I was eager to listen to this final book in the Stieg Larsson trilogy as I'd greatly enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and then the Girl who Played with Fire. One word of advice: listen or read the two previous books before tackling The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest as the latter narrative flows seamlessly from the Girl who Played with Fire and I think a listener would be confused without knowing the back-story and having become familiar with the main characters who are present in all three books. All the books are complicated with lots of characters with Swedish names and places but all are riveting. The stories are of epic proportions combining spies and the security services; crime and its detection; high-level computer hacking; investigative journalism leavened by a fair bit of raunchy descriptions of bed-room scenes.
This final book opens with quite a lot of explanation about the Swedish security service and political system but then takes off with the resolution of
the many threads from the previous books. Much of the book revolves around Lisbeth Salander's trial for serious crimes and journalist Mikael Blomkvist's behind the scenes investigations. The trial scenes are particularly engrossing, and without giving anything away, the cross-examination of the psychiatrist, Dr Teleborian, is a high-light.
The enjoyment and comprehensibility of all the books are greatly enhanced by the superb narration by Saul Reichlin, who is probably the finest audio book reader. Narration is an understatement as he really dramatizes the books by his ability to create different voices for the characters.
Sadly, the author, Stieg Larsson, died prematurely before this trilogy was published and won't know how much pleasure he's given people round the world who've followed the exploits of his weirdly wonderful character, Lisbeth Salander, and the doughty investigative journalist, Mikael Blomkvist.
Set in the early years of James First's (sixth of Scotland) reign the author successfully creates the atmosphere of Scotland in that era of dour and self-righteous Protestantism and the lack of sympathy for "sinners". It was a time when elderly women had to be wary of being accused of witch-craft on the flimsiest of grounds. Fears abounded of a foreign invasion to re-establish the Catholic faith. Against this back-drop a story unfolds of a series of unexplained deaths in a village in Banff in North-East Scotland that sets off a whirlwind of consequences. It's a pacy narrative that kept me listening. The Scottish actor, Crawford Logan, does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life and, to my Scottish ear, he got the accents of the area just right: not an easy task.
Although this book can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, you'll get more from it if you listen to the first part of this trilogy of books largely set in the Outer Hebrides. Many of the characters from the first novel re-appear in the Lewis Man in which their lives are moved forward in time. As with The Blackhouse, though ostensibly a detective novel, that aspect of the narrative is just the back-drop to life stories that switch between the 1950s and the present day. There's lots of atmospheric writing about the scenery and weather (!). Along the way we learn more of how life on the islands has changed and social attitudes altered.
Peter Forbes is an excellent narrator who really brought the characters alive for me.