The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (original title in Swedish: Luftslottet som sprängdes, lit.'The castle in the air that blew up') is the third novel in the best-selling Millennium series by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson.[1] It was published in Swedish in 2007; in English, in the UK, in October 2009; and in the US and Canada on 25 May 2010.[2][3] The first three novels in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2005), The Girl Who Played with Fire (2006), and The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest were written by Stieg Larsson before being shown to a publisher and were published posthumously after his fatal heart attack in 2004.[4] Additionally, all three novels were adapted as films.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest
Steig Larsson-The girl with the dragon tattoo.jpeg
First edition (Swedish)
AuthorStieg Larsson
Original titleLuftslottet som sprängdes
TranslatorReg Keeland, pseudonym of Steven T. Murray
GenreCrime, mystery, thriller
PublisherNorstedts Förlag (Swedish), MacLehose Press, an imprint of Quercus (English)
Publication date
  • May 2007 (Sweden)
  • October 2009 (UK)
Media typePrint (Paperback and hardback)
Pages602 (hardback)
Preceded byThe Girl Who Played with Fire 
Followed byThe Girl in the Spider's Web 


The book begins as Lisbeth Salander is flown to Sahlgrenska Hospital. It picks up where The Girl Who Played with Fire left off.

In the hospitalEdit

After surgery, Salander is moved to an intensive care ward under guard, accessible only to police, doctors, nurses, and her lawyer, Annika Giannini (who is also Mikael Blomkvist's sister). Zalachenko, whom Salander injured with an axe, is two rooms away. Niedermann, thanks to botched responses from the local law enforcement, is on the run after murdering a police officer, and carjacking and kidnapping a woman during his escape. Niedermann seeks help from his old friends at the outlaw Svavelsjö Motorcycle Club, kills the treasurer, and steals 800,000 kronor before disappearing.

These events prompt immediate action from "the Section", a secret division of Swedish Security Service (Säpo) created for purposes of counterintelligence, and responsible for Zalachenko's asylum and supervision. Evert Gullberg, founder and former chief of the Section, asks former Section associate Fredrik Clinton to become acting head of the Section and plots to deflect attention away from the Section by silencing Salander, Blomkvist, and Zalachenko. They form a working alliance with the unsuspecting prosecutor of Salander's case, Richard Ekström. Dr. Peter Teleborian, the psychiatrist who supervised Salander when she was previously institutionalised on the Section's orders, provides Ekström with a false psychiatric examination and recommends that she be reinstitutionalised, preferably without a trial.

Gullberg, who has terminal cancer, murders Zalachenko in his hospital bed and attempts to enter Salander's room to murder her, but is prevented by Giannini. Gullberg then commits suicide in the passage outside Salander's room. A distraught Giannini informs Blomkvist of the shootings. Section operatives murder Gunnar Björk, the junior Säpo officer who had handled Zalachenko after the latter's defection and who was Blomkvist's source of information about the Section; the operatives falsify the death as a suicide. Other Section operatives burgle Blomkvist's apartment and mug Annika Giannini, specifically making off with copies of the classified Säpo file that contains Zalachenko's identity, and plant bugs in the homes and phones of Millennium staff. The timing of the attacks and the property that was taken cause Blomkvist to realise that the phones are tapped, and he begins to investigate the Section in earnest for a Millennium exposé.


Blomkvist hires Dragan Armansky's Milton Security to handle countersurveillance. Armansky, on his own initiative, informs Säpo Constitutional Protection Director Torsten Edklinth about the constitutional violations. Edklinth, along with his assistant Monica Figuerola, begins a clandestine investigation into the Section. After Figuerola confirms the allegations, Edklinth contacts the Justice Minister and the Prime Minister who approve a full investigation by Constitutional Protection, and later invite Blomkvist to a confidential meeting in which they are to share information. They agree to Blomkvist's deadline—he intends to publish his findings about the state's manipulation of Salander's constitutional rights on 15 July, the third day of her trial, and the government agree to arrest any identified ringleaders of the Section at the same time.

