The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy Series #3)

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In the concluding volume of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth Salander lies in critical condition in a Swedish hospital, a bullet in her head.
But she’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll stand trial for three murders. With the help of Mikael Blomkvist, she’ll need to identify those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her ...

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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy Series #3)

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In the concluding volume of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth Salander lies in critical condition in a Swedish hospital, a bullet in her head.
But she’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll stand trial for three murders. With the help of Mikael Blomkvist, she’ll need to identify those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she’ll seek revenge—against the man who tried to kill her and against the corrupt government institutions that nearly destroyed her life.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

This novel not only puts the cap on the most eagerly read trilogy in years; the sequel to The Girl Who Played With Fire marks the completion of its Swedish author's career: Stieg Larsson died at the age of fifty in 2004. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is, however, too exciting and too adept to be read simply as a major author's memorial. From its onset, with "avenging angel" protagonist Lisbeth Salander lying in intensive care, this fiction pulses forward. One British critic called it "intricately plotted, lavishly detailed but written with a breakneck pace and verve...a tantalizing double finale—first idyllic, then frenetic."

Patrick Anderson
Only now, with the publication of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the third novel in the late Stieg Larsson's immensely popular Millennium trilogy, can we fully appreciate the Swedish writer's achievement. The trilogy ranks among those novels that expand the horizons of popular fiction…the novel fully lives up to the excellence of the previous two and…brings the saga to a satisfactory conclusion.
—The Washington Post
Michiko Kakutani
…a thoroughly gripping read that shows off the maturation of the author's storytelling talents…Larsson effortlessly constructs an immensely complicated story line that owes less to the Silence of the Lambs horror genre than to something by John le Carré…Cutting nimbly from one story line to another, Larsson does an expert job of pumping up suspense while credibly evoking the disparate worlds his characters inhabit…
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The exhilarating conclusion to bestseller Larsson's Millennium trilogy (after The Girl Who Played with Fire) finds Lisbeth Salander, the brilliant computer hacker who was shot in the head in the final pages of Fire, alive, though still the prime suspect in three murders in Stockholm. While she convalesces under armed guard, journalist Mikael Blomkvist works to unravel the decades-old coverup surrounding the man who shot Salander: her father, Alexander Zalachenko, a Soviet intelligence defector and longtime secret asset to Säpo, Sweden's security police. Estranged throughout Fire, Blomkvist and Salander communicate primarily online, but their lack of physical interaction in no way diminishes the intensity of their unconventional relationship. Though Larsson (1954-2004) tends toward narrative excess, his was an undeniably powerful voice in crime fiction that will be sorely missed. 500,000 first printing. (May)
The New York Times Book Review
Larsson was a cerebral, high-minded activist and self-proclaimed feminist who happened to have a God-given gift for pulse-racing narrative. It's this offbeat combination of attributes—imagine if John Grisham had prefaced his writing career not by practicing law in Mississippi but by heading up the Stockholm office of Amnesty International—that has made the series such a sui generis smash…for fans of the first two books, there are plenty of the Larssonian hallmarks they have come to love: the rough justice meted out by Salander to her enemies; the strong, successful female characters, like Blomkvist's lawyer sister, Annika ­Giannini, and Millennium's editor in chief, Erika Berger; and the characters' acutely Swedish, acutely relaxed attitude toward sex and sexuality.
—David Kamp
The literary equivalent of a caffeine rush . . . Larsson was one of those rare writers who could keep you up until 3 a.m. and then make you want to rush home the next night to do it again . . . Larsson is something like John Grisham [but] Larsson held an extra ace: the creation of Salander.
Chicago Tribune
It’s over! And I feel the same sense of pleasure and loss that I did when I watched the finale of 'The Sopranos' and the last episodes of 'Battlestar Galactica' . . . Salander is, I promise, someone you will never forget . . . Anyone who enjoys grounding their imaginations in hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of exciting pages about the way we live now ought to take advantage of this trilogy.
—Alan Cheuse
Larsson has produced a coup de foudre, a novel that is complex, satisfying, clever, moral . . . This is a grown-up novel for grown-up readers, who want something more than a quick fix and a car chase. And it's why the Millennium trilogy is rightly a publishing phenomenon all over the world.
A heart-stopping showdown showcases one of crime fiction’s most unforgettable characters—and cements Larsson’s rep as one of its most passionate and original voices.
The Economist
Larsson’s vivid characters, the depth of the detail across the three books, the powerfully imaginative plot, and the sheer verve of the writing make the trilogy a masterpiece of its genre.
There are few characters as formidable as Lisbeth Salander in contemporary fiction of any kind . . . She dominates the stage like Lear . . . She will be sorely missed.
Times (UK)
Larsson’s work is original, inventive, shocking, disturbing, and challenging . . . His novels have brought a much needed freshness into the world of crime fiction.
From the Publisher

