MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewA Column of Fire, Follett’s newest novel, is a nearly-thousand-page doorstop focused on the religious wars of 16th-century England, with plenty of detours ... As is typical for a historical novel, Follett centers the era’s pivotal moments on a small group of invented characters ... Follett also makes a point of showing how clever aristocrats used Christianity to gain an edge in business disputes ... The novel covers so much ground and has so many voices that its characters can sometimes come off as a little less than three-dimensional ... A Column of Fire ends with the promise of a Puritan voyage on the Mayflower. I suspect more than a few of Follett’s readers will be happy if he brings them to the New World in his next epic.
Stieg Larsson, Translated by Reg Keeland
MixedThe New York TimesThe novel offers a thoroughly ugly view of human nature, especially when it comes to the way Swedish men treat Swedish women. In Larsson’s world, sadism, murder and suicide are commonplace — as is lots of casual sex ... The book opens with an intriguing mystery. Henrik Vanger, an octogenarian industrialist, hires Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has just lost a libel case under murky circumstances, to investigate the disappearance of his great-niece, Harriet ... The novel perks up as their investigation gains speed, though readers will need some time to sort through the various cousins and nephews and half-brothers and -sisters who populate the Vanger family ... But if the middle section of Girl is a treat, the rest of the novel doesn’t quite measure up ... Without any warning, Girl metamorphoses into a boring account of Blomkvist’s effort to take down the executive who originally won the libel lawsuit mentioned at the start of the novel ... And so Girl ends blandly.