The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson published by Knopf (2010)

This is the third and final volume in the Stieg Larsson series tracing the adventures of the autistic anarchist Liz Salander.

Since The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was delivered to the publisher shortly before Larsson died, I wonder if he really considered it finished. The first two volumes, whatever their shortcomings, hold together as coherent wholes. This book does not.

Much of it focuses on the most unrealistic courtroom drama I have ever read. Lawyers appear to offer speculation as evidence and a professional liar breaks under what seems to be rather predicable questioning. Unless Sweden is the one Western country whose courts have no rules of evidence, the trial scenes are a half-baked mess.

I also wonder if it is common Swedish practice for a cop to sleep with a person sure to be a key witness to a capital crime prosecution.

Then there is the James Fenimore Cooper problem.

More than a century ago, Mark Twain wrote a memorable essay on The Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper. Cooper wrote The Last of the Mohicans and was a pioneer of the action novel. And he committed literary crimes endemic to that genre. Crimes which Larsson sloppily reproduces.

Way too many chance encounters here that move the plot along. Too many people who should have died survive their horrific wounds and carry on as though nothing had happened to them. And why does everyone who seemed like a bad guy at first glance turn out to, in fact, be a bad guy. And if I can tell who is wearing the black hats, why can’t anyone with a Swedish last name?

And poor dead Larsson isnt helped by his editor/translator.

Did Larsson really write that a particular day was “the first day of the rest of her life” or did the translator just copy it off a Hallmark “Welcome Home From Rehab” card?

If Larsson, describing women warriors, himself wrote that the female chieftan Boudicca “led one of the bloodiest English revolts against the Roman Forces of occupation”, didn’t his editor owe it to the dead author to change that to “British Revolts” since the Anglo-Saxons (the “English”) would not arrive in the British Isles until generations after Boudicca was in her Celtic grave.

Similarly, considering the millions of dollars the trilogy has earned, couldn’t the editor have bothered to re-read his or her own explanatory notes on Swedish references? For example, when the editor describes a particular politician mentioned in the text as “the leader of the liberal conservative Moderate Party” I’m not sure what possible political tendencies he could have left out.

With some reservations indicated in earlier reviews, I’ve enjoyed the series, but either the final volume should be re-edited and re-issued or future readers will continue to be distracted by a pervasive sloppiness.

Other Books Finished:

26. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

25. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

24. John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founder by Francis Bremer

23. Custerology by Michael Elliot

22. The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Littlebighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick

21. American Passage: The History of Ellis Island by Vincent Cannato

20. In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 by Mary Beth Norton

19. Roger Williams: The Church and the State by Edmund Morgan.

18. Night by Elie Weisel.

17. Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick.

16. Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer.

15. American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson by Eve LaPlante.

14. The Sovereignty and Goodness of God by Mary Rowlandson.

13. Einstein by Walter Isaacson

12. The Possessed by Elif Batuman

11. Apostles of Disunion by Charles Dew

10. The Renaissance At War by Thomas Arnold

9. Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America by Allen Guelzo

8. Lincoln: Speeches and Wriitings 1832-1858 by Abraham Lincoln

7. Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer by Fred Kaplan

6. Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns

5. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

4. Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel

3. The Third Reich at War by Richard J. Evans

2. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

1. A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books by Alex Beam


About Patrick Young

Program Director of the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) and Supervising Attorney for the Westchester Hispanic Coalition. Blogs for Long Island Wins and New York State Immigrant Action Fund
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