“One of crime fiction’s most unforgettable characters.” —People
“A caffeine rush. . . . Larsson was one of those rare writers who could keep you up until 3 a.m. and then make you want to rush home the next night to do it again.” —Newsweek
“Gripping. . . . Lisbeth Salander . . . is one of the most original characters in a thriller to come along in a while.” —The New York Times
“Anyone who enjoys grounding their imaginations in hundreds . . . of exciting pages about the way we live now ought to take advantage of this trilogy.” —Chicago Tribune
“Exhilarating. . . . Larsson’s was an undeniably powerful voice in crime fiction that will be sorely missed.” —Publishers Weekly
“The pages fly. . . . The pulse quickens.” —The Boston Globe
“A wild, careening ride.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“The action is wham-bam from the start. . . . [with] an eye-popping surprise ending.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Fully lives up to the excellence of the previous two and . . . brings the saga to a satisfactory conclusion. . . . A modern masterpiece.”The Washington Post Book World
“[Lisbeth Salander] bursts off the page, a vibrant, forcefully ‘real’ character.” —The Plain Dealer
“Enough twists to keep even the most astute reader guessing.”The Denver Post
Complex, satisfying, clever, moral . . . This is a grown-up novel for grown-up readers, who want something more than a quick fix and a car chase.”The Guardian (London)
“An old-fashioned, well-paced political thriller with its roots in Swedish history and a cast of interesting and colorful characters.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Reading Stieg Larsson produces a kind of rushr—rather like a strong cup of coffee.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Salander herself is a magnificent creation: a feminist avenging angel.” —Irish Independent
“Relentlessly exciting. . . . A fitting ending to an outstanding crime trilogy. Larsson deserves every scrap of his reputation as a master storyteller.”Time Out London

Kirkus Reviews
Lisbeth Salander is in big trouble. Again. In the third installment of the late journalist Larsson's unpretty expose of all that is rotten in Sweden (The Girl Who Played with Fire, 2009, etc.), Lisbeth meets her father, who, we learned a couple of books back, is not just her sire but also her mortal enemy. Pater shares her sentiments, so much so that, at the beginning of this trilogy-closer-though there's talk that a fourth Salander novel has been found on Larsson's laptop and is being squabbled over in lawyers' offices-he's apparently tried to exterminate the fruit of his loins. Being the resourceful lass that she is, Lisbeth rises from the grave to take her vengeance. Or, as longtime Larsson hero/alter ego Mikael Blomkvist tells us, she somehow managed to "get back to the farm and swung an axe into Zalachenko's skull." Adds Blomkvist, helpfully, "She can be a moody bitch." So she can, but that's the manner of avenging angels, and Lisbeth has lots of avenging to do. She also has lots of help. Blomkvist, a little mystified as always, runs on the sidelines along with girlfriend and publisher Erika Berger, while some favorite figures from the first installment, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, return to do their bit, among them fellow uberhacker Plague, who still hasn't taken a shower nearly 1,000 pages later. There are some new or hitherto minor players along for the ride, including another Zalachenko creation, a German very-bad-guy named Niedermann, who covers his tracks pretty well. Writes Larsson, "The problem with Niedermann was that he had no friends, no girlfriend and no listed cell phone, and he had never been in prison," which makes life difficult even for a master tracker-downer such as Lisbeth-whom, unhappily, Niedermann is trying to do in as well. It's a delicious mayhem, where no man is quite good and no rich person has the slightest chance of entering the kingdom of heaven. Oh, there are lots of very bad bikers, too. Patented Larsson, meaning fast-paced enough to make those Jason Bourne films seem like Regency dramas. First printing of 500,000
The Barnes & Noble Review

From Sarah Weinman's "THE CRIMINALIST" column on The Barnes & Noble Review

By now, the narrative of Stieg Larsson is well-established to the point of near-myth. So it goes with a bona fide cultural phenomenon whose creator did not live to see the truly global success of the Millennium Trilogy. The surrounding legal drama between Larsson's longtime partner and family owing to his lack of a will, the excellent movie adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the glut of articles about the Nordic crime boom, and the new and forthcoming release of several biographies all underscore and obfuscate the bottom line: these three books resonate for millions of readers as few thrillers do. They -- like me -- are so hooked that the prospect of an end to the series produces low-to-mid-range frustration. To misquote Samuel Beckett, there can't be more. There must be more. There is no more.

The best way to explain this inevitable reaction is to start with the last hundred or so pages of The Girl Who Kicks the Hornet's Nest, which finally arrives on American soil. Lisbeth Salander, having endured all manner of violence, humiliation, suffering, and degradation with revenge-soaked stoicism for just over half of her twenty-seven years on earth, is on trial for trying to kill her father, the Russian defector and Swedish national security nightmare Alexander Zalachenko. Her solicitor is Annika Gianinni, a feminist crusader and sister to the trilogy's other main protagonist, Mikael Blomqvist. They face a cavalry of aging men desperate to hang on to their powerful positions and crush Salander's spirit through every conspiratorial means possible, from declarations of mental incapacitation to trumped-up murder charges that can't quite stick (so attempted murder will have to suffice.)

The outcome is obvious to the reader, because Larsson, throughout the series, has conformed to the mystery novel's chief structure: blinding chaos is restored to natural order, with some obligatory loose strands left to dangle for the next book. But what he has also done, brilliantly, is to use the chaos/order dichotomy as a means of mining more ancient archetypes revolving around catharsis. Salander is any mythical or larger-than-life character you want her to be, from Diana the Huntress to females of Amazonian glory to Boadicea to Pippi Longstocking to Mallory, Carol O'Connell's glorious sociopathic heroine. She's the Bad Girl because others say she is, but really her misfit ways and fluid sexuality simply are, free from societal norms and judgments.

