Audio book: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, By Stieg Larsson, read by Martin Wenner

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The Independent Culture

The brilliant young maverick investigator Lisbeth Salander spends half of this book immobile in a hospital bed. Shot three times, once in the head, and buried in a shallow grave, she has somehow emerged and found enough strength to bash in her wicked father's head with an axe. He, the old Russian defector Zalachenko, has also survived and lies, similarly bandaged, in the next room. One seems certain to kill the other.

This set-up, left over from the previous novel, opens the final part of the Millennium trilogy of crime novels by the late Stieg Larsson (right). And from a dynamic start, the pace accelerates relentlessly until, and beyond, Lisbeth's terrifying encounter with her crazed and murderous brother. Anyone of any importance in Sweden, including the top brass of the secret service and a couple of prime ministers, is involved. Lorry-loads of police corruption, violent death, hideous torture, gruesome sex and political shenanigans are not quite balanced by a new romantic interest for the charismatic journalist-hero Mikael Blomkvist.

The cast is huge and, though Martin Wenner makes a valiant attempt to differentiate their voices, the Swedish names can sound confusing – Niemenen the policeman hunting Niedermann the murderer, for example.

It is challengingly complicated, possibly because of being abridged into 5CDs. I listened to it twice: the first time caught in the gallop of the story; the second starting, at last, to understand the political implications and labyrinthine plot.