Turning the final page of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was a relief in a lot of ways. It was a relief to finally get the novel of my to be read pile, but it was also a relief that the series was over and we won’t have to spend any more time with the series. What started out as an interesting mystery series become a series of diminishing returns across the second and third books. And it seems like the same set of issues kept rearing their head time and again with these novels, especially this installment.
So, while part of me wanted to give the book a pass because Larrson passed away after completing work on it and that means he may not have had time to edit or polish it like he would have the first two, part of me thinks it probably wouldn’t have made that much of a difference in the overall final product.
Knowing what small details I do about Larrson’s life, it’s not hard to once again see Mikael Blomkvist as a bit of Mary-Sue character for Larrson. There is no wrong that Blomkvist can’t right through his passionate crusade against whatever villain or monster he’s currently facing, there’s no woman who can resist him for long and he’s always right about every single thing and the world would be a lot better place if everyone just listened to him and did what he said. Again, this wasn’t quite as evident in the first book, but in the second and especially the third it becomes annoying quickly. At a certain point, Salander begins inserting an expletive into his name each time she thought about him and it’s easy to see why.
That doesn’t mean that Salander comes off much better in this book. She’s relegated to the sidelines for a large portion of the story because of the events that closed the last novel. And while we’re clearly meant to root for her as an anti-hero and to understand the factors from her life that helped create who she is today, in the end it’s hard to work up much, if any sympathy or empathy for her as the novel progresses.
Then you throw in the other typical Larrson excesses such as the unrelenting product placement for Apple products and an obsession with telling us what every character dined on or drank at every meal for the entire course of the novel and you’ve got a novel that just begins to collapse under its own weight. And that’s even before you have the requisite info dumps you have to sit through to set up the "plot" of the story.
The first novel worked because it focused on the partnership of Salendar and Blomkvist. Each novel since has introduced a myriad of other characters and investigators and lost that focus. And the novels have been the weaker for it. I appreciate Larrson trying to do a bit of expansion to his fictional landscape, but the characters have to be more that paper-thin one-dimensional ones who all tend to blend together after ten or twenty pages.
In the end, it appears the "Millennium" trilogy was little more than a one-hit wonder. The first book is solid, the other two aren’t really worth the effort and time. A shame really to see such promise squandered.