unknown'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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bookshelves: 2010, audiobooks, series, translated, detective-y, vote-getters, this-is-most-irregular

These books really shouldn't work. Stieg Larsson is a very weird writer. He likes to tell us absolutely everything someone is doing. If Stieg wrote the story of my morning, it would go like this:

"Joel woke up around 7:45 a.m. and looked at the clock. He decided he didn't need to get up yet and hit the snooze button. When the alarm sounded again, he dragged himself out of bed and used the toilet. He brushed his teeth and then dressed in a blue striped shirt, black tie and flat front dress slacks he'd purchased on sale at Kohl's. He made himself a cup of coffee, fired up his 13-inch Macbook laptop and checked his email. He had 14 messages. 11 of them were advertisements from various mailing lists or spam emails encouraging him to enlarge his penis. One message was from his mother and two more were shipping notices for books he'd purchased from Amazon.com. He read the note from his mother but decided to reply later. He then deleted all the messages but the two from Amazon and closed his laptop. He sat on the couch and stared into space, drinking his coffee and thinking."

Most writers would probably start the scene several paragraphs later, when I finally get to work (that's where the real excitement happens! I check even MORE email!). (Plus it turns out I'm not even a main character.) But for some reason, this style is, I don't know, endearing instead of annoying. I love the way he tells us every time Mikael has a cigarette or what he likes on his sandwiches. And hey, at least I know what brand of cell phone everyone is using.

It's kind of weird how the series wound up being not at all what I was expecting. Book one was closest, a serial killer story that was nevertheless a weird mash-up of political potboiler and are-the-lambs-screaming-Clarice murder fun. But then book two was mostly about the internal politics of the Swedish police and media industries. And the big climax of the trilogy comes down to an incredibly extended legal thriller, Grisham-style. I assume. I've never read a John Grisham book.

But really, everyone knows why the books work, and it's because of the characters. Stieg approached the whole trilogy as a sort of manifesto about the injustices heaped upon women in Swedish society, and illustrates them via a host of compelling, level-headed, fairly well-rounded women who are fun to read about even when they spend every other page having sex with the Stieg stand-in. Everyone loves Lisbeth, of course, and this installment does a good job of fleshing out her back story and explaining how exactly one winds up a tattooed, antisocial computer-hacking genius with an insatiable hunger for revenge and Billy's pan pizza.

This is an excellent wrap-up to Lisbeth's story and the trilogy, leaving exactly one thread hanging, and a small one at that, which is remarkable considerng it's number three in a planned run of 10. It leaves Mikael and Lisbeth in a great place, and pays off pretty much everything that was established over the previous two books. That it does so with a histrionic courtroom scene, all the better.

I don't read legal thrillers but I love courtroom scenes in movies, especially when judges say stuff like "I'm going to allow it, but you'd better be going somewhere with this." No one says that here, but only because apparently you can do whatever the fuck you want in a Swedish courtroom without bothering to talk to the judge at all. On the bright side, a flustered prosecutor does break out another old chestnut --"This is highly irregular!" -- that almost makes up for it.

So, yeah, I'm a little sad that Lisbeth has stalked off to that big Ikea-furnished apartment in the sky to join her creator. And I wish Stieg didn't eat quite so many of the fatty sandwiches and Billy's pan pizzas he loved detailing so much (hey, write what you know). If book 4 never emerges from that mythical laptop, though, this is a pretty good place to end things.

