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Hornet's Nest


At a time of price wars and pressure from electronic books, a group of independent bookstores has found at least one way to lure customers into paying premium prices for a hardcover title: import an eagerly awaited book from Britain several months before its release in the United States and then jack up the price.

Coming on the heels of the breakout success of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” the first two volumes in the posthumously published thriller trilogy by the Swedish author Stieg Larsson, booksellers are now importing British editions of “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” the third volume in the bestselling series six months before its publication here.

Charging as much as $45 for the book, which sells on Amazon in Britain for £8.99 (about $14.75), some booksellers have sold more than a hundred copies each.

The imports are attracting fans like Joan Morgenstern, a retired property manager in Houston who had already torn through the first two books in the series and was eager to read the third when she discovered that her favorite bookstore in Houston, Murder by the Book, imported several copies of the British hardcover version shortly after it was published in October.

Ms. Morgenstern, 64, paid $40 for her copy and read it over the Thanksgiving holiday. “I’ve never been extremely patient when it comes to stuff I can find and read,” she said.

In response to many similarly impatient Stieg Larsson fans, eager to read the latest action-packed adventures of angry punk hacker Lisbeth Salander and the haggard journalist Mikael Blomkvist, several independent bookstores across the country have been importing the British editions of “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” published by MacLehose Press, an imprint of Quercus Publishing, and reselling them. The United States publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, will not release the book until the end of May.

The importing has been so widespread that the British edition of “Hornet’s Nest” tied for No. 5 on the best-seller list of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association in the United States in October.

. . .

David Thompson, a bookseller at Murder by the Book in Houston, said customers were already buying “Hornet’s Nest” on their own from Amazon.co.uk and other online retailers. “It’s not fair to not be able to offer the same books that people can get online,” he said. The store has sold 150 copies, obtained through a British wholesaler.

While bookshops, particularly those that focus on mystery series, often import a handful of British editions of various titles for collectors, they are bringing in many more copies of “Hornet’s Nest,” where demand has stretched far beyond collectors.

I finished two days ago and handed off my copy to my mom this morning. I suspect she'll be done by the end of the week. My dad has expressed interest in the series now. Apparently there was a pretty awesome article in The Economist about it. It's as good, if not better than the first two, and I highly, highly recommend it.

Murder By the Book, by the way, is a really awesome, awesome store.