Of course I was going to write about Stieg Larsson. I haven't been able to shut up about the Millenium books since January of 2008, when the UK edition of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO arrived on my doorstep, I took it with me on a spiritual retreat and spent that time reading instead of doing the spiritual stuff. But I also knew I had to assess all three books at once and now that THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST's American publication is imminent, I could do just that.
Behold, my newest Criminalist column for the Barnes & Noble Review. It's spoiler-ridden as essays tend to be and runs in a million different directions (and could have run in a million more), so I'll only tease the first paragraph:
By now, the narrative of Stieg Larsson is well-established to the point of near-myth. So it goes with a bona fide cultural phenomenon whose creator did not live to see the truly global success of the Millennium Trilogy. The surrounding legal drama between Larsson's longtime partner and family owing to his lack of a will, the excellent movie adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the glut of articles about the Nordic crime boom, and the new and forthcoming release of several biographies all underscore and obfuscate the bottom line: these three books resonate for millions of readers as few thrillers do. They—like me—are so hooked that the prospect of an end to the series produces low-to-mid-range frustration. To misquote Samuel Beckett, there can't be more. There must be more. There is no more.
And no, I'm not mentioning the partial fourth manuscript. If it sees the light of day, great, of course I'll read it, and I'll probably feel even more cheated for having read it because it will be unfinished and so many more loose threads will show up. But as long as it's in legal limbo it doesn't count, and book #3 does sum things up very nicely, even if it's akin to a page break and not a true fin.
There's also going to be so much more Larsson-mania in the weeks to come. Already available are Michiko Kakutani and Laura Miller's reviews, Charles McGrath's NYT Magazine article as well as Lev Grossman's overview of the whole crazy backstage drama (the anti-Larsson rant is fun, too.)