So -- and I guess this counts as a spoiler -- Salander prevails. But we've known she would from the moment she first appeared in her former boss's office, slapping down the dossier she compiled on Blomqvist and blithely commenting that he must have been set up by the financier, Wennerström -- the villain eventually brought down through a mix of hackery and trickery by Salander and Blomqvist. But the breathtaking glory of those final sections of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is the systematic thoroughness of Salander's triumph.

Men will continue to hate women, and to box them in and shut them down; the rich will hoard their wealth and the poor will be trapped. But the events chronicled in those hundred pages, the culmination of the several hundred thousand words preceding, imagine a small but vital change to the game. If one elfin, multi-tattooed, take-no-prisoners, socially withdrawn young woman can beat the system -- definitively and with several blows struck in the name of some turbo-charged form of Girl Power -- surely millions of others facing more mundane but more devastating insults and injustices can also prevail?

But enough about the end. Some justice must be done on the book's entirety, after all, and why The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest caps the trilogy so well. First off is Larsson's knack for building, maintaining, and then explosively increasing the momentum even as he barrels through what could be some turgid expository dumps. Did we need to know every little bit of backstory on peripheral members of the so-called "Zalachenko Club" responsible for circumventing the constitution and screwing over Salander to a life under the government's thumb? No, but just when one might throw up one's hands, along comes a vital chess move through the byzantine plot that might come in handy later on. And like his colleague in blockbusters, Dan Brown, Larsson's enthusiasm for the information he spills out, be it on the annals of his country's darkest political crimes or the specs of the computer Salander works with, is infectious. Did you know how cool this is? he asks. We did not, but now we do -- and yeah, it is pretty cool.

That leads into the second point: the Millennium Trilogy is mecca for the twin nerdy pursuits of journalism and technology. Larsson idealized journalism too much and spent too little on getting the inner workings of computer hacking right, but the net effect in both cases is that the 2010's reality super-imposes itself on the 2003-2005 world depicted in the books. The effects of that juxtaposition are somewhat different. With respect to journalism, bloggers toiling at pennies per post if they are lucky after being downsized from cushier newspaper and magazine jobs look to Millennium (Blomqvist's baby) and SMP (where his partner Erika migrates to save a sinking ship) as the personification of the "good old days," when dogged investigation and commitment to quality, not page views, was rewarded most.

Technology is another story. Gadgets date quickly, and Salander's reliance on a Palm Tungsten 3T to communicate with Blomqvist in stealth while supposedly sequestered from the world in a hospital shoehorns the action to late 2004/early 2005. Would the plot have been poleaxed by the presence of a smartphone, or by the likelihood of incriminating videos ending up on YouTube with a single click? Perhaps, but with recent privacy-busting actions by the post-Larsson behemoth Facebook (or Google, hardly as formidable then as it is now) and surveillance-happy governments in all likely and unlikely corners, I reckon Larsson might have figured out additional ways around the plausibility problem -- or blithely ignored them altogether since truth trumps fiction for bizarreness.

Such considerations remind one that these books, with all their violence and modern accoutrements, are wonderfully old-fashioned. Salander spends the bulk of Hornet's Nest trapped in a hospital bed, in jail, or in a stifling room answering to so-called crimes or watching, impassively, as her lawyer annihilates former tormentors and exposes their own perversions. And yet she is still the most active investigator of the truth in the story, able to accomplish what experienced journalists or government officials cannot. Those key figures also must use their wits -- as well as some well-placed information here and there, illegally obtained or not -- and deduce the impossible truth of Salander's victimhood from more plausible but flat wrong suppositions of guilt. Blomqvist may get much more action than his forefather in crime, Sherlock Holmes, but the principles are much the same.

Finally, to quote Blomqvist, "when it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies; it's about violence against women, and those who enable it." Sex, in other words, is the big red herring, and I think that's why Larsson had the license to stretch the boundaries a bit. Because it doesn't matter if Blomqvist has women constantly flocking to him (in Hornet's Nest the quite unnecessary amorous episodes feature the near-Olympian turned secret agent Monika Figuerola), or if his long-running relationship with the married Berger is the best depiction of polyamory in fiction I've read, or if Salander sleeps with both men and women. Sex is private, borne out of love or desire or other more complicated emotions. Violence, be it body blows or brutal rape, is a public problem to be aired out so as to eradicate it for good.

Such was Larsson's hope, anyway. He wouldn't have lived to see the end of violence against women even if he was still alive today with thirty more years to go. But the three finished novels he left behind attest to idealism on many fronts: that journalism was a social service, that technology was a positive force for good, and that violence was a scourge both could vanquish. We're so far away from these goals that to read about them in the form of three supremely entertaining thrillers is escapism and catharsis of the highest order. And each subsequent generation will get sucked into Larsson's world anew, ready to fight alongside Blomqvist and Salander.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307742537
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/21/2012
  • Series: Millennium Trilogy Series , #3
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 832
  • Sales rank: 146,004
  • Product dimensions: 4.32 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 2.04 (d)

Meet the Author

Stieg Larsson
Stieg Larsson, who lived in Sweden, was the editor in chief of the magazine Expo and a leading expert on antidemocratic, right-wing extremist and Nazi organizations. He died in 2004, shortly after delivering the manuscripts for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.


Born in Västerbotten in northern Sweden in 1954, Stieg Larsson had a professional career that bears a striking resemblance to that of the protagonist of his Millennium thrillers, Mikael Blomkvist. Beginning as a graphic designer for the news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT), Larsson went on to become the chief editor of Expo, the magazine published by the Expo Foundation, an organization he helped establish in 1995 to combat racism and the Swedish right-wing extremist movement.

