There must be half a dozen people out there who have not yet read Stieg Larsson’s trio: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Here’s my take on them:

The protagonists in all three books are a middle-aged man and a young woman, contemporary Swedes living in Stockholm. Blomkvist is a journalist, prominent and successful, dogged, determined, clever, highly ethical. A worthy hero. (The Swedish version of the movie is excellent; Blomkvist is played by a man who seems perfectly cast: not particularly handsome, but appealing.) Lisbeth is a puzzle. Gradually, over the three books, the reader is clued in to what has turned her in to such a cipher, but one suspects she would have been quirky anyway. Blomkvist speculates she has a touch of Aspergers. They are lovers, briefly, but this is not a love story. It’s a mystery/thriller.

The plot is dense and complex. The characters are wonderfully complicated. There are some interesting bad guys and plenty of mystery. These are engaging books, and I am particularly intrigued by Lisbeth. The best pages are the ones with Lisbeth on them.

I have friends who didn’t like the books, and I can see why. The Swedish names and place names are hard going and the author seems to think we need to know on what street every action takes place and how you take this unpronounceable street to that unpronounceable avenue to reach an unpronounceable destination. Even if the place names were in English, I’d find that much detailed information tedious. The setting, Stockholm and a smaller village some hours away, are interesting. Can’t say I’ve read anything else set in that time and place.

I do recommend the first two books. Even while I was grousing about the slow pace and the proliferation of street names, I couldn’t stop reading. Lisbeth is unique and fascinating. The third book, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, I can’t recommend. My reading buddies and I wonder if Larsson, who had planned 10 books in this series and who died after writing only three of them, was either too ill or perhaps just not yet finished with the Hornet’s Nest before he died. It seems rough, like a draft not yet ready for publication. It does, however, finish the revelations about Lisbeth’s background, which you’ll be itching to know.

There is an American movie version of the first book which I haven’t seen but my friend Jane says is very good. I believe there is already a Swedish version of Book 2, which I am eager to find. The movie is of course quicker and easier to digest than the book.

So let’s come up with some stars. I’d give the first two books four stars, maybe four and a half. I’m withholding the full five because of the pacing and tedious bits. The Hornet’s Nest, not nearly as good, but still I had to finish it. Three stars.

About glcraig

Gretchen Craig’s lush, sweeping tales deliver edgy, compelling characters who test the boundaries of integrity, strength, and love. Told with sensitivity, the novels realistically portray the raw suffering of people in times of great upheaval. Gretchen was born and raised in Florida. She’s lived in climates and terrain as diverse as the white beaches of the Gulf Coast, the rocky shores of Maine, and the dusty plains of Texas. Her awareness of place imbues every page with the smell of the bayous of Louisiana, the taste of gumbo in New Orleans, or the grit of a desert storm. Rich in compelling characters and historical detail, Always and Forever is a sweeping saga of Josie and Cleo, mistress and slave. Amid Cajuns and Creoles, the bonds between these two remarkable women are tested by prejudice, tragedy, and passion for one extraordinary man. Gretchen’s first novel won the Colorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence for Mainstream with Romantic Elements and was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in the Historical Novel Society reviews. Ever My Love, winner of the Booksellers Best Award from the Greater Detroit Romance Writers of America, continues the story of Cleo and Josie’s families, of their struggle for principle, justice, and love in a world where the underpinnings of the plantation culture are crumbling. Crimson Sky, inspired by the pueblos, mountains, and deserts of New Mexico, evokes the lives of people facing neighboring marauders and drought. Now the march of Spanish Conquistadors up the Rio Grande threatens their homeland, their culture, and their entire belief system.
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