Millennium, book three
The stunning third and final novel in Stieg Larsson’s internationally best-selling trilogy.
Lisbeth Salander – the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels – lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge – against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.
Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.
MY RATING: 5 STARS
Oh. My. God. This is one of those rare occasions when a strong series concludes with a brilliant installment, and one of those not-so-rare ones when I’m so floored by a book that I don’t know what to say. Considering I’ve been waiting years to finally read this, I’m so glad I found it as incredible as I did.
As always, nitpicks first. Again, I feel like things are lost in translation, and the background information about Swedish politics, media scandals, espionage and civil rights all feels like filler for the foreign audience. It’s useful, but it sticks out like a sore thumb in a pinkie factory.
Now for the good stuff. Picking up immediately where Fire left off, Hornet’s Nest was intense from the start and carried on to the end. There were necessary slow points, but for the most part it was unnerving and unrelenting. I binge-read about two thirds of the book over a single weekend, I just couldn’t leave it alone. There were multiple story lines, but each related to the other in a way that was significant to the plot and the finale. Mikael Blomkvist leads the ragtag group dedicated to exposing the conspirators responsible for violating Lisbeth Salander’s civil rights in the most outrageous way possible; Salander herself conducts her own particular kind of investigation from a guarded hospital room; the government agents determined to lock her up for good begin taking extreme counter measures; Erika Berger faces opposition at one of the biggest newspapers in Sweden.
Salander has carried me through this series for the most part, but when it mattered most, the rest of the cast won me over. I find that pretty interesting, since the landscape has expanded with each book and the cast has grown to include more characters. All of that is just a longer way of saying, I finally liked Blomkvist. It took three long, complex books to get it done, but it happened! And I’m so glad sister Annika finally got more page time, because I had always been interested in her and my curiosity was amply rewarded. Her work with Salander was rocky (surprise, surprise) but she was another strong female in a series built on one strong female in particular. And honestly, what more can I say about Salander that I haven’t already? She’s difficult and different, but she’s a fighter. Annika’s argument at trial says it all: “Let me tell you something. I admire Lisbeth Salander. She’s tougher than I am…she fought back with the only weapon she had available…” Nothing and no one can break her. She survived one injustice after another through sheer force of will, and despite her unusual temperament she earned the loyalty and respect of those who helped her take her life back. I still wouldn’t consider her a good role model, but I wouldn’t discount her merit, either.
This was such a clean, orderly finish to the series, with no loose ends to speak of. That’s a pretty difficult feat to accomplish in any series, let alone one of this complexity. For all the nitpicks I had with it, I feel comfortable saying I’ll revisit it in the future and would call it a “must-read” for suspense, crime drama and thriller readers. It gained momentum with every installment and grew more taut and intense, and Lisbeth Salander is definitely a character to remember. I for one am not likely to forget her anytime soon!