Blomkvist convinces Salander's doctor, Dr. Anders Jonasson, to return her Palm Tungsten handheld computer to her. Blomkvist arranges to have a cellular phone placed in a duct near Salander's room, granting her Internet access through the resulting hotspot, which she uses to maintain contact with the outside world and work on a statement for her upcoming trial. Jonasson also helps her fake complications from her surgery, so that she can remain in the hospital's custody (and out of the police's). Meanwhile, Blomkvist, Armansky, Bublanski, Edklinth and their allies continue their joint counter-surveillance of the "Zalachenko club", feeding them misinformation about Millennium's (supposed) passivity regarding Salander's trial. They identify nine central players in the Section. Additionally, Blomkvist and Figuerola become romantically involved.

Berger subplotEdit

Whilst all of the above is going on, Erika Berger leaves Millennium to be editor-in-chief at Sweden's largest daily paper, the (fictional) Svenska Morgon-Posten (S.M.P.). Though the board hired her to revitalise the paper's sagging circulation numbers, they shut down her every proposal, emphasising profits over sustainability. Meanwhile, Henry Cortez, junior Millennium reporter, uncovers a story about a Swedish toilet-manufacturing company that engages child labour in Vietnam. His research reveals that the boss of said firm is Magnus Borgsjö, who is CEO and major shareholder at S.M.P. and hired Berger for her new position. Blomkvist gives a copy of the story to Berger, agreeing to delay its publication until August while she confronts Borgsjö and convinces him to resign gracefully.

Berger begins receiving graphic e-mails and threats from an anonymous source within S.M.P., most of them calling her a "whore." Erika asks her staff to remain on alert, but matters escalate when the stalker breaks into Berger's home and steals private materials, such as high school love letters, a sex tape made with her husband Greger Beckman, and her copy of Cortez's story. Berger engages Milton Security to help secure her home, and Armansky sends over former police officer Susanne Linder to provide protection while Beckman is abroad on business.

Salander, whilst engaged in her own homework, discovers Berger's plight and mobilises the "Hacker Republic", an elite and international group of computer wizards, to assist. They determine that Peter Fredriksson, S.M.P. employee and former high school classmate of Berger, is the culprit. Linder steps outside the law to confront Fredriksson and recovers Berger's things. However, Fredriksson has already passed Millennium's exposé on to Borgsjö. Borgsjö orders Berger to suppress the story at Millennium or lose her job at S.M.P. Berger, her sense of journalistic integrity offended, instead runs the story in that day's issue of S.M.P. under Cortez's byline, and then resigns in protest over both this and her treatment by upper management. Borgsjö and Fredriksson are both forced out, whilst Berger is accepted back at Millennium with open arms.


As Salander's trial approaches, the Section abruptly realise that Blomkvist's and Millennium's seeming lack of preparation are simply a cover story for their (successful, if now detected) campaign of misinformation. Clinton, having no idea what Blomkvist knows or plans to publish, arranges to plant cocaine in Blomkvist's apartment and simultaneously hire two members of the Yugoslav mafia to murder him; their intention is to frame him as a drug dealer and thus destroy his credibility. The former is easily undermined by the security cameras installed by Milton Security, which capture the plant; the latter requires the intervention of Figuerola, Andersson, Modig and several others from both Säpo and Milton. Blomkvist and Berger are spirited off to a Milton safehouse, allowing Säpo to further the misdirection by claiming that the two hitmen simply had the bad luck to stop for a meal at the same restaurant as the police officers. Berger, meanwhile, intuits Figuerola's and Blomkvist's affair, and promises Figuerola to stay clear of Blomkvist as long as they are together.

