Jeffrey Keeten's Reviews > The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
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it was amazing
bookshelves: nordic-noir, book-to-film

”Salander was afraid of no-one and nothing. She realized that she lacked the necessary imagination--and that was evidence enough that there was something wrong with her brain.”

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Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth Salander in the excellent Swedish trilogy. She takes the bad girl goth look farther than even Joan Jett.

Even if Lisbeth Salander had been raised in a “normal” environment of a white picket fence, with a swing in the backyard, a dad flipping burgers in a haze of barbecue smoke, and a smiling, sundress wearing mother, she would have been abnormal. As it was she was the daughter of a psychotic, deranged Russian father who lived under a blanket of security because he defected with secrets that the government was interested in knowing.

Zalachenko beat Lisbeth’s mother so severely that she sustained brain damage that left her nearly a vegetable. He wasn’t prosecuted. After all she was a whore, just a whore, or so they say, but then “trusted” government official can leak any information they want and have it lapped up by the media.

Lisbeth tried to kill her father.

Okay.

She tried to kill him twice, but he is a tough old bastard.

Let’s just say the environment that Lisbeth was raised in required her to embrace the more abnormal aspects of her personality to survive. So why did she try to kill her father?

”That is under investigation, but there are strong indications that he did indeed attempt to kill her. As far as we can determine at the moment, it was a case of deep antagonism in a tragically dysfunctional family.”

They are related, but they have never been anybody’s concept of a family. She also has a half brother named Niedermann who can’t feel any pain and is a genetic giant of freakish strength.

I think everyone knows the story of Stieg Larsson, the author of this trilogy. He died from a heart attack shortly after dropping off the three manuscripts for the Millennium novels with his publisher. It is imperative that readers read these books in order. If you attempted to read this one first, for instance, you would be lacking a lot of critical back story that will definitely heighten your enjoyment of the book. So no short cuts, no cutting to the end, the journey must be taken. You must take the blows along with Lisbeth so her eventual triumph will be your triumph as well.

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She turned her back and pulled the hospital gown off her shoulder. She sat so that the light from the window fell on her back. He looked at her dragon. It was beautiful and professionally down, a work of art.

After a while she turned her head.

“Satisfied?”

“It’s beautiful. But it must have hurt like hell.”

“Yes,” she said. “It hurt.”


The first book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a mystery. The second one The Girl Who Played with Fire is a thriller. This one is a courtroom drama. Larsson wrote this trilogy in the evenings for entertainment purposes as an escape from the real world. He was an investigative reporter and I’m sure most of the time real life was too real for him. It was as if he were playing with different writing formats, proving that he could write one as well as another. There are rumors that his girlfriend has a partial fourth book locked up on a laptop computer until the legal issues with Larsson’s estates can be settled. I think Larsson was brimming with stories and had created a heroine, uniquely compelling, with sustainable appeal that would have kept him on the bestseller list for years.

I certainly would have been a zombie consumer of Larsson’s books, but I am content with what he gave us. It gives me shivers to think of another author conceiving their version of Salander or trying to mimic Larsson’s version. I do believe that characters should die with their creator.

So Salander is in the hospital recovering from wounds sustained near the end of book two. Her father is recovering on the same hallway. They are a mere two doors away from each other. If a hospital could ever be quiet they might have been able to hear each other breathing. Despite the critical condition of their wounds each plots the demise of the other. Each secures a weapon of what is at hand, a pen, a crutch, anything to give them a chance if the other attacks.

”Only a woman who had killed a man in battle was allowed to give up her virginity.”

Amazon women, men dream about them. They are not always pleasant dreams. Larsson did sprinkle a few facts about legends of Amazon women between chapters. How fitting, for though our heroine is a scrawny 5’1” she is without a doubt a warrior unhindered by compassion and driven to survive.

Mikael Blomkvist, the ace reporter, one of the few friends that Salander has in the world whether she wants him or not, is leading the charge for Salander to be released. As he rattles the nerve of the Säpo (Swedish Intelligence Agency), in particular the part of the organization called The Section, he discovers a government that has sanctioned too much to protect too little. He has learned a lot about how far they are willing to go to protect themselves and deftly plays a cat and mouse game with them as he prepares his lawyer sister, Anika Giannini, to defend Salander at trial.

I’ve noticed that some readers struggled with the investigative part of the novel as we see all the pieces being brought together by teams of people. Some working for Salander’s release and some working to make sure she never sees the light of day. I found it all very real, very interesting as if I were directly involved in the process. The trial is absolutely terrific.

