The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest was listed at the top of Amazon.com's bestseller list before arriving in bookstores, extremely unusual for an English-language book in translation. 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, 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).
The Millennium series is described in a New York Times review as "utterly addicting", and this, the third in the series, received a good review. 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-institutionalized. 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 LeCarre's cold-war thrillers. 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. The Los Angeles Times disagrees, describing the plots as "improbable", but notes the popularity of the series, referring to it as "an authentic phenomenon". Writing for The Washington Post, Patrick Anderson claims the third in the series "brings the saga to a satisfactory conclusion".
The overly long and complicated plot is criticized by Marcel Berlins writing for The Sunday Times. The Los Angeles Times critic agrees, pointing at the implausibility of Larsson's plot, the weak writing and characterizations.