Review: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest cover

Millennium III

Asocial computer hacker Lisbeth Salander is rushed to hospital after journalist Mikael Blomkvist discovered her pursuant to her botched attempt to murder her psychopath father Alexander Zalachenko. Her brother (as of yet the connection to him is unknown to the police) Ronald Niedermann is on the run. Blomkvist has managed to get the story out there that Salander is innocent and has suffered dreadful injustices at the hands of the government, and she is cleared of suspicion of the three murders she has been hunted for. Salander fights for her life, and slowly but surely comes to be on good terms with the doctor that saved her life, Dr Anders Jonasson.

Surviving her ordeal, Salander is livid to learn that her father is alive and well as well as two doors down from her. She is building up her strength to finish the job, no matter what the cost. She is also most annoyed with Blomkvist for forcing his attorney sister, Annika Giannini, on her to represent her in the upcoming trial. One day the pleasure of murdering her father is robbed from her when an elderly gentleman enters their ward and executes Zalachenko. Soon after, the report that had Salander institutionalised when she was twelve is stolen from both Blomkvist and his sister. He is quick, and realizes that a cover-up is underway, and that Millennium might be in the crosshairs. The magazine is already suffering due to Erika Berger leaving to helm a huge local newspaper, but Erika is dealing with issues of her own at her new job, including being stalked by someone unknown.

Gripped in the fervour of a new case, Blomkvist sets out to help Salander in any way he can. He ensures that she has access to a handheld computer as well as an internet connection so that she can prepare her side of the story in time for her trial. Blomkvist brings previous investigators together when it becomes evident that the Salander case is being divided up. He also speaks to a mutual friends of Salander, Dragan Armansky and Holger Palmgren, and together they set up what Blomkvist coins the Knights of the Idiotic Table, and they are all intent on helping Salander. She is shocked. Suddenly she has many acquaintances that are prepared to help her, and she will be in debt of many of them. Blomkvist is fervently writing his book on Salander as well as preparing the magazine for when her trial comes together.

Will Salander be able to make her case in court and finally be heard? Where is Niedermann, and will the new police manhunt eventually track him down? Will Blomkvist be able to expose the Section in time for Salander’s trial? Will Erika Berger be able to work out who is threatening her and trying to run her out of her new job with absolutely no grace?

GRADE 8I was very interested to see how Blomkvist was going to work out exactly how to hold somebody accountable for the injustices that Salander suffered, and his quest was very interesting to follow. The assassination of Zalachenko was very sudden, and left me wondering for a section how the story was going to pick up, but never fear. It progressed just fine. The Section was a formidable force, and seemed untouchable. Berger not being with Millennium anymore was a bitter pill to swallow, and her side-story with the stalker was very interesting. It was great to read more about Salander’s relationships with other people, and see how she got along with them when they were not trying to do her in. The investigation into the Section was pretty in depth, and nothing just happened, or too quickly, or too easily. Figuerola doesn’t strike me as the best match for Blomkvist, though, but I suppose we will see where this goes. Salander working tirelessly in the hospital to ready her defence for the upcoming trial as well as still helping other people out was pretty cool, too. A wonderful tale of misinformation, so smoothly laid out you cannot help but appreciate the style. Another solid entry from Stieg Larsson, and it is an absolute pity that it was his last. There would have been a whole lot of further novels to relish. Such a shame, such a shame.

SPOILER: I absolutely loved the whole court drama with Salander. Giannini was great as her attorney, and tearing Teleborian to shreds was fantastic to behold, he was a monster that needed to be put straight. The progression of the case overall was good, but that was truly a glorious moment for me as a reader.

Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire – Stieg Larsson

the girl who played with fire cover

Millennium II

Lisbeth Salander is hopping the globe on her own little mission after embezzling millions of kronor from Hans-Erik Wennerström a year ago. After cutting Millennium journalist Mikael Blomkvist off completely when she felt she may be in love with him, she is putting her life together. Spending millions on a massive apartment, Lisbeth continues to live her life. She moves her friend and sexual partner Miriam “Mimmi” Wu into her old apartment. Lisbeth is intent on ensuring that her privacy is the top of all food chains. Upon her return to Sweden after a year abroad, she realizes that her sadistic guardian, Nils Bjurman, may be up to something. What she does not realize, however, is that it is going to cause a major stir like never seen before. Naturally, Lisbeth begins checking up on him, and the more she looks into the matter, the more suspicious she becomes. An attack outside her old apartment by a massive giant and a potbellied biker do nothing to assuage the situation.

