Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Girl who kicked the Hornet's Nest

Lisbeth Salander looks you straight in the eye from the cover of 'The Girl who kicked the Hornet's Nest' - the final chapter of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy and that sums up the book, in a way. The final chapter is Lisbeth's story of redemption and justice for all that she has been through. Interestingly the covers of the three books tell their own story.

At the end of the second part we left Lisbeth having crawled out of her own grave where she was buried with bullet wounds in her shoulder, hip and head. She has just struck her mortal enemy, her father with an axe with an intent to kill and has just survived the attack from her half-brother the massive no-pain feeling giant with a pea brain. What a family! The final chapter picks up there with the murder charges being dropped against Lisbeth but she is now charged with intent to murder while she is increasingly upset that her father has survived. And this is where the intrigue begins.

Stieg Larsson builds an interesting story of drama, suspense and intrigue on a secret organisation within the Swedish Secret Police - The Section - who have conspired against Lisbeth with a psychiatrist so as to save their most valuable asset, the Russian defector Zalachenko. Stieg's intent is very clear in the book and you do know that by the end Lisbeth will walk free but he keeps you engrossed on the path to the obvious end.

This is a book more about Lisbeth's friends and their coming together to save her rather than Lisbeth's own antics and superwoman capabilities that we are used to. It is about the quintessential story of Good forces represented by Lisbeth's well wishers - Mikael Blomkvist and Armansky with some members of the police force, the Constitutional Protection force in Sapo and even the Prime Minister - against the Evil forces of The Section responsible for Zalachenko who have for years ensured that Lisbeth is silenced under the garb of socially incompetent status and hence relegated to the fringe of society and never taken seriously. Will good triumph over evil? Does Blomkvist's sister who agreed to be Lisbeth's attorney have any experience in civil justice cases to save her? Does she know how to?

The book has the undercurrent of how society ignores those who need our help the most, how society is afraid of the people that it does not understand and how society bases its knowledge on the words of a few people who appear to be experts. It is also a story of how corruption has the potential to spoil a person's entire life.

While it makes for great reading and Stieg intelligently introduces characters there are certain parts of the book that are completely redundant and were not needed. Removing them would have no impact on the pace of the book and just tend to end up adding unnecessary pages to an already long book - Erika's section about the Poison Pen, for instance. In that sense Larsson does fail in this book. The interesting bits are well woven but the pace is slower and the intrigue that you expect to be there does not come through completely. The court case is rudimentary and does not come till almost page 442 of the 600 page book and then too finishes pretty fast. One would expect some interesting intrigue and court room drama but that is missing. Stieg also seems to want to close all loop ends and focusses the last part of the book on Lisbeth's life after she wins the case. Frankly the interest level from the reader is low after the case is won and Lisbeth is free. At the end it leaves you wanting more.

The final part is a good story on how Lisbeth gets her due from society and how the system recognises its flaws. How individuals can make the system work for them to the detriment of others. How friends can do so much for you. It is a fitting end to the series.

I rate it 4/5 even though I would have wanted to see some more action, intrigue, drama and Lisbeth in the final part.

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