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Reading Progress

February 22, 2010 – Shelved
May 27, 2010 – Started Reading
May 27, 2010 – Shelved as: 2010
May 27, 2010 – Shelved as: audiobooks
May 27, 2010 – Shelved as: series
May 27, 2010 – Shelved as: translated
May 27, 2010 – Shelved as: detective-y
May 28, 2010 –
page 80
14.21% ""She picked up the pencil. It was a plain wooden pencil, newly sharpened. It would make a passable weapon for stabbing a face, or an eye." yeah, don't fuck with lisbeth."
May 31, 2010 –
page 170
30.2%
June 3, 2010 –
page 289
51.33%
June 7, 2010 –
page 370
65.72%
June 9, 2010 –
page 450
79.93% "courtroom drama! i looove good courtroom drama."
June 9, 2010 –
page 515
91.47% "you know the case has been blown wide open when the flabbergasted prosecutor blurts out 'this is highly irregular!'"
June 9, 2010 –
page 576
100% "no more steig larsson books? BUT NOW HOW WILL I KNOW WHAT KIND OF SANDWICH LISBETH IS HAVING?!"
June 9, 2010 – Finished Reading
January 17, 2011 – Shelved as: vote-getters
February 23, 2011 – Shelved as: this-is-most-irregular

Comments Showing 1-50 of 188 (188 new)


message 1: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant My day begins in an eerily similar manner to yours.


unknown if i was being really accurate i also would have included the part where my cat vomits and then i clean it up with a Bounce! triple-ply select-a-size paper towel.


message 3: by Reese (new)

Reese I don't know Stieg Larsson. I don't know THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST. But I know that you know how to keep an audience interested in what you've written -- even if the audience has absolutely no interest in the material that you're writing about.


unknown Hey, thanks! Glad you liked it. Mostly I just try to amuse myself, but I usually fear I am too easily amused.


message 5: by Reese (new)

Reese Well, I found the review entertaining, and I thought it was carefully constructed.


message 6: by SimBim (new)

SimBim ! Laughed at that review. Really good!


Julie Nelson I love the way you write. Love it.


unknown thank you, anonymous stranger.


Christine Hysterical! So true, and much more realistic than Larsson.


Joanne Great review! Yes, he is a detailed writer but it works. I got so immersed in his characters that I am now in withdrawal. No more Lisbeth...but what every happened to her sister? I guess we'll never know. I love courtroom dramas too and this book had it all. I have this strange craving for Billy Pan pizzas now:)


message 11: by Glee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Glee Thank you for putting down words I wish I had written. I was really annoyed by his confusion of prose with catalog descriptions, but you have opened my eyes to the "endearing-ness" of his style! If you aren't blogging or writing for a living, you should consider it!!


unknown does writing incredibly boring press releases count? incredibly boring.

someday i will start a blog. someday.


Sherry Howland Thank you, Joel, this blows my review out of the water!


Debbie HAHAHAHA....You pretty much said it all...except you neglected to mention if your coffee had cream or sugar?...I realized you were right. Stieg does give us alot of mundane details...and yet I really enjoy it...I have grown fond of Salander and Blomkvist.Somehow I actually like hearing all those details that would ordinarilly bore me. That is some of his magic as a writer.Also it is nice to know that others drink more coffee and eat more crap than me.
Also, I was told by a Swedish freind that 7-11's in Sweden are more like grocery stores here.hmmm

Have you ever read Smilas Sense of Snow.? Another thriller written quite differnet than Steig but the lead character reminds me of Salander in a way. It is set in Denmark where, at least, they seem to eat better!


unknown i have not, but i have heard them compared before. i guess smilla was also a literary sensation when first published, though obviously on a much smaller scale. i think i might have seen the movie, but i do want to pick up the book.

thanks for the comments... i had cream and sugar.


message 16: by Tina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tina endearing instead of annoying....perfectly said. his style was sometimes distracting, but it never really bothered me. thanks for the laugh, great write-up! now I'm craving sandwiches and coffee!


message 17: by Finn (new)

Finn you're a really good writer yourself... am wondering if you write professionally..


Leila T. Such a good review. Long, but I wanted to read it all. And very funny.


unknown thank you very much, y'all. i am glad you enjoyed the review. It's still one of my favorites.

