Monthly Archives: January 2019

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

by Stieg Larsson

After being shot in the head and left to die, Lisbeth Salander is in critical condition, yet somehow through pig-headed ingenuity Mikael Blomkvist manages to find her just in time. While Blomkvist deals with the ongoing criminal investigation of the web of illicit activities surrounding Salander, she spends months recuperating in a hospital. Blomkvist knows Salander is innocent and is determined to prove it, but that turns out to be more complicated than any of them ever imagined. If they can believe the information they’re finding, Blomkvist and the investigators who believe in Salander’s innocence have discovered a cover-up  reaches the highest levels and most secret echelons of state government. Not only that, but the people behind the cover-up seem reckless to the point of carelessness in their efforts to keep their secrets hidden. More murders, disappearances, and strange coincidences occur on a daily basis, and could possibly all be connected if only there were evidence to prove it. Blomkvist needs Salander’s hacking skills to find information that will lead the team in the right direction and prove her innocence, but time is limited. The more mired Blomkvist becomes in the situation, the more risk he faces, personally and professionally, to prove her innocence.

“The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” by Stieg Larsson is the third installment in the Millennium series (following the second book, The Girl who Played with Fire). In this book, Salander begins to show some healing from her vast history of trauma. Not only does she begin the grueling process of physical recovery after attempted murder, but she also begins to understand the importance of the people in her life. Salander is completely powerless to do anything about her situation and is forced to rely on others due to her physical helplessness and enforced isolation. Although she continues to fight tooth and nail to avoid asking for help, she learns to accept some of the help that is freely offered to her. She also benefits from new learning experiences that show her she can trust some people in positions of authority, which serve to undo some of her early learning to never talk to any medical or legal professionals. These lessons are not only painful, but they are not easy to learn. Many, many offers of help are extended before Salander finally begins to accept that other people are concerned about her wellbeing and are working to support her.

Have I mentioned yet that these books are absolutely enthralling? The third book in the series moves faster than the first two because it picks up exactly where the second book left off and does not go through extensive background before jumping ahead in the plot. This book has another ginormous cast of characters, which occasionally causes confusion (particularly as the characters are introduced), but just keep reading and eventually all the loose ends come together. Long, sometimes dense, and definitely worth the read.

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The Girl who Played with Fire

By Stieg Larsson

As Mikael Blomkvist settles back into his routine as an investigative journalist at the magazine Millennium, hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander decides to up and leave the country, traveling around the world for months without telling anyone as much as good-bye. While Blomkvist ponders her mysterious disappearance, he begins to focus on his next project: an expose into Sweden’s sex trafficking business. He mentors a freelancer who is writing a book on the topic, and urges him to close the gaps in his manuscript, particularly around an unknown figure named “Zalachenko.” Meanwhile, Salander returns to the country as quietly as she left, and sets up, if possible, a more discreet life than the one she had when she left. Then everything changes. Blomkvist’s freelancer and his partner are murdered, and Salander is the main suspect. As the investigation drags on with no leads, Salander’s entire background is leaked to the press, including her time spent in an adolescent psychiatric hospital. Blomkvist has (almost) no doubt that she is innocent, but without regular contact with Salander, he struggles to put the pieces together as the story becomes more complex. It now seems Salander is entangled with international drug trade and a murderous motor club, but how?

“The Girl Who Played with Fire” by Stieg Larsson is the second book in the Millennium series, which is centered on the enigmatic, taciturn, and brilliant computer hacker Lisbeth Salander. The storyline picks up shortly after the first book, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” left off. In this second installment, Larsson reveals much more about Salander as a character, both through her inner monologue and in the sensational stories leaked by the press or uncovered by investigative teams. His portrayal of Salander as a survivor of unthinkable childhood trauma feels entirely accurate. Salander, having learned from a young age to do whatever it takes to survive, has developed reliable coping mechanisms that don’t necessarily warm her to other people, and this features heavily in the investigation and media crusade against her. She is both hero and anti-hero, embodying resourcefulness, independence, and success, but not necessarily on terms that are always socially acceptable. She shows unflagging determination to reach her goals according to a clear sense of morality, but sometimes her goals and the methods used to achieve them don’t align with the laws of the land. Salander’s character and the storyline that surrounds her inspire a second look at what it means to be a good person.

The second  book in this series is yet another story that is equally horrifying and gripping. Not horrifying as in scary movie horrifying, but horrifying in the unconscionable ways that people can mistreat another human being. The storyline moves forward just a relentlessly as the first book, but I still read it with a sense of “just tell me one more thing” before I can finish my page for the night. It seems un-put-down-able. An excellent follow-up in an excellent series, highly recommended.

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