Trilogies. We are all familiar with them. We love them, but there is a consistent fact that is true for most trilogies we entertain ourselves with: the first and third installments are favored while the second installment is less popular and, seemingly, of a lesser quality. Take Star Wars for example: A New Hope, a classic; Empire Strikes Back, not so good; Return of the Jedi, return to greatness. The same can be said of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Steig Larson. The first book was phenomonenal and is now a major motion picture in which Rooney Mara who plays Lisbeth Salander is up for Best Actress in a Leading Role. You can read my review of that book here. The second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire, was also entertaining, but in my opinion was a far cry from what made the first installment a success. It dragged in many places and while the end was exciting, it took the reader a while to get into it. I personally felt that there was too much needless sex scenes in it was well. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it and you can read my review of that book here. After reading the second book, I was a little skeptical of the third. True, I did enjoy the second book; but the decline in the quality of the story telling was obvious and I feared a further decline in the third installment. However, the second book ended with such a cliffhanger that I just HAD to read the last book, and am I ever glad that I did!
The best thing about the second installment in any trilogy is that it sets up the third installment for great success. After reading The Girl Who Played With Fire, I was so excited to find out how the story would be resolved. There were so many loose ends, so may questions to be answered, and The Girl Who Kick the Hornets' Nest fulfilled all wants and expectations. I remember being totally engrossed in the first book; I started it while on vacation and was able to finish it in about two weeks. While it is still my favorite book in this series, this most recent book captured me from the moment I opened the cover. Events from the first two books were explained, connections between characters were made and further developed, and before I knew I it I had finished the book in four days time.
Lisbeth Salander continues to be one of the best heroines in modern fiction. Larson's development of her character throughout his trilogy is nothing short of masterful. Salander is a social misfit, the result of a lifetime of physical abuse and government conspiracy against her. This final book is the culmination of her sociability and she begins to let more and more people into her life. Reading the books is kind of like watching a person who has had no human contact throughout their life be suddenly shoved into the middle of New York City. That person would not know how to act towards others, would not trust others, and would proceed with caution at every turn with every new face. The same is true of Lisbeth Salander. At the beginning of the series, she would talk to no one, cared for no one except her mother, and had no close friends. At the end of this third book, she holds onto some of her previous antisocial habits, but is more accepting and more trusting of the people who say they want to help her and call her a friend. The transformation is mind-blowing.
The story itself in the third book is very different from the stories portrayed in the previous two. The first book was a psychological crime thriller and the second was a slow moving detective novel. This third book is a crime drama, a courtroom novel with many scenes one would expect to find on an episode of Matlock or portrayed in a John Grisham novel. The author obviously did a great deal of research in order to make each of his books different, and the result is incredible. While there were fewer action scenes in this book than in the previous two, the drama was so captivating, the conspiracies so enthralling that it did not matter if nothing seemed to be going on that was of any importance. Deep down, the reader will know that something is going to happen, something that will blow the story wide open and every turn of the page has the capability of revealing that secret.
The pace of the novel is just right. The only time I felt it slow down a little too much was during one of the courtroom scenes. However, as I mentioned before, I just knew that something in that courtroom was going to answer every question and address every fear I had for Salander. That strong emotion that any reader will find is easy to build with Salander will keep the reader captivated, unable to put the book down for any long period of time.
Unlike the first two books, it did not take long to really get into the meat of this plot. My criticism of the first two books is mainly that it takes so long for the story to really get going. Hornets' Nest, though, grabs the reader from the very beginning. Part of this is due to the fact that Larson does such a great job of leaving the reader hanging at the end of the second book. The reader is not sure how things will be resolved and the resolution begins from the very beginning. New problems also arise throughout this book and are woven into previous issues and make sense of so many unsolved mysteries and questions.
Summer will be here in less than four months, and that is a time where many people pick up books that have been sitting around because they now have time to read them. I could not recommend this trilogy any stronger than I do. It is captivating, emotional, and entertaining. There are a great deal of disturbing scenes, and that is a turn-off to many readers. Do not read these books expecting a love story or classic happy ending. They are dark; but if you do not mind dark novels, these will certainly become some of your favorites.