The first two days of Salander's trial, on various counts of aggravated violence, proceed with relative calm. However, on the third day, Millennium's dual book-and-magazine exposé is published, the officers of the Section are arrested, Channel TV4 runs an hour-long program on the Section using (pre-recorded) interviews and material from Blomkvist, and Giannini systematically destroys Teleborian's testimony, proving that the Section and Teleborian had conspired to commit Salander at age 12 to protect Zalachenko, that Salander's rights had been repeatedly violated, and that they were once again conspiring against her. Blomkvist and Edklinth provide evidence proving that Teleborian's recent "psychiatric assessment" of Salander was fabricated and that he is working with the Section to silence her. Teleborian is then arrested for possession of child pornography, which was found on his computer by Salander and her hacker friends, Plague and Trinity. Ekström, realising that the law is (or should be) on Salander's side, withdraws all charges against her, and her declaration of incompetence is rescinded.


With the evidence and credibility of the prosecution shattered, the prosecutor drops all charges against Salander. Freed, Salander embarks on an overseas trip to forget the events. She spends several months at Gibraltar, among other things to pay a visit to the man managing the billions she had stolen from Hans-Erik Wennerström in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She also tracks down Miriam Wu, who is studying at a university in Paris, and apologises for putting her life in danger during the events of Played With Fire.

Salander soon discovers that being a "legally responsible citizen" involves its share of toil and drudgery. As Zalachenko's daughter, Salander is obliged to inherit half of his properties and wealth, while the other half goes to her twin sister Camilla, whom no one has heard from in more than a decade. Suspicious about an abandoned factory in her father's estate, she goes there to investigate. There, she discovers two dead women, and Niedermann, who had been hiding there from the police. After a brief struggle and chase, Salander outwits Niedermann by nailing his feet to the plank floor with a nail gun. She is tempted to kill him herself, but instead reports his location to Sonny Nieminen, acting head of the Svavelsjö biker gang, and then reports the entire brawl to the police. She leaves before the stand-off concludes, satisfied that both Niedermann and the Svavelsjö bikers have been brought to justice. (She later learns that Niedermann was killed by the bikers, and Nieminen by the police while resisting arrest.)

Back at her apartment in Stockholm, Salander receives a visit from Blomkvist. The story ends with the two reconciling.

Characters from Larsson's lifeEdit

  • Svante Branden helps Salander "by denouncing the fraudulent analysis of Dr. Peter Teleborian and the arbitrary internment to which he had subjected her." Larsson and his life partner Eva Gabrielsson were loaned a student room by the real Svante Branden who, after being neighbors with Larsson in Umeå, was a psychiatrist and a friend. In her book "There Are Things I Want You to Know" About Stieg Larsson and Me, Gabrielsson writes that the character and the person were a lot alike because Svante "was against every form of violation of human rights and freedom. When Stieg made him one of the heroes of The Millennium Trilogy, it was a way of paying homage to him." [5]
  • Anders Jonasson, the doctor who helps Salander significantly throughout her hospital stay, is based on Anders Jakobsson, a longtime friend of Stieg Larsson and Eva Gabrielsson's. His name was changed in the novel to Jonasson after he ran into Erland, Larsson's father, in a supermarket and loudly denounced him in no uncertain terms as a tomb raider after Gabrielsson was denied access to Larsson's estate after his death.[5]
  • Kurdo Baksi, Kurdish-Swedish publisher of Black and White magazine and collaborator with Stieg Larsson at the Expo Foundation, appears "as himself" in the books, along with his publishing house.