For whatever reason Larsson throws in a subplot involving Blomkvist’s long time lover and co-worker Grika Berger. She is being stalked by a someone who obviously has a deep loathing for her. Some of the aspects of this subplot were interesting, but it was totally unnecessary to the overall plot, unless we think of Larsson as a stage manager trying to give one of his favorite actresses a few more lines in the play.

Salander has issues with authority, not surprising given how those in authority have routinely decided that she needed to be arrested, locked down in a psych ward, and disappeared altogether. Even without the bizarre circumstances that forced Salander to be an enemy of the state she would have struggled with anyone who wanted to tell her what to do.

She could never be the demure little girl in pigtails sucking on a lollipop.

She is a lesbian satanist. What? It is hard to tell which one of those words, concocted by her enemies was more alarming to them. She is certainly bi-sexual, uninhibited in sexaul matters. She is a hacker, a woman who can find out anything about anyone. She is nobody’s best friend, but it is better to be her friend than her enemy. As far as Satan is concerned, she would take his pitchfork away and impale him on his own hubris.

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How to transform yourself into Lisbeth Salander. Black is your only color, your pale skin should never, ever be graced by sunlight, pierce yourself strategically all over your body, have one really cool tattoo, and keep the stone face of a Japanese samurai at all times. Your personality should always bristle with rolling tides of negative energy. Master these aspects and you are ready to intimidate the world.

As I read this book I thought about why I, like so many others, find Salander such a compelling character. I’ve certainly never met anyone like her. She is unfriendly, like handling snarled barbed wire. She is instantly suspicious of anyone who offers to help her or any cause that would require commitment. She is a lone wolf, not opposed to giving pleasure, but unwilling to ever say the words that would take a moment of delight to a level of tenderness. She tortures you with silence. She bludgeons you with negative vibes. Her moods swing between tolerable and gloomy. Her smile is like a falling star, rare; and yet, beautiful. There is something wonderful in her ability to fight the odds, to survive, to defeat, to somehow make the right friends that are willing to fight for her when she can’t fight for herself. She does need help, as painful as that is for her, to push past the wall of silent contempt that she erects between her and authority. As it turns out her voice, her story had to be told.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Reading Progress

August 13, 2014 – Started Reading
August 13, 2014 – Shelved
August 21, 2014 – Finished Reading
February 9, 2015 – Shelved as: nordic-noir
June 29, 2016 – Shelved as: book-to-film

Comments Showing 1-48 of 48 (48 new)

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message 1: by T.B. (new)

T.B. Markinson I haven't read this one yet. The first two were good, but all the violence was hard for me to take. How's this one?


Skip You may need to avoid Scandanavian mystery writers. They love violence.


Jeffrey Keeten T.B. wrote: "I haven't read this one yet. The first two were good, but all the violence was hard for me to take. How's this one?"

I was thinking there was less violence in this one, but there are certainly scenes of violence. This one focuses more on the gathering of evidence and the trial. Larsson was showing us how he gathered his sources for his stories as his real job as an investigative reporter.


Arah-Lynda This was my favourite of the trilogy Jeff. Wonderful review.


Zoeytron Fantastic phrase, 'unfriendly, like handling snarled barbed wire.' Excellent review!


Michael Great to hear this one meets your standards and that the allure of Salander doesn't wear thin. Her implacable spirit might be like a single note, but her potential to do surprising things keeps her interesting. I'm saving this one like money in the bank--or like the last cookie on the plate.


Larry Bassett Interesting to read Jeffrey Keeten's writing about Lisbeth Salander! These books helped me learn about what it means to be a five star. And you have added to that learning.


Nicole~ Excellent review as always, Jeffrey. This trilogy was cult classic material from the start. I'm happy to see you picked the Swedish film version of the series. I thought Noomi Rapace was untouchable as Lisbeth.


midnightfaerie Totally agree. Lisbeth was a beautiful character. And I agree with Nicole on the whole the Swedish film being better. Nice review.


message 10: by Skip (last edited Aug 22, 2014 05:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Skip Anybody think we'll ever see the fourth manuscript published? We need more Lisbeth!!


Jeffrey Keeten Arah-Lynda wrote: "This was my favourite of the trilogy Jeff. Wonderful review."

It was nice to see the trilogy end on such a strong note. Thanks Arah-Lynda! I like all three books for different reasons. Larsson had passion for his characters.


Jeffrey Keeten Zoeytron wrote: "Fantastic phrase, 'unfriendly, like handling snarled barbed wire.' Excellent review!"