Inspired by an old joke shared with a colleague at TT, Larsson admitted he started writing the Millennium novels -- The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and Castles in the Sky (working English title) -- just for fun. Describing them as "pension insurance," Larsson said he enjoyed the process of fiction writing so much that he didn't make contact with a publisher until he had completed the first two and had a third under way. Though Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004 and never saw any of his books in print, all three were subsequently published in Scandinavia and continental Europe to great acclaim. He left behind the unfinished manuscript for a fourth book in the series.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      August 15, 1954
    2. Place of Birth:
      Västerbotten, Sweden
    1. Date of Death:
      November 9, 2004
    2. Place of Death:
      Stockholm, Sweden

Read an Excerpt

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

By Stieg Larsson

Random House Large Print

Copyright © 2010 Stieg Larsson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780739377710

chapter 1

Friday, April 8

Dr. Jonasson was woken by a nurse five minutes before the helicopter was expected to land. It was just before 1:30 in the morning.

"What?" he said, confused.

"Rescue Service helicopter coming in. Two patients. An injured man and a younger woman. The woman has gunshot wounds."

"All right," Jonasson said wearily.

Although he had slept for only half an hour, he felt groggy. He was on the night shift in the ER at Sahlgrenska hospital in Göteborg. It had been a strenuous evening.

By 12:30 the steady flow of emergency cases had eased off. He had made a round to check on the state of his patients and then gone back to the staff bedroom to try to rest for a while. He was on duty until 6:00, and seldom got the chance to sleep even if no emergency patients came in. But this time he had fallen asleep almost as soon as he turned out the light.

Jonasson saw lightning out over the sea. He knew that the helicopter was coming in the nick of time. All of a sudden a heavy downpour lashed at the window. The storm had moved in over Göteborg.

He heard the sound of the chopper and watched as it banked through the storm squalls down towards the helipad. For a second he held his breath when the pilot seemed to have difficulty controlling the aircraft. Then it vanished from his field of vision and he heard the engine slowing to land. He took a hasty swallow of his tea and set down the cup.

Jonasson met the emergency team in the admissions area. The other doctor on duty took on the first patient who was wheeled in-an elderly man with his head bandaged, apparently with a serious wound to the face. Jonasson was left with the second patient, the woman who had been shot. He did a quick visual examination: it looked like she was a teenager, very dirty and bloody, and severely wounded. He lifted the blanket that the Rescue Service had wrapped around her body and saw that the wounds to her hip and shoulder were bandaged with duct tape, which he considered a pretty clever idea. The tape kept bacteria out and blood in. One bullet had entered her hip and gone straight through the muscle tissue. He gently raised her shoulder and located the entry wound in her back. There was no exit wound: the round was still inside her shoulder. He hoped it had not penetrated her lung, and since he did not see any blood in the woman's mouth he concluded that probably it had not.

"Radiology," he told the nurse in attendance. That was all he needed to say.

Then he cut away the bandage that the emergency team had wrapped around her skull. He froze when he saw another entry wound. The woman had been shot in the head, and there was no exit wound there either.

Jonasson paused for a second, looking down at the girl. He felt dejected. He often described his job as being like that of a goalkeeper. Every day people came to his place of work in varying conditions but with one objective: to get help.

Jonasson was the goalkeeper who stood between the patient and Fonus Funeral Service. His job was to decide what to do. If he made the wrong decision, the patient might die or perhaps wake up disabled for life. Most often he made the right decision, because the vast majority of injured people had an obvious and specific problem. A stab wound to the lung or a crushing injury after a car crash were both particular and recognizable problems that could be dealt with. The survival of the patient depended on the extent of the damage and on Jonasson's skill.

There were two kinds of injury that he hated. One was a serious burn case, because no matter what measures he took the burns would almost inevitably result in a lifetime of suffering. The second was an injury to the brain.

The girl on the gurney could live with a piece of lead in her hip and a piece of lead in her shoulder. But a piece of lead inside her brain was a trauma of a wholly different magnitude. He was suddenly aware of the nurse saying something.

"Sorry. I wasn't listening."

"It's her."

"What do you mean?"

"It's Lisbeth Salander. The girl they've been hunting for the past few weeks, for the triple murder in Stockholm."

Jonasson looked again at the unconscious patient's face. He realized at once that the nurse was right. He and the whole of Sweden had seen Salander's passport photograph on billboards outside every newspaper kiosk for weeks. And now the murderer herself had been shot, which was surely poetic justice of a sort.

But that was not his concern. His job was to save his patient's life, irrespective of whether she was a triple murderer or a Nobel Prize winner. Or both.

Then the efficient chaos, the same in every ER the world over, erupted. The staff on Jonasson's shift set about their appointed tasks. Salander's clothes were cut away. A nurse reported on her blood pressure-100/70-while the doctor put his stethoscope to her chest and listened to her heartbeat. It was surprisingly regular, but her breathing was not quite normal.

Jonasson did not hesitate to classify Salander's condition as critical. The wounds in her shoulder and hip could wait until later, with a compress on each, or even with the duct tape that some inspired soul had applied. What mattered was her head. Jonasson ordered tomography with the new and improved CT scanner that the hospital had lately acquired.