Journalist Dag Svensson approaches Millennium in hopes that they will publish his book in which he is intent on exposing a vicious sex trade in Sweden. He has sources, he has proof and he has the passion with which to do it. His girlfriend, Mia Johansson, is about to take her doctorate and her thesis deals with the underage and incredibly young prostitutes being brought into the country and brutalized. Together the couple plans to expose some very powerful people, and bring a terrible issue to the fore. With her skills as a hacker, Lisbeth accesses Svensson’s work and starts to look into his story herself. Blomkvist and his magazine partners Erika Berger and Christer Malm are on board for a themed issue and a book sale. One night, while at a dinner party at his sister, Svensson telephones Blomkvist to let him know that he is checking out a new lead, and that he will deliver some materials to Blomkvist by courier. Blomkvist offers to pick it up on the way home, and when he arrives it is to a scene of carnage. His friends have been shot to death, though by who and for what purpose are as of yet unknown.

Criminal Inspector Jan Bublanski is put on the case, and soon they have a suspect – prints in the apartment and on the weapon found at the scene match those of Lisbeth Salander. As though this was not damning enough, the gun used belonged to Nils Bjurman, who has also been murdered. Soon a nationwide manhunt ensues, and the more that the press and the police dig into Lisbeth’s past, the more frenzy is whipped up, and the less the authorities understand. What her file and professionals say about her and what her friends and acquaintances are saying about her are two completely different things. The investigative team is divided. Time passes and Lisbeth is still eluding capture, leading some to think along other lines than her being guilty of a triple murder, while others steadfastly believe she is guilty. Lisbeth has a strong grouping of people intent on proving her innocence that she did not expect to have backing her. Blomkvist wishes to help and is using Svensson’s materials to dig deeper into an alternative theory, Dragan Armansky, her ex-boss and head of Milton Security, has opened his own private investigation into the matter and is assisted by her retired guardian, Holger Palmgren.

The more all of them dig, the more they discover. A mysterious entity named Zala features in Svensson’s work, and it was the last lead that he was chasing down. Mikael snatches up the mantle, and continues the questioning search. Lisbeth’s past is whipping out of the darkness to catch up with her, and soon. Will they be able to help her? Will the digging drag out some unwanted and hidden secrets, secrets of which the explanation may cost too much?

GRADE 8.5The story was slick, fast, detailed and easy to read. I think Stieg Larsson truly was a phenomenally talented writer, and executed his story and characters so well. Sexual preferences and what not were highlighted quite a lot in this book, but upon reflection it is not that he is aiming to shock, it is just a very core and integral part of the story that needs to be carried – preferences, right, wrong, brutality, choices, etc. Lisbeth Salander is truly one complex character, and a wonderful one at that. The story was interesting, and the genetic deficit that the giant suffers from, too. The air of mystery was palpable in this one, and the media frenzy that is experienced in the book manages to spread with just the headlines. Not in that “oh my soul she really is a psychopath” kind of way, just that total thing about something can be phrased in such a way it can become the most untoward of things. Mikael Blomkvist is ever the detective, and relentless in his mission to establish or absolve guilt, as well to uncover a truth that seems to be so hidden behind obscurity. The presentation and execution of this book is great. When it starts, the pace is very slow, though it is still pleasant to read. It just has no real feeling of truly going anywhere, and before you know it, everything just catches and takes you on one hell of a rollercoaster ride. Finding out more about Lisbeth’s past is not an easy journey. The book features a vast array of characters, but not once does it become overbearing or impossible to follow, which is a gift for a writer to achieve. Stieg Larsson wrote about battles he was waging with society, and it gives them a very credible feel. Another great read, definitely worth it.

Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Millennium I

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo officially marks the halfway point in my book challenge.

Publisher and journalist Mikael Blomkvist loses a very public libel case in court against billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. Feeling deserted and angry, he is approached by Advokat Dirch Frode on behalf of another incredibly wealthy industrialist, Henrik Vanger, who is the retired CEO of the Vanger Corporation. Henrik employed Milton Security to run a thorough background check on Blomkvist, and he was vetted by the best of the best – he was checked out by Lisbeth Salander, an asocial, super-skinny, tough as nails girl, though he is unaware. Meeting Henrik in Hedestad, Henrik tells Blomkvist the tale of his niece that went missing in 1966, and that he is convinced she has been murdered and wants the answers to the mystery seeing as he is truly on the way out. He asks Blomkvist to write the family tale, though his true task is to uncover the truth.

Blomkvist realises that Henrik’s nice, Harriet, has been the old man’s obsession for decades, but takes the ludicrous offer that is put on the table of a few million kronor for services rendered when Henrik dangles the promise of information that will nail Wennerström. Blomkvist takes the job, though his long-time lover and partner at their magazine Erika Berger is not happy about the development. Meanwhile, Salander is getting a raw deal when her legal guardian, Holger Palmgren, ends up hospitalized, and his duties are taken over by Advokat Nils Bjurmen. The man now has control of her finances and her life, so to speak, and is vicious, cruel and nasty, and Salander misjudges the extent of his sadism. She is intent on teaching the man a lesson as well as regaining control of her own life and finances again.