Thanks Zoeytron! I liked that phrase too. If I write enough words sometimes good things come together. :-)


Jeffrey Keeten Michael wrote: "Great to hear this one meets your standards and that the allure of Salander doesn't wear thin. Her implacable spirit might be like a single note, but her potential to do surprising things keeps he..."

I too was saving this one, but my son who is a film minor at college has been waiting patiently to watch the third film with me. I was holding off because I wanted to read the book first. From what I hear the third movie makes a lot more sense for people who read the book. Thanks Michael! I'll be watching for when you pull this one out of the cookie jar.


Jeffrey Keeten Larry wrote: "Interesting to read Jeffrey Keeten's writing about Lisbeth Salander! These books helped me learn about what it means to be a five star. And you have added to that learning."

Thank you Larry! I'm glad to see you also gave this five stars. I appreciate you letting me know that I've been helpful that is my goal.


Jeffrey Keeten Nicole~ wrote: "Excellent review as always, Jeffrey. This trilogy was cult classic material from the start. I'm happy to see you picked the Swedish film version of the series. I thought Noomi Rapace was untouchabl..."

What is really interesting about this series is that it is a cult classic. I was amazed to see it take off to be such a phenomenal best seller not only in Europe but in the United States as well. It became too popular to be hip and yet hip it is.

I will watch anything Noomi Rapace is in. I was glad to see her get a nice role in the Sherlock Holmes movie. I hope she continues to have a phenomenal career.

The Swedish films are so good. There was really no need for Hollywood to do their version. Since they aren't planning more I think they discovered that to be true. Good for the Swedes to do it first and do it right. Thanks Nicole!


Jeffrey Keeten midnightfaerie wrote: "Totally agree. Lisbeth was a beautiful character. And I agree with Nicole on the whole the Swedish film being better. Nice review."

Thanks Midnightfaerie! I'm starting the third film over lunch. Until the estate gets settled and this almost mythical fourth book appears I will officially be caught up on all matters regarding Lisbeth Salander.


Jeffrey Keeten Skip wrote: "Anybody think we'll ever see the fourth manuscript published? We need more Lisbeth!!"

There is TOO much money to be made. I can't imagine a deal won't be negotiated. The question is...it is my understanding that the novel is not completed? We can hope that Larsson left extensive notes. Maybe Jo Nesbo or someone of that caliber can be induced to complete the book.


message 18: by Skip (new) - rated it 5 stars

Skip Nesbo is a great idea. Maybe you should intercede?


Jeffrey Keeten Skip wrote: "Nesbo is a great idea. Maybe you should intercede?"

Ha! If I had that power we'd all be reading book four already. :-)


Lynda I loved the whole trilogy and enjoyed the Swedish films which in my view got the ambience exactly right. Keep on with Skandi noir


Jeffrey Keeten Lynda wrote: "I loved the whole trilogy and enjoyed the Swedish films which in my view got the ambience exactly right. Keep on with Skandi noir"

I'm pretty much addicted at this point so there will be many more Skandi Noir Reviews in my future. Thanks Lynda!


James Thane Nice review. And you're right--Salander is a totally unique character.


Paula Kalin Terrific review, Jeffrey. The best trilogy I've ever read. I agree with Nichole on the Swedish films being better. However, I've only seen the first! As Lynda said, keep on with the Skandi Noir reviews!


Jeffrey Keeten James wrote: "Nice review. And you're right--Salander is a totally unique character."

Thanks James! She is certainly unforgettable.


Jeffrey Keeten Paula wrote: "Terrific review, Jeffrey. The best trilogy I've ever read. I agree with Nichole on the Swedish films being better. However, I've only seen the first! As Lynda said, keep on with the Skandi Noir..."

I just finished watching The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest yesterday. It gave me the itch to watch all three movies again. The Swedes did such a terrific job there was no need for the Hollywood version. Over the next few months I plan to queue up many more Nordic/Skandi Noir. Thank Paula! I'm so glad you liked this review.


James Thane I agree; the Swedish movies were very good--much better than the remake.


Lynda Well done for completing the journey with Lisbeth. I remember feeling bereft when it was all over. Do u think there really is a fourth book?


Jeffrey Keeten Lynda wrote: "Well done for completing the journey with Lisbeth. I remember feeling bereft when it was all over. Do u think there really is a fourth book?"

My best guess is the rumors are true and there is a partial fourth book. I heard recently that Larsson had planned a ten book series and there may be notes outlining where he intended to go with the whole series.