Jonasson had a view of medicine that was at times unorthodox. He thought doctors often drew conclusions that they could not substantiate. This meant that they gave up far too easily; alternatively, they spent too much time at the acute stage trying to work out exactly what was wrong with the patient so as to decide on the right treatment. This was correct procedure, of course. The problem was that the patient was in danger of dying while the doctor was still doing his thinking.

But Jonasson had never before had a patient with a bullet in her skull. Most likely he would need a brain surgeon. He had all the theoretical knowledge required to make an incursion into the brain, but he did not by any means consider himself a brain surgeon. He felt inadequate, but all of a sudden he realized that he might be luckier than he deserved. Before he scrubbed up and put on his operating clothes he sent for the nurse.

"There's an American professor from Boston working at the Karolinska hospital in Stockholm. He happens to be in Göteborg tonight, staying at the Elite Park Avenue on Avenyn. He just gave a lecture on brain research. He's a good friend of mine. Could you get the number?"

While Jonasson was still waiting for the X-rays, the nurse came back with the number of the Elite Park Avenue. Jonasson picked up the phone. The night porter at the Elite Park Avenue was very reluctant to wake a guest at that time of night and Jonasson had to come up with a few choice phrases about the critical nature of the situation before his call was put through.

"Good morning, Frank," Jonasson said when the call was finally answered. "It's Anders. Do you feel like coming over to Sahlgrenska to help out in a brain op?"

"Are you bullshitting me?" Dr. Frank Ellis had lived in Sweden for many years and was fluent in Swedish-albeit with an American accent- but when Jonasson spoke to him in Swedish, Ellis always replied in his mother tongue.

"The patient is in her mid-twenties. Entry wound, no exit."

"And she's alive?"

"Weak but regular pulse, less regular breathing, blood pressure one hundred over seventy. She also has a bullet wound in her shoulder and another in her hip. But I know how to handle those two."

"Sounds promising," Ellis said.


"If somebody has a bullet in their head and they're still alive, that points to hopeful."

"I understand. . . . Frank, can you help me out?"

"I spent the evening in the company of good friends, Anders. I got to bed at 1:00 and no doubt I have an impressive blood alcohol content."

"I'll make the decisions and do the surgery. But I need somebody to tell me if I'm doing anything stupid. Even a falling-down drunk Professor Ellis is several classes better than I could ever be when it comes to assessing brain damage."

"OK, I'll come. But you're going to owe me one."

"I'll have a taxi waiting outside by the time you get down to the lobby. The driver will know where to drop you, and a nurse will be there to meet you and get you scrubbed in."

"I had a patient a number of years ago, in Boston-I wrote about the case in the New England Journal of Medicine. It was a girl the same age as your patient here. She was walking to the university when someone shot her with a crossbow. The arrow entered at the outside edge of her left eyebrow and went straight through her head, exiting from almost the middle of the back of her neck."

"And she survived?"

"She looked like nothing on earth when she came in. We cut off the arrow shaft and put her head in a CT scanner. The arrow went straight through her brain. By all known reckoning she should have been dead, or at least suffered such massive trauma that she would have been in a coma."

"And what was her condition?"

"She was conscious the whole time. Not only that; she was terribly frightened, of course, but she was completely rational. Her only problem was that she had an arrow through her skull."

"What did you do?"

"Well, I got the forceps and pulled out the arrow and bandaged the wounds. More or less."

"And she lived to tell the tale?"

"Obviously her condition was critical, but the fact is we could have sent her home the same day. I've seldom had a healthier patient."

Jonasson wondered whether Ellis was pulling his leg.

"On the other hand," Ellis went on, "I had a forty-two-year-old patient in Stockholm some years ago who banged his head on a windowsill. He began to feel sick immediately and was taken by ambulance to the ER. When I got to him he was unconscious. He had a small bump and a very slight bruise. But he never regained consciousness and died after nine days in intensive care. To this day I have no idea why he died. In the autopsy report, we wrote brain haemorrhage resulting from an accident, but not one of us was satisfied with that assessment. The bleeding was so minor, and located in an area that shouldn't have affected anything else at all. And yet his liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs shut down one after the other. The older I get, the more I think it's like a game of roulette. I don't believe we'll ever figure out precisely how the brain works." He tapped on the X-ray with a pen. "What do you intend to do?"

"I was hoping you would tell me."

"Let's hear your diagnosis."

"Well, first of all, it seems to be a small-calibre bullet. It entered at the temple, and then stopped about four centimetres into the brain. It's resting against the lateral ventricle. There's bleeding there."

"How will you proceed?"

"To use your terminology, get some forceps and extract the bullet by the same route it went in."

"Excellent idea. I would use the thinnest forceps you have."

"It's that simple?"

"What else can we do in this case? We could leave the bullet where it is, and she might live to be a hundred, but it's also a risk. She might develop epilepsy, migraines, all sorts of complaints. And one thing you really don't want to do is drill into her skull and then operate a year from now when the wound itself has healed. The bullet is located away from the major blood vessels. So I would recommend that you extract it, but . . ."

"But what?"

"The bullet doesn't worry me so much. She's survived this far and that's a good omen for her getting through having the bullet removed too. The real problem is here." He pointed at the X-ray. "Around the entry wound you have all sorts of bone fragments. I can see at least a dozen that are a couple of millimetres long. Some are embedded in the brain tissue. That's what could kill her if you're not careful."

"Isn't that part of the brain associated with numbers and mathematical capacity?" Jonasson said.

Ellis shrugged. "Mumbo jumbo. I have no idea what these particular grey cells are for. You can only do your best. You operate. I'll look over your shoulder."

