Revisiting The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest

Posted on 21st August 2015 by Rob Chilver
Will Lisbeth make it out alive? We revisit Stieg Larsson's third book in the Millennium series.
With The Girl Who Played With Fire leaving us on a cliff-hanger, examining the abuse of legal power within Sweden, Lisbeth Salander’s retribution and ending with a shoot-out in which she is buried alive, Larsson throws us straight into the mix in the third book in the series. At the start of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest, Salander is in intensive care, recovering from surgery, with her estranged father Zalachenko only a few doors down. Following her attack towards him, and with Niedermann, his rather cartoonish henchman on the run, ‘The Section’ is called into action. This secret division of the Swedish Security Service formulates a plan against them, wishing to silence Salander and all those involved to cover-up the secrets that have been so violently uncovered.

Elsewhere Mikael Blomkvist and his Millennium staff begin an investigation into the Section, or Sapo as they are known, while Berger, the editor in chief of the magazine moves on from the magazine, taking charge at a national newspaper. This begins an examination of the dark side of Swedish government and the machinations of newspapers and the media in general.  Blomkvist continues his campaigning throughout, fighting for not only Lisbeth but those who find themselves at the mercy of the courts.

Following a prolonged absence in the second book, here Salander is at the very heart of it, the plot circling and swirling around her, leaving us unsure whether she will even make it to the courtroom alive to face her enemies. She remains as reluctant as ever to accept help when offered, even when it will clearly aid her, and we are left to hope that the strained relationship between Blomkvist and Salander will be repaired. We also learn more of her sister Camilla and see for ourselves Salander’s early, dark years as a child at the mercy of the State.

One of the strongest aspects that remains after this re-read is that throughout the book Blomkvist and Salander are fighting old and established enemies, ones that have long been pulling the strings from the shadows within Sweden and are part of the very government that should be protecting them. Here is Larsson at his best as all of his now hallmark staples are present, with coffee being drunk by the cup load and statistics punctuate key character speeches as the book builds up to a brilliant crescendo, cranking up the tension as secrets are exposed and the body count begins to rise. Once again we are kept on our toes with a genuine sense of fear surrounding Lisbeth as her enemies threaten her on so many fronts. 

Following Larsson’s death, I felt on my first read of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest a sense of sadness as my time with these characters was now over. There were glimpses within the series of story threads left dangling, of potential adventures for Mikael and Lisbeth that may never be seen. Thankfully next week we get to return to Larsson’s world with The Girl in the Spider’s Web, as David Lagercrantz reunites us with Blomkvist, Salander et al in an all new adventure. At the time of writing little is known about what lies ahead, but following these re-reads I can’t wait to see what dark forces Lisbeth and Mikael will face up to next.


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