@margaret: i don't write for a living any more (i used to be a small town newspaper reporter but i sold out and got a corporate communications job). i do miss it but goodreads provides a good creative outlet for the time being...


message 20: by Krok Zero (new)

Krok Zero Don't get me wrong, I liked this review, but 92 votes?! I guess people really related to the narrative of your morning.


message 21: by Msmurphybylaw (new)

Msmurphybylaw I never intend to read these books, but loved your review.


message 22: by unknown (last edited Jan 13, 2011 07:20AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

unknown Krok wrote: "Don't get me wrong, I liked this review, but 92 votes?! I guess people really related to the narrative of your morning."

hey, it's not my fault you only read long, difficult books peppered with obscure references to judaism. you have to appeal to the masses if you want to make it as a goodreads top reviewer.

also now i have 95 votes.

(truthfully i am rather baffled by this review's popularity as well but i guess no one else had yet thought to parody (however mildly) stieg's mannered style. or i was just in the right place at the right time. i just want it to reach 100 votes. if it gets no more after that i shall be sated.)


message 23: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez You're a krok of shit, and this is a goddamn scam. Ummm..."women who are fun to read about even when they spend every other page having sex with the Stieg stand-in?" Last I heard, Woody Allen did NOT write this book. He writes mega-short books with even shorter stories in them that you stand up on your media shelf next to all your Criterion DVD's so that when you bring a date home, they can see how even MORE cultured you are than them. Additionally, I am annoyed that we have the same morning. Every. Morning. One minor detail, though...I don't own a mac. We can't all be rich like you and your buddy up there. (I like your review. Is this the guy who wrote that book about some chick with a tramp-stamp or something?)


unknown i tried to impress my girlfriend with woody allen dvds but it turns out she hates woody allen. he is kind of gross. also i can't put them next to the criterions unless they fit there alphabetically.


unknown and yes, i believe the original swedish title translates as "the chick with the dragon tramp stamp."


unknown (it occurs to me that some porn producer is probably currently filming "the girl with the dragon tramp stamp" for release around the time david fincher's version comes out in the u.s.)


message 27: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez One can only hope. For all the of the above, save the Woody Allen's gross thing. I do sorta really, truly love him, though I can still note that he casts himself as some irresistibly neurotic Adonis, which is...wow. Truly out of touch with reality. Or maybe not...he managed to land Mia Farrow (one of the more beautiful women I've seen on screen) AND some 13 year old hottie Asian girl. Maybe I'm the one who isn't seeing things clearly??? Sweet and Lowdown is a great movie for people who are easily annoyed by Woody Allen, because he is barely in it at all. Also, it's just a great movie in general, with an amazing performance by Samantha Morton (what's new, though, really?) Try that on your lady-friend. Give Woody one more chance!


message 28: by unknown (last edited Jan 13, 2011 08:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

unknown don't get me wrong, i'm generally a fan. my favorites are annie hall and purple rose of cairo though. also broadway danny rose and radio days. his mid-period. oddly enough i do not like his "earlier, funnier movies," to drop a blatant textual reference. match point and vicky christina barcelona are the only tolerable (pretty good in fact) movies he has made since sweet & lowdown.

i think mia farrow is super annoying as an actress even if i think she seems like a cool person (and her son seems just... awesome, almost obnoxiously so).

yet he did land the 13-year-old... i guess he was the justin bieber of the 1980s.


message 29: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez Yes, Mia can be obnoxious...though her voice on screen is much more pinched than her mega-hippie, super-low and draaaaawly real-time-voice. Husbands and Wives is the only instance I can think of where she appears to accept her natural bassey-ness. The point I was trying to make is that she is HOT. As for her acting ability...one of the ways I know I can always cheer up my mother is by doing the last scene in Rosemary's Baby..."what have you DONE to it? What have you done to its EYEYEYEYES? What have you done to him you MANIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACS!!?!??!?" Yeah, she loves it. Not a hard scene to do (meaning overact.)


unknown god. her voice. when she sings in the last unicorn.


message 31: by Paquita Maria (new)

Paquita Maria Sanchez Instead of watching that, you could just hammer a rail spike into your brain.


