The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the final installment of the late Larsson's Millennium trilogy, which arrives in bookstores Tuesday, is a bittersweet treat. Picking up precisely where The Girl Who Played With Fire ends, it wastes no time charging headlong into the electrifying story Larsson began in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. The past is fully confronted; the bad guys are finally vanquished. And the book's perfect final pages are guaranteed to make your heart ache more than a little.
Funny to call this dark and violent series moving. But Larsson's deft characterizations of crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander are so compelling that the realization that this book marks the end of their literary travels is crushing. Larsson, who died in 2004, created a mesmerizing series that not only tackled ugly subjects -- the sexual abuse of women, the dangers of fanatical secret factions within the government -- but also featured tangled and surprising plots that roar with life and imagination.
But Blomkvist and Salander make his books so popular, particularly Salander, surely one of the best and most riveting characters ever committed to the page. She barely survived the events of the last book and in Hornet's Nest, she spends much of her time in a hospital bed, which means she's forced to trust Blomkvist, to whom she still refuses to speak. (Amazingly, though she can't get around, the action never wavers.) Salander also contemplates her need for vengeance. Retaliation is as natural to her as hacking into your bank account; can she learn that she isn't necessarily always the right person to dispense justice?
The book slows down a bit during an early, lengthy passage about the Swedish secret service, but otherwise Larsson's story flows without a hitch. Saying goodbye to these characters we've come to love is hard. But this miraculous series is worth any sorrow we may feel at its end.