I realize I may be the last person in the western world to read these mysteries. I read the first novel in the trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) when it was published in English. I enjoyed it but was left wondering what the buzz was about this series. I recently read the last two and I have the same reaction. These are good mysteries no doubt, but in my mind not to the level of best stories from P.D.James, Michael Connolly or even Tana French.
Spoilers ahead. The last two books are in reality one story that deals with Lisbeth Salander’s life. In Dragon Tattoo she is introduced as a fairly quirky character but we don't learn much of her life story. In these stories we are told about her KGB defector father and the cruelty of her early life. The kid couldn’t get a break and things aren’t improving for her here. She is wrongly accused of the murders of an investigative journalist and his partner who were in the process of exposing a sex trafficking ring. While most of Sweden believes her guilty she is assisted only by Blomkvist and a loyal group of supporters. In Fire the action centers on the chase to catch Salander and convict her of the murders, ending the story with her shot in the head after a violent confrontation with her father and a previously unknown half brother. Hornet’s Nest picks right up where Fire stopped. The key story line here is the cover-up within the Swedish Secret Police that allowed Salander’s father to operate with impunity as a criminal in Sweden. This story is the weakest of the three. There are pages upon pages that attempt to explain the Swedish government system of checks and balances or lack thereof. There is no end to administrative steps that go on as Blomkvist et al attempt to roll up the Secret Police cabal who are responsible for Salander’s troubles. Within the Secret Police there isn't a strong villian character to focus on. Salander is in either the hospital or in jail throughout the entire story so there is way less action in this novel. There are some side stories in this one that help a bit with the lack of action in the main event but not enough in my opinion.
So I’d say if you read mysteries and thrillers you should probably read this trilogy. Tattoo was far and away the best, Fire was decent but Hornet’s Nest was a yawner for me. The English language version of Dragon Tattoo (Michael Craig as Blomkvist, Rooney Mara as Salander) will be released by Sony Pictures in December of this year. I bet that only adds to the hype that these books have received. Can’t figure it out!
I read copies of these novels borrowed from The Free Library of Philadelphia.