Blomkvist is hard at work on the mystery of Harriet as well as the Vanger chronicle, and later when he makes a breakthrough on the ancient case that nobody expected to happen, he needs a research assistant. Naturally, Frode suggests Salander and the two of them become remarkably close, as close as anything Salander would ever allow. Harriet was researching something when she went missing, and it seems she was onto hunting down a violent psychopath that was brutally raping and murdering women. Soon, though, pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place in rapid succession, and the two race against the clock to solve a mystery that is decades old, though undertones seem to have seeped into the present, and many times after Harriet’s death.

Blomkvist learns many things about Salander, and keeps the fact that she is a brilliant computer hacker to himself. A semblance of trust seems to develop between the two, seeing as he knows more about her than Salander has ever let anyone in on. Will Blomkvist and Salander solve the mysteries surrounding the brutalized women over decades? Will they find out what truly happened to Harriet Vanger? Will Blomkvist get what he needs from Henrik to finally take Wennerström down once and for all, without burning sources or facing another court case?

GRADE 8The book was most certainly captivating, and demanded your attention at any and all possible moments. It was intense, it was interesting and it was, most importantly, exceptionally intelligent. It is very seldom that you find a mystery novel that demands to be read and insists on being sorted into a wholly new category from any other type. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo simply claims that, and so it is granted. When I was first given the books to read, I will admit that the titles put me off, and matters were not helped when I saw that they were translated from Swedish (translated books never seem to work as well as they do in their intended and original language), but this one begged for more. The prose flowed beautifully and it was incredibly well written – it was gritty, it was fast, it was raw. I can only imagine how stunning it must have been in its original tongue. Stieg Larsson is a writer to be respected, and it is heartbreaking that he is not around to present to us more in the series, but I will be eternally grateful that we got some insight as to what he could do. Amazing book, great debut novel, and high up on my “to read list” if you have not experienced these books.

A few excellent authors

Authors… you get excellent ones, and you get disappointing ones, and you get mediocre ones. Here are some authors that I enjoyed reading, and will not turn down the opportunity to read.

Karin Slaughter… wow. That is all I can say. And so few people here where I am actually knows who she is, so I don’t really have anyone to discuss the books with. I accidentally found Blindsighted in the back of a closet, gearing up to be chucked out. The book was old and tatty, but its sequel, Kisscut, was also there, and I had nothing else to read. It was crime thriller fiction something or other, that is all I recall thinking when I picked it up and read that she was compared to Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell, both who write decently, although not too consistently, for my taste.

So I bagged them, saving them from certainly being thrown out with the dusty stacks of newspapers piled everywhere. The books could not go, they are not in the same category as the shabby newspapers were. I had no other books to occupy me, and I started with Karin Slaughter’s debut novel. I have one word for her writing style: respect. By the end of the Grant County series I had forgotten they were fictitious characters, and lived on a steady diet of chocolate when I had finished with Skin Privilege.

I have been inexorably drawn to her work since Blindsighted, experienced a spectrum f emotions throughout Kisscut, and that was only the beginning for me. After that there was the Atlanta series, and the two merged together for the Georgia series. I was skeptical about how she would bring two totally different story lines together, yet she does so effortlessly. She is one of my top favourite writers, hands down.

Then there is Stephen King. I will not hear a bad word about him! I know that there are so many that dislike his movies (even though it is apparently forgotten that the Green Mile and the Shawshank Redemption are both King creations), and I know that he writes with excruciating detail, and that some might find this to be a bit of a cliché, but Stephen King is a master. I love him!

I cannot remember precisely what my first taste was, but I think it was either Dreamcatcher or Carrie. Either way, I was in love with how this man brought horror and life to the pages of his book. I have read so many of his works and they are rich in detail, description, action, thoughts, everything. You can follow what is happening, the feelings and everything is brought into stark light within the covers of his stories. When you pick up a book by Stephen King, even if the cover was missing, you would know it to be his work!

I started reading his books when I was about eleven years old. I had already whipped through everything in the children’s section and dominated the young adult’s section. The library was nice enough to allow me a card and permission into the adult section. I was stunned. There were gigantic tomes of books with their faraway stories waiting to unfold. I had to know more, and there were horrors, bona fide, true horror books, not the childish ones I had become accustomed to. Naturally, the King shelves dominated the horror section, the closest secondary rival by for space being Dean Koontz. I have started building on my Stephen King collection, but I have a suspicion that it will take a long time to get where I want it to, seeing as it is such a vast compilation.