Lynda Stop . I am already drooling


message 30: by Jan (new) - added it

Jan Rice Great reading your review and returning to Stieg Larsson's world briefly, Jeffrey! But I'm glad I didn't see the movie as my Lisbeth did not look like that. ...Now don't ask what she did look like... (drifting off into reverie...)


Jeffrey Keeten Jan wrote: "Great reading your review and returning to Stieg Larsson's world briefly, Jeffrey! But I'm glad I didn't see the movie as my Lisbeth did not look like that. ...Now don't ask what she did look lik..."

:-) Well as curious as I am to know what your version of Lisbeth looks like I will respect your wishes and pry no more. Thank you Jan! I'm glad the review brought back some good memories.


message 32: by R.a. (new)

R.a. Loved your concluding, "kicker," ending sentence.

Yet another trilogy to read . . .


Jeffrey Keeten R.a. wrote: "Loved your concluding, "kicker," ending sentence.

Yet another trilogy to read . . ."


Thanks R.A.! Salander is an amazing character. There are so many aspects to her personality that I really respect and...fear. I'd say if you like an occasional thriller that also has great character development then you do need to read these books. I also watched the Swedish films which were also wonderful.


Jeffrey Keeten Manveen wrote: "i have not read it !!!!!!"

I hope you enjoy it!


message 35: by Vessey (new)

Vessey As I read this book I thought about why I, like so many others, find Salander such a compelling character. I’ve certainly never met anyone like her. She is unfriendly, like handling snarled barbed wire. She is instantly suspicious of anyone who offers to help her or any cause that would require commitment. She is a lone wolf, not opposed to giving pleasure, but unwilling to ever say the words that would take a moment of delight to a level of tenderness. She tortures you with silence. She bludgeons you with negative vibes. Her moods swing between tolerable and gloomy. Her smile is like a falling star, rare; and yet, beautiful. There is something wonderful in her ability to fight the odds, to survive, to defeat, to somehow make the right friends that are willing to fight for her when she can’t fight for herself. She does need help, as painful as that is for her, to push past the wall of silent contempt that she erects between her and authority. As it turns out her voice, her story had to be told.

I love this whole review and especially your conclusion. And I love you. :)


message 36: by Candace (new)

Candace Quite a review. You really like this author and trilogy. I'm glad you enjoyed them.


Jeffrey Keeten Vessey wrote: "As I read this book I thought about why I, like so many others, find Salander such a compelling character. I’ve certainly never met anyone like her. She is unfriendly, like handling snarled barbed ..."

Thanks Vessey! I'm glad you enjoyed it!


Jeffrey Keeten Candace wrote: "Quite a review. You really like this author and trilogy. I'm glad you enjoyed them."

Thanks Candace! That is what I do... I enjoy books!


Rohit Enghakat exhaustive review but good one !


Jeffrey Keeten Rohit wrote: "exhaustive review but good one !"

Well Rohit exhaustive is not exactly the word that writers are hoping for, but I'm glad you made it through. :-) Did you take a nap in the middle!? Thanks!


message 41: by Jon (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jon This was the best of his 3 books. Just My opinion.


Jeffrey Keeten Jon wrote: "This was the best of his 3 books. Just My opinion."

He intended to write 10 of them and had started on a fourth. The partial fourth is held up in family litigation. It would have been interesting to see the span of his creation.


message 43: by Michelle (new) - added it

Michelle Wynne "It gives me the shivers…" Love the endearing expression Irving used in the beloved Prayer for Owen Meany.

I concur…
Characters should indeed die with their authors!


Cynthia Weaver Great review Jeffrey and I concur, I loved these books!!


message 45: by Vessey (new)

Vessey Her smile is like a falling star, rare; and yet, beautiful.

You beautiful snowflake! Jeffrey, you always say things like that. :) You are a falling star. :) Thank you for another captivating review. I was happy to read it again. :)


Jeffrey Keeten Michelle wrote: ""It gives me the shivers…" Love the endearing expression Irving used in the beloved Prayer for Owen Meany.

I concur…
Characters should indeed die with their authors!"


Prayer for Owen Meany was fantastic. I'd love to reread so I could review it!


Jeffrey Keeten Cynthia wrote: "Great review Jeffrey and I concur, I loved these books!!"

Thanks Cynthia! They had such surprising broad universal appeal. Lisbeth is one of the great literary creations!


Jeffrey Keeten Vessey wrote: "Her smile is like a falling star, rare; and yet, beautiful.

You beautiful snowflake! Jeffrey, you always say things like that. :) You are a falling star. :) Thank you for another captivating revie..."


Thanks Vessey!


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