This third and final novel in the Millennium trilogy is an immediate continuation of the story begun in The Girl Who Played with Fire. Lisbeth Salander is in the hospital, fighting for her life after a gunshot to the head. After her recovery, she faces another battle, this time against charges of aggravated assault and attempted murder, not to mention forces within the Swedish government that have been trying to keep her silent on a secret matter for years. With the help of the few supporters and friends she has left in the world, including Millennium publisher Mikael Blomkvist, Salander must fight back against the terrible injustices that have plagued her since childhood. Of course, considering what they’re up against, they are in almost as much danger as Salander herself.

I have to admit that after thoroughly enjoying the first two books in this trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest was a bit of a letdown. The plot was overly complicated yet lacking in suspense, with much more setup than actual story. There were also far too many characters to keep track of easily. The subplot about Erika Berger, while somewhat interesting, often felt awkward and unnecessary, like Larsson was trying too hard to add substance to a secondary character. The romance (if it can be called that) between Blomkvist and Monica Figuerola was cliché and unworthy of the other, far more interesting relationships that have populated the trilogy. While Lisbeth Salander is, as always, a powerful presence, I thought that her viewpoint got put aside a little too much in favor of other characters, whether heroes or villains.

For me, though, perhaps the biggest fault in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest is that the social commentary is not as well integrated as it was in the other two novels. Here, the text comes off as more of a diatribe against Sweden’s flaws than it does as a thriller that confronts social issues. As a result, there are some very long, dull passages in the text that I would have liked to skip over, but did not feel I could.

The last 100 pages or so of the book are, fortunately, a big improvement, with gripping courtroom drama and some of the thrilling kinds of moments that made the first two books so great. The conclusion is fairly satisfying, though a bit predictable, and written in such a way that one cannot help but join in the speculation as to whether Stieg Larsson was planning any more books in the series before his sudden death in 2004.

Whether Larsson intended to write more books or not, I can honestly say that, despite the flaws of the last book, the Millennium trilogy is a strong thriller series that both challenged me and kept me on the edge of my seat. Skeptical as I was at first, I understood why these books were so successful well before I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Larsson’s greatest accomplishment, of course, was the character of Lisbeth Salander, whose toughness, intelligence, and complexity defy the usual standards for thriller characters, especially female ones. Even if I don’t remember every single detail of this series, I will certainly never forget her.