Stieg Larsson was born in 1954, was a journalist and an expert on anti-democratic and far-right organisations. He died suddenly in November 2004, shortly after delivering the manuscripts for three crime novels - known together as the Millennium Trilogy - to a Swedish publisher. "The Girl Kicked the Hornets' Nest" is the third part of this trilogy.
The book begins where "The Girl Who Played With Fire" finished. Salander - who, amazingly, is still alive - is on her way to hospital to deal with the bullet in her head. She's very lucky to be operated on by Doctor Anders Jonasson : despite recognising Salander from all the press coverage, he'd go through Hell and high water to save a patient. The operation is tricky, though there's no major brain damage -the bone fragments near the entry wound are, apparently, a little more dangerous than the bullet itself. (These fragments are embedded in an area of the brain normally associated with mathematical ability. As it happens, the only long-term damage seems to be that Salander can't remember her proof for Fermat's Third Theorem). As time goes on - proves he's even willing to bend the rules a little to help a patient out. (Salander comes to view him as an ally - a rare honour).
Unfortunately, things aren't going so well at the scene of the crime. Thanks to the police officer in charge, Inspector Paulsson, Blomkvist has been handcuffed, Niedermann has been untied and - bizarrely - the logs in the woodshed are being counted. As it turns out, Paulsson shouldn't even have been left in charge of a donut, let alone a crime scene. Someone had forgotten to mention he was medically unfit for duty and his medication left him with no idea what he was doing. To make things even worse, only one of the cops he sent to untie Niedermann survived - and the second only barely made it. Niedermann, unsurprisingly, quickly made tracks. (What did surprise me, however, is that he only plays a very minor role in this book).
The dust, eventually, settles; Blomkvist is released and Salander comes through her operation - though she will spend some time in hospital recovering. It's clear she's innocent of the three murders she'd been connected to in "The Girl Who Played With Fire", but she's not out of the woods yet. With Zala hospitalised and Niedermann missing, the main threat, however, now comes "The Section" - a top-secret grouping within the Security Police. They had been responsible for handling Zala since his defection and a great deal of what they'd done had been both totally illegal and wholly immoral. Nevertheless, to ensure the Section's continued existence, everything regarding Zala will have to be kept away from the courts and out of the public eye. While the Section aren't alone in wanting Salander "dealt with", they're apparently unaware of how many people willing to fight her corner.
"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest" is a huge book - but so enjoyable that I finished it more quickly than some other shorter books. The only thing about the book I couldn't really take seriously was Blomkvist's apparently limitless appeal to women. (The romance he kicks off in this book...well, not only did it seem to be a case of opposites attracting, but his dribbling infatuation seemed very much at odds with the Blomkvist we'd come to know from the previous books). Still, everything about the case was tied up very nicely come the end of the book and I was genuinely sorry to have finished it. It was also a little frustrating to learn that Larsson had another seven books planned - I can't help but wonder what we'd have learned about the characters if he'd survived.
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