by Steven Leventhal
At long last I finally got my hands on a copy of Hornet's Nest. That is the final installment of the Dragon Tattoo series. There will probably be no more books starring our heroine Lisbeth Salander. Author Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack, shortly after delivering the manuscripts for the first three novels. Even though there is rumored to be a partially completed fourth book, there is a great deal of wrangling going on between Larsson's long time girlfriend and his family, who control his estate. Unfortunately, Swedish law does not recognize the live-in companion in inheritance matters, and the two sides are not getting along.
Anyhow, this book had all the intensity of a great pitcher's duel, the drama of a pennant chase, and the richness of a Vin Scully broadcast call. Just like the first two, once I started reading in earnest, I couldn't put the book down. On two successive nights, I caught myself still flipping pages at two thirty in the morning. I finally completed it on the morning of the third day.
The rest of this article discusses some of the plot points, so if you don't like spoilers, just trust me, and get a hold of the books. Otherwise, read on. Hornet's Nest picks up at the end of "The Girl Who Played With Fire." Salander has been shot, buried alive, and otherwise left for dead. She digs herself out of the earthen tomb, and attacks her evil father with an axe. Mikael Blomkvist comes to the rescue, somehow ties up and unconscious Niederman, and summons the paramedics. Now both Salander and Zalachenko are lying in the hospital, a mere two rooms from each other.
Zalachenko is no fool, and he claims that Salander was out to kill him and wants to press charges. Zalachenko makes Barry Bonds and OJ Simpson look like Mother Teresa. The clandestine organization that protected the former Soviet spy are fearful that an investigation might reveal their existence and plan to do everything possible to maintain their secret. That includes murder, extortion, and even trying to have Lisbeth re-committed to a psychiatric facility to keep her quiet. Bloomkvist must figure out how to help Salander even though she has been denied access to all visitors, except her doctors and lawyer.
Larsson has once again crafted another fabulous story. The first book focused on the notion of violence against women. The second novel depicted the police investigation and the attempts to frame Salander, as well as her computer skills. "Hornets Nest" dwells on Bloomkvist and Salander's lawyer's attempts to mount a credible defense, and their efforts to uncover the truth about the secret police organization, without tipping off the conspirators.
Bllomkvist is every middle aged (like me) man's fantasy of someone you'd want to trade places with. He's smart, savvy, and gets laid a lot. That's somewhat of the only stretch for me. Then, on the other hand, women find Woody Allen, David Wells, and Mick Jagger sexy. Go figure. Author Larsson was probably living vicariously through his protagonist. How's that for a college freshman-like English analysis?
This is one of the best books I've read in quite some time. It's no surprise that it just became number one on the New York Times Bestseller list, and has been on the charts for the past ten weeks. The US movie rights have been bought and supposedly Daniel (James Bond) Craig is set to play Bloomkvist. Good choice, he bears a strong resemblance to Michael Nyquist, who played our hero in the Swedish language versions of the films. Those are also worth watching, but only after reading the books. This one is a grand slam - four stars.