Stacey Krok: maybe everybody agrees with the "this book really shouldn't work, but somehow it does" sentiment. I loved all three of these books, couldn't put them down, lost sleep reading them, then couldn't even review them because when I sat down at the computer to write the reviews, I couldn't figure out why they were so great. Hey! I guess I just wrote the review! - off to double post this. Heh.


message 33: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Scherer find some Billy Pan's Pizza to order online from Sweden to enjoy with the book.


message 34: by Jacqui (new)

Jacqui I really loved your review and agreed with everything you said. I especially loved your mock paragraph which was very funny and spot on .... Maybe you should write a Steig Larrson satire.


message 35: by unknown (last edited Jan 29, 2011 10:43PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

unknown i think that would get tiresome. i have no idea how stieg managed it for 1,500 pages!

though it is a good way to pad out your books...


Christine Sweet review! I loved how you put a positive spin on what I have been having such a difficult time with in this third installment. The details are endearing, or at least they are easy to read, but the never ending cast of characters and their impossible to commit to memory Swedish names has been driving me bonkers. You think learning such intimate details about these characters means they will be a central character in the book...not so much. You will learn about their past, hair color, age, medical ailments, what they ate for breakfast and what they are wearing and then be expected to remember about 1000 of these characters 200 pages later when he a proverbial light goes off over blomkvists head. Not me i wait for the part where Stieg somehow recaps everything in a single sentence. A real paradox that man. Stieg was a journalist lest we forget. wonderful review, good chuckle.


message 37: by unknown (last edited Jan 31, 2011 07:50AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

unknown i know what you mean exactly, christine. what's funny is, because i was listening to these rather than reading them, i don't think i really noticed until the second or third book, when he was discussing the female bodybuilding cop that gets involved in the case. there was a whole chapter about her going to the gym and listening to music and eating dinner and changing clothes and showering and i was like, wait, why do we need to know all of this?

i often got confused with the similar names in the first book but it got easier from there. he does a lot of recapping throughout to keep you in the loop i think (not to say there wouldn't be times when i would have to pause the ipod to remember who someone was).

ps thanks for the kind words!


Karin Spot on review, Joel. I think the books work because of all the detail, even if at times one wonders if it is really necessary. But I think it just makes us get to know the characters really well, and that is somehow quite satisfying. I really loved the epilogue when all the loose ends I had been wondering about or almost forgotten about are tied.


message 39: by MissLexiloo (new) - added it

MissLexiloo Your review says that Lisbeth dies. . .you had me scared!


unknown Oh no... I just meant in the sense there are no more books.


message 41: by Cici (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cici i absolutely love your review


message 42: by Erin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin Cole Fabulous review. If you do start a blog, you will have many followers writing as you do.


Jenny Organa hey, you should write more about your mornings! i'd read it all :)


message 44: by Lumi (last edited Jan 07, 2012 02:42AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lumi Okay, this review was hilarious. Because it's so true! All that stuff about detailing everyone's every action and the love of Billy's pan pizza. You left out the whole coffee-drinking thing though :)


unknown perhaps i was blind to the coffee at first, since i drink enough of it myself (as noted in my morning routine).

thanks for the comment! glad you enjoyed.


message 46: by Robert (new)

Robert I'd rather read Joel than Stieg...I can't figure out why these books work because they don't. Snooze-worthy, characters I don't like, unoriginal...


Samantha accurate


Ruth Wilson Love it! Great review. Thanks.


unknown thank you, ruth!


Shallana Edwards Awesome review! I agree, his writing is so peculiar, but you can't stop reading it. Stieg left this world too soon. I would have enjoyed knowing more about what Lisbeth and Mikael drank in the morning, or even something as boring and mundane as waiting in a hospital room for a routine check-up. Anything to read more about these characters and world he created.


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