October 24, 2010
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The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest

by Stieg Larsson

A rollicking good time and final bow for Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, this novel sorts out the chaos in which The Girl Who Played With Fire ends and delightfully weaves the loose ends into a lovely bow. Amongst the numerous plot threads, we again have a fine workplace drama as Erika Berger takes the helm of a large but troubled newspaper and finds that her staff is not as welcoming as one might hope, and the management even worse than one might fear. The center of the story, however, is the unequal combat between our intrepid band of underground journalists and the shadowy, off-the-books government department that has been running Swedish covert intelligence for decades and which turns out to be the most catastrophically inept spy service since John Le Carre’s The Looking Glass War .

Considering our experience of the Bush years – not to mention the collapse of the Eastern European satellites – we’re surprisingly short of thrillers in which amateurs conduct espionage against the inept apparatus of state security. This once was treacherous ground because the obvious police state, Nazi Germany, fits uncomfortably in satire. You could (almost) write Hogan’s Heroes in 1965 but you couldn’t write it now; Catch-22 is hilarious, but we never see the Germans. But the Bushies? They would work just fine.