After finishing Stieg Larsson's Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium) series, I was pretty much ruined on books for about two years. Nothing I picked up was quite as exciting, edge-of-your-seat reading, as those three books were. There are various opinions on this, but I personally thought the first in the series was outstanding, and then they got better from there. By the time I got to the end of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, I sat upright, rocking back and forth, legs shaking with anticipation on how it was all going to end. If I were to have one complaint about those three books it would be that all three started painfully slow. The first 100 pages of each book spent time on a backstory that was a bit confusing until it linked with the story later in the books, but it was a nonissue as the book moved very quickly after that.
Larsson died of a heart attack in 2004, leaving the series' first three manuscripts finished on his computer. Those were published beginning in 2008 by his girlfriend. Supposedly, three-fourths of the fourth novel as well parts of a fifth and sixth novel were also left on his computer. His girlfriend had wanted to complete and publish the fourth book, but since the couple was not married Larsson's estranged father and brother held the rights the series instead. The family hired author David Lagercrantz to pen a fourth novel to the series. He did not have any access to Larsson's unfinished manuscript. His book was released here in September of this year.
The reviews on Amazon before the book had even been published (several precautions were made to keep the book from leaking ahead of time) were mostly scathing. Many people were against the family taking control of the series as that was not what Larsson intended and seemed to be giving it bad reviews out of principle. Regardless, a fourth book in the series peaked my interest because of how engaging the other three books had been, and that was my reason for picking it for book club. We had read ...Dragon Tattoo a few years ago for one of our meetings, and everyone in the group had also read the rest of the series.
Once it was published, book reviews by those who had actually read it were quite good, with many saying Lagercratz's writing was a bit tighter than Larsson's. In my opinion, the book was far easier to get into than the other three were, having much less time spent on backstory. It did jump around quite a bit, but that seemed to be necessary as there were a lot of pieces to the puzzle. I found the character development to be lacking in comparison to Larsson's development of his characters. It felt like the author didn't "know" the characters as well. With that being said, maybe by the fourth book Larsson would have spent less time on the characters than before. The investigation was current with its link to technology and securities. Artificial intelligence was a center point of the story, but what that dealt with was only touched upon so it seemed to get lost in the book. My expectations were high, so while I liked the book, it didn't ruin me for other books either. There was no sitting upright in bed. The ending was good but was also far less engaging than the others. I will say that the author wrapped up this book well while still keeping things open for additional stories in the series. If I were not comparing it to Larsson's books, this book stands up well on its own. I do look forward to more books to come.
If you are familiar with the Millennium series there are few things I want to note. First, Lisbeth Salander clearly falls somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum. I enjoyed her relationship with young August Balder, the only witness to his father's murder. He is one of the rare (according to the book) few who exhibits savant capabilities in both math and art. Salander risks her life to keep him safe and is also the only one who succeeds in getting him to communicate. That link in the story was significant.
Salander has also been the victim of violence by several men in her life, men who were supposed to protect her. She, in turn, has exacted violent revenge on those attackers throughout the series and has stood up for others using similar tactics. During one scene in the book, she confronts someone who has had a hand in the corruption (and who has treated women he has hooked up with via the internet very badly) and shares explicit details of what she will do to him. When he asks if she is insane, she responds, "Probably, yes. Empathy deficit disorder. Excessive violence. Something along those lines." I found that quote quite telling of her personality. She's been the product of a system that couldn't protect her from violence most of her life and has been told by that system she's empathy deficient when she acts out that revenge. However, while she is VERY violent, I wouldn't say she lacks empathy. She just has more empathy for the abused than she does for their abusers. I think that's why she is a compelling character.
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