Mikael Blomkvist looked up at the clock and saw that it was just after 3:00 in the morning. He was handcuffed and increasingly uncomfortable. He closed his eyes for a moment. He was dead tired but running on adrenaline. He opened them again and gave the policeman an angry glare. Inspector Thomas Paulsson had a shocked expression on his face. They were sitting at a kitchen table in a white farmhouse called Gosseberga, somewhere near Nossebro. Blomkvist had heard of the place for the first time less than twelve hours earlier.

There was no denying the disaster that had occurred.

"Imbecile," Blomkvist said.

"Now, you listen here-"

"Imbecile," Blomkvist said again. "I warned you he was dangerous, for Christ's sake. I told you that you would have to handle him like a live grenade. He's murdered at least three people with his bare hands and he's built like a tank. And you send a couple of village policemen to arrest him as if he were some Saturday night drunk."

Blomkvist shut his eyes again, wondering what else could go wrong that night.

He had found Lisbeth Salander just after midnight. She was very badly wounded. He had sent for the police and the Rescue Service.

The only thing that had gone right was that he had persuaded them to send a helicopter to take the girl to Sahlgrenska hospital. He had given them a clear description of her injuries and the bullet wound in her head, and some bright spark at the Rescue Service got the message.

Even so, it had taken over half an hour for the Puma from the helicopter unit in Säve to arrive at the farmhouse. Blomkvist had gotten two cars out of the barn. He switched on their headlights to illuminate a landing area in the field in front of the house.

The helicopter crew and two paramedics had proceeded in a routine and professional manner. One of the medics tended to Salander while the other took care of Alexander Zalachenko, known locally as Karl Axel Bodin. Zalachenko was Salander's father and her worst enemy. He had tried to kill her, but he had failed. Blomkvist had found him in the woodshed at the farm with a nasty-looking gash-probably from an axe- in his face and some shattering damage to one of his legs which Blomkvist did not bother to investigate.

From the Paperback edition.


Excerpted from The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson Copyright © 2010 by Stieg Larsson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group’s discussion of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the final novel in Stieg Larsson’s sensational Millennium trilogy.

1. Have you read the two previous novels in the trilogy, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire? Which of the three did you find the most compelling, and why?

2. What is the “hornet’s nest” of the title?

3. Each part of Hornet’s Nest begins with a brief history lesson about women warriors. What was Larsson trying to say? Is Salander a modern-day equivalent of these women? Is Berger?

4. What are some of the major themes of this novel? Of the trilogy?

5. How does Larsson’s background as an expert in right-wing extremist organizations inform this novel, and the trilogy as a whole?

6. Many characters in Larsson’s trilogy have some good and some bad in them. Can you name a few? What makes them different from the clear heroes or villains in the books?

7. After everything that happened in the first two novels, why does Salander still distrust Blomkvist? How would you describe their relationship?

8. On page 134, Clinton describes the Section: “What you have to understand is that the Section functions as the spearhead for the total defence of the nation. We’re Sweden’s last line of defence. Our job is to watch over the security of our country. Everything else is unimportant.” Aside from Clinton, who else believes this? Why are they so convinced?

9. Can you imagine a group like the Section operating in this country? Why, or why not?

10. On Berger’s first day at her new job, the departing editor in chief offers his theory about why she was hired (page 152). Do you agree with his assessment? How does this notion play out?

11. Armansky tells Blomkvist, “For once you’re not an objective reporter, but a participant in unfolding events. And as such, you need help. You’re not going to win on your own” (page 159). Why is this situation different from those in the previous two novels? How does becoming a participant change Blomkvist’s behavior? Does Blomkvist cross any ethical lines?

12. On page 168, Larsson writes about Salander, “She wondered what she thought of herself, and came to the realization that she felt mostly indifference towards her entire life.” What has made her feel this way? Do her feelings change by the end of the novel?

13. Again and again, men underestimate Salander because of her size. Why do they make these assumptions? How does she turn this into an advantage?

14. What is the significance of Borgsjö’s involvement with a company that uses child labor? How does this tie in to Larsson’s overall themes?

15. On page 295, Salander discovers a gruesome fact about Teleborian. “She should have dealt with Teleborian years ago. But she had repressed the memory of him. She had chosen to ignore his existence.” How does this jibe with Salander’s behavior in the present day? When did she decide to stop letting people get away with things?

16. Discuss the notion of revenge in this novel, and throughout the trilogy. Who, besides Salander, exacts revenge? What motivates them?

17. What role does Annika play in the novel? And Ekström?

18. On page 359, Salander reaches out to Berger and offers to help. Why?

19. What is the significance of the subplot about Berger’s stalker?

20. During his interview with She, Blomkvist agrees with the host’s suggestion that the Section’s behavior is akin to mental illness. Do you agree with that idea? How are accusations of mental illness wielded elsewhere in the trilogy?

21. “When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies; it’s about violence against women, and the men who enable it.” So says Blomkvist on page 514. What else is it about?

22. If she’s not in love with Miriam, why does Salander go to Paris?

23. When deciding what to do about Niedermann, Salander thinks of Harriet Vanger. Where do their stories diverge?

24. The very last sentence of the trilogy is, “She opened the door wide and let him into her life again.” How do you imagine things proceed from here for Salander? For Blomvkist?

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 10856 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    MUST Read!!