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest was listed at the top of's bestseller list before arriving in bookstores, extremely unusual for an English-language book in translation.[6] Just as unusually, this book was not made available in paperback until 21 February 2012, or more than two years after its original English-language publication in October 2009,[7] probably because it still regularly appeared in Top 10 best seller lists as a hardcover book (e.g., rated #5 in the New York Times best seller list for the week ending 29 January 2012).[8]

The Millennium series is described in a The New York Times review as "utterly addicting", and this, the third in the series, received a good review.[9] Salander is described as "one of the most original characters in a thriller to come along in a while". The combination of her resourcefulness, intelligence and apparent fragility underlies her ability to win the battle to have her re-institutionalised. The compelling character of Salander and her past, completely explained in the volume of the trilogy, is a counterpoint to Blomkvist's more mundane character, writes the reviewer. The novel itself is compared to John le Carré's cold-war thrillers.[10] Writing for The Guardian, Kate Mosse declares that The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is a "grown-up work for grown-up readers", which she says shows a well-presented plausible narrative.[11] The Los Angeles Times disagrees, describing the plots as "improbable", but notes the popularity of the series, referring to it as "an authentic phenomenon".[12] Writing for The Washington Post, Patrick Anderson claims the third in the series "brings the saga to a satisfactory conclusion".[4]

The overly long and complicated plot is criticised by Marcel Berlins writing for The Sunday Times.[13] The Los Angeles Times critic agrees, pointing at the implausibility of Larsson's plot, the weak writing and characterisations.[12]

Publication historyEdit

Larsson submitted the book to two Swedish publishers, with Norstedts Förlag accepting the manuscript for publication. Norstedts commissioned Steve Murray under the pen-name of Reg Keeland to undertake the English translation.[14]

Alfred A. Knopf bought the rights to the book, along with the preceding two volumes in the series, after Larsson's death in 2004.[15] The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest was published with a first print-run of 800,000 copies.[6]

Film and TV adaptationsEdit

  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest (film)
  • Millennium (miniseries), a Swedish six-part television miniseries based on the film adaptations of Stieg Larsson's series of the same name, was broadcast on SVT1 from 20 March 2010 to 24 April 2010. The series was produced by Yellow Bird in cooperation with several production companies, including SVT, Nordisk Film, Film i Västm, and ZDF Enterprises.
  • Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition is the title of the TV miniseries release on DVD, Blu-ray, and video on demand in the US. This version of the miniseries comprises nine hours of story content, including over two hours of additional footage not seen in the theatrical versions of the original Swedish films.[16]



  1. ^ "Bestselling fiction authors in the world for 2008". AbeBooks. 15 January 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2009. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link); "Inspector Norse: Why are Nordic detective novels so successful?". The Economist. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 19 March 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ " The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (9780307269997)". Retrieved 16 August 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest: Stieg Larsson: Books". Retrieved 23 September 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ a b "Book World: Review of Stieg Larsson's 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest'" The Washington Post (24 May 2010). Retrieved 5 February 2011.
  5. ^ a b Gabrielsson, Eva, Marie-Françoise Colombani, and Linda Coverdale. "There Are Things I Want You to Know" about Stieg Larsson and Me. New York: Seven Stories, 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Swedish thriller poised for blockbuster U.S. debut" Reuters (25 May 2010). Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  7. ^ Scheduled Vintage Paperback Edition. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  8. ^ NYT Best Seller List. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  9. ^ "The Hacker and the Hack" The New York Times (28 May 2010) Retrieved 5 February 2011
  10. ^ "A Punk Pixie's Ominous Past" The New York Times (20 May 2010). Retrieved 5 February 2011
  11. ^ "The new Millenium" The Guardian (23 October 2009). Retrieved 5 February 2011
  12. ^ a b "Book Review: 'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest'" 'Los Angeles Times (24 May 2010). Retrieved 5 February 2011
  13. ^ "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson" The Sunday Times (26 September 2009). Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  14. ^ Acocella, Joan. "Man of Mystery". The New Yorker (1/10/2011), Vol. 86, Issue 43
  15. ^ "American Readers, Waiting Impatiently For 'The Girl'" NPR (5 April 2010). Retrieved 5 February 2011.
  16. ^ Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition. Archived from the original on 21 May 2016. Retrieved 8 June 2016.

External linksEdit