The Flaws in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy
Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy was a part of my Summer reading, and it was a very enjoyable experience to spend hours of my time completely hooked on the dark and riveting tales of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander and crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist. So much has been written about the Millennium trilogy that I doubt I could add much to the praise, but what struck me in particular was Larsson’s brilliant handling of many varied plots and crime sub-genres. The narrative seamlessly moves between and merges elements of the locked room mystery, whodunnit, corporate intrigue, political conspiracy thriller and historical fiction.
However, as Chris has argued on these pages, the concluding volume of the trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, is certainly the weakest of the series. I suspect the editing process had not been completed at the time of Larsson’s death as the novel seems far too long and needs refining. Without meaning to sound killjoy or to give away any spoilers, here are a few other areas where I felt the third novel was disappointing:
There is a long sub-plot involving Blomkvist’s occasional lover Erika Berger leaving Millennium magazine to become editor of a powerful national newspaper. While this is an entertaining and suspenseful diversion it seems to go on forever and the payoff is underwhelming.
I never found the character of Ronald Niedermann to be plausible. Niedermann is a psychopathic giant who is incapable of feeling pain, and whenever he is around the story descends into hokum.
About two hundred pages before the end of the third novel it becomes fairly obvious that the bad guys are screwed and the good guys become annoyingly self-righteous and verbose. The climactic courtroom trial seems to lose all suspense as a consequence.
Again, these are minor quibbles which, on the whole, don’t take away from Larsson’s brilliance as a writer and the Millennium trilogy’s reputation as a stunning achievement in crime fiction. There is an element of tragedy in reading the novels as we know Larsson never lived to see their remarkable success. I was left hungry for more and would love to see a fourth novel if the manuscript ever emerges, and if Larsson’s partner Eva Gabrielsson is ever awarded the fair settlement that she deserves. Although I would hope a fourth novel, despite Larsson’s passing, would receive a more vigorous editing and even redrafting process than The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.