    If like me you could not put down the first two books by Steig Larsson "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest" will not let you down. The author takes us through many harrowing and suspenseful moments, even a laugh out loud event and then in the end neatly ties together the future of our main characters. At many points in her life Lisbeth Salander appeared to be controlled by others however we can see she is very much in control and ready to fight back. Along with Lisbeth and Mikael Blomkvist, Erika Berger Millennium's editor and Mikael's sometime lover is the focus of much attention. For me Lisbeth our quirky and ORIGINAL heroine ranks up there with Martin Cruz Smiths Arkady Renko, Len Deighton's Bernard Samsom and Ian Rankin's John Rebus. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest has Internet hackers who are heros and doctors who are villains, the book has it all. Trying very hard to read the book slowly and to savor it for as long as I could the plan yesterday was to read about 50 pages or so. Starting at about page 200 and then suddenly a few wonderfully enjoyable hours later page 601. Finished, done, happy but sad that it was over and there would be no more books from steig Larsson.

    148 out of 155 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not What I Hoped For

    I was anxiously awaiting the third book in this series but was disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books. This third book just didn't flow as fast as the first two. It got bogged down on a lot of explanation about government issues etc. That, to me, took out the swiftness in the movement of the first two.....I had MAJOR problems with my Nook and how the book was transferred....from page 450 to the end there were many page mixups and words that were cut in half or only shown by the dots of their letters....a huge disappointment while trying to read about the most important trial....My Nook really failed me on this one......

    50 out of 66 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Read them all, but save the best for last.

    I very much enjoyed the first two books and was fortunate enough to have a sister who couldn't wait for the US edition of "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest". She was kind enough to share her copy, and I just finished the book last night. My only regret is that Stieg Larsson is no longer with us to share more of his superb verse.

    Of the much enjoyed trilogy, this book was the most difficult to put down. The complex plot development was so well put together that that the many characters involved, though many just briefly, were easily remembered.

    I don't feel that it would be fair to readers to share any of the content of the book. Rather, if you enjoyed the first two books this one will not disappoint. This book, as well as its predecessors, I will be recommending for many years.

    39 out of 43 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2010

    Great ending of the trilogy!

    Perfect ending, to a perfect trilogy!
    Must read if you read the two other books!

    I have an english copy I am happy to give to the first one to ask!

    32 out of 34 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 5, 2010

    Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

    Well written thriller and page turner Remarkable since it was translated fom the Swedish. I would heartily reccomend it to any reader The author has developed a terrific plot that will keep you guessing to the very end

    29 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An Amazing read and I'm Lamenting the end of an Era

    The first comment I have to make is that I'm in mourning knowing there will never be another amazing work from Stieg Larsson. The world has truly lost one of the best writers of the century.
    The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is the third in Steig's Millennium series following The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire. And it's the best of the three by far. His storytelling is factual and very precise and you might think because the novel is almost 600 pages that in it you'll find it unnecessarily wordy, well you'd be wrong. The novel entails an enormous amount of information crucial to the telling of the tale. And what a tale it is, he gives you espionage, murder, gang bangers, cops, newspaper reporters, secret police and some of the cruelest villains ever to grace the pages of a novel. The plot is amazing in it's intricacy and the detail is awe-inspiring and the story is uniquely his. The characters include some old friends from his first two books and some new friends and new enemies, but don't fear that you won't know them well because Stieg has a way to intimate you with each and every one. His dialogue is flowing and yes sometimes the minutiae is mind boggling, but every line is important to the telling of the story.
    If you haven't yet read this series, now is definitely the time. It's something you'll treasure and something you'll re-read. It will become a permanent part of your library and you'll find yourself talking about it with friends and lamenting the fact that his voice has been forever silenced. So get ready for the ride of your life and get ready for nail biting, edge of your seat, breathe holding excitement. Get ready to read the next to top the bestseller list. Get ready to be entertained like you never have before. Get ready to Kick the Hornet's Nest!

    26 out of 27 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2010

    Slow Read

    This is the slowest book I've read in years. The author sidetracks so often you lose track of the story. There are so many characters and locations that you need to keep a chart on the side to remember everything that is going on and where.

    21 out of 30 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    i just finished the third book in the Millennium trilogy and i have to say it's one of the best series ever. the characters are amazing, the story line is great, and it's a perfect ending!
    you will love it! please make sure to read the first two first

    18 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    superb ending to a strong saga

    Computer hacker guru Lisbeth Salander remains under guard as she heals in an intensive care unit from the bullet she took to her heard (see The Girl Who Played with Fire) when her father Alexander Zalachenko shot her. The Stockholm police believe Lisbeth is the prime and only suspect in three recent murders.

    At the same time that Lisbeth remains incarcerated, reporter Mikael Blomkvist continues his investigation into an incredible decades old cover-up involving Lisbeth's father, a Soviet intelligence defector who works for the Swedish security police as he has since he turned. Still separated, but this time not caused by their estrangement, Blomkvist and Salander talk on-line sharing information. However, another threat has surfaced that Lisbeth knows about, but not much else; Niedermann does not exist, yet is coming to kill his sire's other creation.

    The third Millennium Trilogy thriller (see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is a superb ending to a strong saga. Incredibly ultra fast-paced, readers expect another confrontation between father and daughter in a world in which pure evil lives but pure good is a fantasy. The late Stieg Larsson leaves behind a great legacy as all three entries are amongst the best in the last decade and as a whole the trilogy belongs on the shortlists for top miniseries.