I spoke of Stieg Larsson in a previous blog that I wrote, and explained my deep seated infatuation with the man and his genius. I maintain that everyone should read his Millennium Trilogy. The story unfurls effortlessly, it keeps you hooked, and nothing can waver your anticipation. You experience the journey as though a part of it. The writing style is smooth and neat, and very well structured. I have been looking for a nice box set, and have as of yet not found anything in my region, which is rather daunting, as I believe these books belong on anyone’s shelf, and I would love to have it as a collected works.

J.K. Rowling is another classic to this list. I wrote a blog on Harry Potter, here, too. But about the author, and how I stumbled upon her books? Wow. Really. I think it one of the best things that I had ever had the fortune of coming across (not that it would have been easy to miss a few years later when it got super popular). I was reading them pretty much since release. My aunt loaned me The Philosopher’s Stone when she heard that I couldn’t get to the library until the weekend. I read the book 4 times before I returned it to her. I was in love. There was this beautiful world, with great people, with crazy adventures, and real lessons. It was amazing.

Obviously, as a child, you read it and you know it is fiction. That did not prevent me from waiting for my very own letter from Hogwarts for years. Alas, it never came, and I was sorely disappointed. I think the Potter series was also great because it gave children something to believe in, to hope for. He had it tough, and he survived it. Things are not always what they seem, and anything can be overcome, and evil does not triumph against those who will fight for the greater good.

I truly enjoy Anne Rice. I loved her Vampire Chronicles, and painstakingly and extremely expensively built that entire collection up from scratch. I love her writing style, but her work is very deep, dark and thought evoking, not light reading to just pass time. The way the characters are introduced and their development is amazing, but I really wish she would have focused a bit more on Armand. He was my favourite character of anyone she had ever written about. He was the strangest one, the most demented, dark and tortured soul ever.

I obviously watched the movies, (Interview With A Vampire and Queen Of The Damned)  but they really are nothing compared to the books. Sad, because if done right the movies could bear so much potential. The first book that I ever read from Anne Rice was The Vampire Armand. I was totally drawn in and besotted with his character. He was perfect… perfectly broken, that is. She really is the Queen of dark, romantic and gothic writing. One thing that she nailed perfectly is realism for vampires, not this twinkly rubbish that we have been submitted to recently. I hope to start on the Lives of the Mayfair Witches soon, as they were rather intriguing to me when they come up in the later novels in the Vampire Chronicles.

This calls for the Distance Book Club again! I would love any author/book suggestions, so throw them along!

Who are some of your favourite authors, and what drew you to them?

Millennium Trilogy

This is one of the true beauties of the modern age. Stieg Larsson blew my mind to shreds with this series, and I am so sad that we will never really know how it ends. The literary genius has passed, but not before we got three of some of the greatest novels I have ever read.

When I first saw the rage hitting the shelves, I will admit, I did judge a book by its cover. I was not impressed with the designs (below) and the titles did not ring brilliance to me. I was convinced they were some cheap cock and bull romance novels, and gave it a skip. But then my friend’s grandmother pointed out that I would be a fool to miss out on something so amazing if I did not take the books from her. Oh well, what could I lose?

I borrowed the book from her exclusively to use as a break between studying for the weekend I was working at the guest house. I don’t really watch television, so when I take a break, it is to fictitious pages totally non-related to the studies. I gradually came to that part in the road where I desperately needed a break. Grudgingly I brought out The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and opened to the initial pages in the book. I read that it was penned by a Swede (definitely not the issue), and that the book was translated. This for me is a really big no-no. Not only did the books not look appealing, it was a translated works. I prefer to read in native English, as meaning and description often gets misconstrued and lost when one tries to translate.

This time, I was wrong on so many fronts. I sat down, and read the book that day, finished it, every glorious morsel that was presented to me. I totally forgot about my studies (good thing I had awhile to go before the paper, and no more books to distract me the following day!). I rushed to get hold of the two remaining parts to what I thought was a trilogy (and now, sadly, will only ever be such). I read the The Girl Who Played With Fire like a demon, lapping up the stunning prose, the intensity of the characters and the story, the twists that came, the danger that was almost tangible. This man wrote with a flair I had not encountered in an exceptionally long time. He wrote with passion. I was impressed. I then found that Stieg Larsson had passed a few years before, and I was shocked. How could such a great author lie dormant and then pass, before his peak? His work only caught on overseas when it was translated, obviously, and a lifetime to spread in my country (dammit, we really are so behind). But I do not regret finding the Millennium Trilogy, it was one of the more ingenious works I have encountered in a long time.

Upon my discovery of such a great loss, I read the final installment, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest, painfully slowly. I wanted to savour it, stretch it out for as long as was humanly possible. That lasted me a week. I caved, eventually, and just had to know what was coming.

If you have not indulged in these novels, I suggest you do. I believe that everyone should experience this story at least once in their lives, whether you are into this genre or not.

What were your thoughts on the Millennium Trilogy?