For us Scandinavian crime fiction fans, Lisbeth Salander is a literary icon. The groundbreaking success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series brought Nordic Noir to the US in full force, and opened the door to even greater numbers of English-translated works of Scandinavian crime fiction. Larsson’s death seemed to mark the end of an era, and the end of Lisbeth.
Enter David Lagercrantz and THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB. This was an incredibly ambitious project: pick up where Larsson left off, and develop a continuation of the Millennium Series that has as much heart, intelligence, and intrigue as Larsson’s original three books. Most importantly, build upon the character that defined Larsson’s series, the girl herself.
THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB finds journalist Mikael Blomkvist on the scent of a new story—a piece of breaking news he desperately needs to save a floundering Millennium. A late-night phone call from a mysterious source claiming to have intelligence information vital to the United States government piques Mikael’s interest; the mention of a female hacker used by the source to collect information cements Mikael’s commitment to the story. Mikael and Lisbeth find themselves drawn independently into a tangled web of governmental agencies, cyber criminals, the global intelligence community, and a group determined to kill to protect its secrets.
Let’s get right to the heart of the matter: was this project a good idea? Does this book fit in with the previous three, or will reading it sully our memories of the original books?
I will be the first to admit, I was torn between excitement and apprehension when publisher Alfred A. Knopf first announced this book. I am so glad I read it. Lagercrantz’s prose is noticeably different from Larsson’s, but I loved it. Lagercrantz writes with conviction and confidence, masterfully juggling an incredibly intricate plot. He weaves characters together seamlessly, creating a story that requires the reader to juggle many plot threads to journey to the heart of the web along with Lisbeth and Mikael. This is a book that demands your attention, and you will be only too happy to comply.
I have read reviews that comment on the lack of time spent in direct interaction with Lisbeth, and I did notice this myself while reading THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB. Lisbeth-dedicated scenes are limited, and Lagercrantz spends significantly more time using other characters to discuss her than giving the reader a direct glimpse into her actions; for example, a character might mention Lisbeth's intensity, rather than the reader witnessing a scene where Lisbeth herself displays that intensity. However, I have to wonder if this was a strategic move by Lagercrantz. Larsson crafted such a distinct character in Lisbeth, perhaps Lagercrantz’s indirect way of discussing Lisbeth is his way of conjuring up the girl we know and love, while his choice to limit her direct presence in the novel allows the reader to project his or her own memories of Larsson’s Lisbeth onto her reincarnation. I could be reading way too much into this editorial choice, but if it was intentional, I totally applaud it. It’s a subtle way of preserving our memory of Larsson’s Lisbeth, while still making her an essential part of Lagercrantz’s story.
So overall, what’s the verdict?
Read this book. Expect it to be different, but also expect it to do justice to the original Millennium novels.