the previous book in the series, "The Girl Who Played with …
Quick Tip by . March 07, 2011
Great full circle book. Stieg Larsson is a great writer know makes his characters come to life.
review by . July 25, 2010
All three books are excellent, but this is the best of all!
This is the third and final volume of the Larsson trilogy, which began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because the author died in 2004. The first volume was excellent, the second was better, and the third was best of all. The books stand head and shoulders above all other crime thrillers during the past decade or more. They are extremely well-written, expertly translated, have unforgettable characters, great uninterrupted drama and suspense, and in Lisbeth Salander one of the most unique …
review by . June 17, 2010
   The setting of The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is quite claustrophobic, taking place in offices, jails, hospital rooms.  This device takes the reader more into the intricacies of Swedish organizations, as well as the minds and emotions of the characters than the first two books of the trilogy.. The first half of the book drags as Salander is recovering in the hospital and the reader is taken through the intricacies of 'The Section', a secret group within Sapo …
review by . October 30, 2010
This book is the final chapter in Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy. It is the culmination of the many interconnected incidents and affairs that have been explored by a duo of very unlikely protagonists - Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and cofounder of the monthly magazine Millennium, and a brilliant yet very troubled young woman named Lisbeth Salander. "The Girl Who Kicked Hornets Nest" is a true sequel to the previous book in the series, "The Girl Who Played with Fire" as the action and the …
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Olly Buxton ()
Member Since: Sep 26, 2009
Last Login: Dec 22, 2010 09:37 PM UTC
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As the finale to Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy,The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nestis not content to merely match the adrenaline-charged pace that made international bestsellers out ofThe Girl with the Dragon TattooandThe Girl Who Played with Fire. Instead, it roars with an explosive storyline that blows the doors off the series and announces that the very best has been saved for last. A familiar evil lies in wait for Lisbeth Salander, but this time, she must do more than confront the miscreants of her past; she must destroy them. Much to her chagrin, survival requires her to place a great deal of faith in journalist Mikael Blomkvist and trust his judgment when the stakes are highest. To reveal more of the plot would be criminal, as Larsson's mastery of the unexpected is why millions have fallen hard for his work. But rest assured that the odds are again stacked, the challenges personal, and the action fraught with neck-snapping revelations in this snarling conclusion to a thrilling triad. This closing chapter to The Girl's pursuit of justice is guaranteed to leave readers both satisfied and saddened once the final page has been turned.--Dave Callanan
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ISBN-10: 030726999X
ISBN-13: 978-0307269997
Author: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (9780307269997)
Genre: Literature & Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Knopf
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