    Harriet Klausner

    15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 5, 2009

    Best of the Trilogy

    I was able to get my hands on the British edition which was published earlier this year, and I can assure you that this is a book worthy of pre-ordering. Larsson's cast of characters return (most of them) to finish the story he began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I loved the first two because of the characters and uniqueness of the plot - the third in the trilogy adds a sense of urgency that makes the book hard to put down. The only downside is that this is the last of Larsson's novels.

    14 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2010

    Great book, but don't get the BN electronic edition

    This is the final piece of a fantastic series, no doubt, but it's malformed in its Barnes & Noble eReader edition. True lovers of Larsson's prose know how he relies upon space breaks to signal changes in time and place during his action-packed work. In this terrible electronic format, you'll find none of those necessary breaks -- which is disrespectful not only to Larsson's good work, but to devoted readers.

    Buyer, beware. (And if you do buy the book, please don't expect BN to respond to any problems you have with it. I'm still waiting).

    12 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 17, 2010

    The perfect end to a great series

    What a ride!

    This book ... boiled down to felony simplistic terms ... turns on a secret plot to shut Lisbeth Salander up by duping a misguided, pretentious, pompous prosecutor into asking the courts to lock her up in an asylum.

    Bastid! (smile)

    It's seriously good, addictive, clever, satisfying and moral. It's what I hoped for -- a great finish to a great series.

    If you're like me, you'll turn the last page in this trilogy with mixed feelings.

    1) With a monumental sense of accomplishment (three books, 1,800-plus pages ... whew!)

    2) With the feeling that you've just finished reading one of the quintessential works in contemporary crime fiction, written by a great, talented writer

    3) With lots of sadness that Larsson died before he could enjoy his celebrity and that as readers we've seen all we're going to see of the girl with the dragon tattoo

    There are so many reasons this trilogy shouldn't have worked ... it's too long, it's unnecessarily complex at times, and the "title character" isn't around for too much of the first book and is inconsequential for too much of the final book.

    And yet it works ... bigtime ... largely because of Salander, the diminutive, dragon-tattooed, computer-hacking, nerves-of-steel victim of a colossal miscarriage of justice. Even when she's not on the page, she is ... the ripple-creating rock plunked into the middle of an otherwise calm lake.

    She's fearless and uncompromising. She rocks, she resonates. She's real, if not being able too get her out of your head is what gives great fictional characters life.

    In fact, this series-ending book is riddled with great characters ... starting with Mikael and Erica, of course, and including the Millennium crew, Mikael's amazing lawyer sister and his new likeable love interest cop, the police, the Sapo agents, Lisbeth's father and brother ... even her doctor.

    I remember reading a line from a reviewer who described Larsson's trilogy as "grown-up books for grownup readers."


    12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2010

    sad its over

    I had my brother purchase this for me from London a few mos ago. I took my time reading it because I didn't want the trilogy to end. So sad that the author died before he enjoyed his success from these books
    The book was great-thankfully lengthy so it lasted awhile. Definitely recommend.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Better than the previous two...if possible....

    Lisbeth and Mikael haven't changed, they're just as imperfect as all the rest of us and, most of the characters from the previous books are back. There are allot of new characters as well but don't let that intimidate you because it works! And finally...Lisbeth doesn't have to deal with her problems alone. When Mr. Larsson passed away the world lost one of the best writers of crime thrillers I have seen in a long, long time. I like the European writers such as, Henning Mankell, Tana French and Mr. Larsson because they seem more....gritty and the characters are more "real", warts and all. I read it front to back in 1 day and I cried when it was over. Partly, because I knew I would never visit these characters again and partly because I would never have the pleasure of reading anything by Mr. Larsson again.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    Excellent finale to Millenium Trilogy

    I picked up book 3 (UK version - already released) because I couldn't wait to see what happened to Lisbeth after the cliffhanger ending of Girl Who Played With Fire. This book doesn't disappoint one bit - a true page-turner and intriguing social commentary.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2010

    Amazing series

    These 3 books are mesmerizing in their broad scope of activities and in-depth character development. Stieg Larsson intrigued us with the twists and turns of the relationship between the two main characters as well as a cast of minor (but no less important) players. He also provided the historical background and the contemporary scenes of Sweden. On top of that, the non-stop action and at times humorous dialogs made these books hard to put down. I would wake up at 4 AM to start reading before going to work and continue to read till midnight after returning home. This series is truly addicting.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2010

    Ended with Style!

    One of the reviews stated all the loose ends were neatly wrapped up. I agree - but I don't feel like the author was reaching for ways and means to wrap up those ends. The whole series was stylish and original. I only wish Mr. Larsson was still here to entertain us further in the future.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2010

    Had to have it!

    Purchased the English version in Stockholm airport in November 2009 since I could wait no longer to read the final saga of Lizbeth and company. Great thriller, even from the hospital room. Excellent writing, a page-turner like the first two books, and sorry there will be no more. Now if we could just an English translation of the Swedish movies, I'd love to try those too.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2010


    Bought this book from the UK. This series is wonderful. It is such a shame that larrson died before his time. He could have produced many more great novels. The Mellinium series is one I just haven't been able to put down. It's a must read.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Great trilogy

    This was the best thriller trilogy series I have ever had the pleasure of reading. Loved the style of writing and the suspense level through all three books. Such a shame we won't have any more from this author.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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