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Bookends: Loose Ends Are Tied Off as the Millennium Trilogy Ends December 29, 2013

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Bookends: Loose Ends Are Tied Off as the Millennium Trilogy Ends

By Dan Davidson

April 10, 2013

– 908 words –

 

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

By Girl - Hornet's Nest

Penguin Books

863 pages

$13.50

 

Larsson’s Millennium trilogy – so-called because much of it involves the workings of a magazine by that name – is something of a triumph of marketing in terms of the English language versions of the thriller/mysteries.

In English, all the titles begin with “The Girl Who …” which ties them all together quite nicely. In Swedish, apparently, only the middle book would actually have that kind of title. The Girl Who Played with Fire is said to be a decent translation of the original, and it is certainly an apt description of Lisbeth Salander.

The first book would have had the title Men Who Hate Women, if it had been left that way, and that is certainly an appropriate title for the serial killer strand of the novel.

This final book would have been The Air Castle that was Blown Up, which apparently was referred to as Castles in the Sky by many of the original fans before the translation. Keeping the “Girl” theme going made good sense in terms of marketing though, and it fits, for Lisbeth’s actions literally did stir up a hornet’s nest of activity by a clandestine black-ops branch (the Section) of the secret service.

When we left Lisbeth at the end of the second book she was pretty much in a coma, as was her father, Alexander Zalachenko, the former Russian agent who had been hidden by the Section for many decades. We had learned that the teenaged Lisbeth had set him on fire as revenge for the beatings he gave her mother, and that she had, in turn, been falsely locked away in a mental institution and abused there for a number of years.

We had learned of her half-brother, Niedermann, a stone cold killer with a neurological condition that blocks him from feeling pain.

She had tracked them down, been captured and buried alive, but had dug her way out, driven Niedermann away and incapacitated her father before collapsing.

Another portion of the book followed journalist Mikael Blomkvist as he sought to prove Salander innocent of several murders she had been framed for, and he found her in time to call for assistance, ending the book on a terrible cliffhanger.

Book three picks up with Salander in the hospital, where she spends a good deal of the story, and with Blomkvist still piecing together the story that will set her free if she recovers. Meanwhile the police are pursuing two lines of investigation, with one group trying to prosecute her and the other convinced of her innocence.

In the background there is the Section, whose aging operatives – some of them long since retired – are determined to hide their role in Salander’s life, and protect the secrets of their clandestine operations from being exposed.

There is still Niedermann, who is on the loose and leaving dead bodies in his wake. If the police who first arrived at the farm had had the wit to listen to what Blomkvist tried to tell them about the giant killer, that might have been avoided, but there are some serious errors made from the outset and so he escapes.

To further complicate matters, Blomkvist’s journalistic partner and sometime lover, Erika Berger, decides to leave the magazine and become the editor-in-chief of Sweden’s largest daily paper. There is a whole novel in that subplot. She finds problems there, is forced to take a stand against the board of directors and finds herself the target of a stalker and smear campaign.

Once Salander wakes up in the hospital and is on her way to recovery, Blomkvist finds a way for her to use her rather limited Palm Tungston T3 handheld computer, and she uses this to plan the testimony she will need for her trial as well as to assist Berger by tracking down her stalker. My own experience with Palm devices tells me this is a superhuman feat of hacking, but we learned early on that Salander is just such a genius.

There is a trial, and what a trial it is too, with Blomkvist’s sister, Annika Giannini, handling the defense and making mincemeat of the star witness, with revelation after revelation in Millennium‘s dual book-and-magazine exposé of the details on the trial’s third day ensuring Salander’s acquittal.

There is a loose end or two to be resolved even after that, and the last several chapters are devoted to clearing those up.

Salander and Blomkvist have a complicated relationship. They had an affair in the first book, but she soured on him when she found out he was still seeing Berger, and has spent much of the final two books vacillating between hating him and realizing that he has her best interests at heart.

As for Blomkvist’s love life in general, he begins a complicated romance with a police officer named Monica Figuerola. She pursues him, but he is a willing catch. Whether it would have amounted to anything in the long term, we will never know. A large portion of a fourth novel was written, and Larsson apparently intended to stretch the series out to 10 books before he died of a heart attack. Fortunately for us, this third book ties off most of the plot threads and provides us with closure on Salander’s growth as an individual.

 

-30-

 

 

 

 

 

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