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THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST, by Stieg Larsson. (Knopf Doubleday Publishing.) Volume 3 of the Millennium trilogy, about a Swedish hacker and a journalist

The exhilarating conclusion to bestseller Larsson’s Millennium trilogy (after The Girl Who Played with Fire) finds Lisbeth Salander, the brilliant computer hacker who was shot in the head in the final pages of Fire, alive, though still the prime suspect in three murders in Stockholm. While she convalesces under armed guard, journalist Mikael Blomkvist works to unravel the decades-old coverup surrounding the man who shot Salander: her father, Alexander Zalachenko, a Soviet intelligence defector and longtime secret asset to Säpo, Sweden’s security police. Estranged throughout Fire, Blomkvist and Salander communicate primarily online, but their lack of physical interaction in no way diminishes the intensity of their unconventional relationship. Though Larsson (1954–2004) tends toward narrative excess, his was an undeniably powerful voice in crime fiction that will be sorely missed. 500,000 first printing. (May)
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THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson. (Knopf Doubleday Publishing.) In Volume 2 of the Millennium trilogy, a Swedish hacker becomes a murder suspect.

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, by Stieg Larsson

Fans of intelligent page-turners will be more than satisfied by Larsson’s second thriller, even though it falls short of the high standard set by its predecessor, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which introduced crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist and punk hacker savant Lisbeth Salander. A few weeks before Dag Svensson, a freelance journalist, plans to publish a story that exposes important people involved in Sweden’s sex trafficking business based on research conducted by his girlfriend, Mia Johansson, a criminologist and gender studies scholar, the couple are shot to death in their Stockholm apartment. Salander, who has a history of violent tendencies, becomes the prime suspect after the police find her fingerprints on the murder weapon. While Blomkvist strives to clear Salander of the crime, some far-fetched twists help ensure her survival. Powerful prose and intriguing lead characters will carry most readers along. (Aug.)
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THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, by Stieg Larsson. (Knopf Doubleday Publishing.) A hacker and a journalist investigate the disappearance of a Swedish heiress 40 years earlier.

Starred Review. With its rich characterizations and intriguing plot, the first book of the late Stieg Larsson’s completed trilogy, involving disgraced Swedish journalist-publisher Mikael Blomkvist and the eponymous, pierced and tattooed, emotionally troubled young hacker-investigator Lisbeth Salander, clearly deserves the acclaim it’s received overseas. Martin Wenner’s almost indifferent, British-accented narration would seem an odd choice for a novel filled with passion, sex and violence, but as the oddly coupled Blomkvist and Salander probe the four-decade-old disappearance of Harriet Vanger, heiress to one of Sweden’s wealthiest clans, the objective approach actually accentuates the extreme behavior of both and the strange subjects of their investigation. Wenner’s calm, controlled manner aids the listener in keeping track of the numerous members of the Vanger family, a task that the printed book simplifies with a reference page. A Knopf hardcover (Reviews, July 14). (Sept.)

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