Book Review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web (continuing Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series) by David Lagercrantz

Title: The Girl in the Spider’s Web
Author: David Lagercrantz
Publisher: MacLehose Press
Publication Date: 7 April 2016

Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist have not been in touch for some time.
Then Blomkvist is contacted by renowned Swedish scientist Professor Balder. Warned that his life is in danger, but more concerned for his son’s well-being, Balder wants Millennium to publish his story – and it is a terrifying one.
More interesting to Blomkvist than Balder’s world-leading advances in Artificial Intelligence, is his connection with a certain female superhacker.
It seems that Salander, like Balder, is a target of ruthless cyber gangsters – and a violent criminal conspiracy that will very soon bring terror to the snowbound streets of Stockholm, to the Millennium team, and to Blomkvist and Salander themselves.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web is the fourth book in Steig Larsson’s Millennium series. The original three books by the Swedish author were found and published after his death in 2004. This fourth book was then commissioned by Larsson’s estate, presumably to cash in on the immense popularity enjoyed by the original trilogy (and apparently leading to a big dispute between Larsson’s family who run his estate and his long-term girlfriend who opposed the continuation of the series). With the original books boasting such a large following and with the controversy surrounding the continuation of the series, Swedish author and journalist David Lagercrantz certainly had a lot to live up to.
The one thing that really struck me about both the earlier books and The Girl in the Spider’s Web is how individual and unique the main characters are. Lagercrantz has remained faithful to Larsson’s original characterisations of those protagonists. Hacker-extraordinaire, Lisbeth Salander, is extremely intelligent, fiercely independent and stubborn. She is also difficult, rude, angry and vengeful – a typical anti-heroine she is the ultimate bad-ass who is redeemed by her vulnerability and her somewhat unique sense of right and wrong. Whether the reader likes her or not, Salander undoubtedly makes a compelling character. The main male protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, is an old-school investigative journalist looking to expose truth, despite threats or danger. He is a man of integrity and scruples, but full of self-doubt which is affecting his career. He is also a man who has proven himself weak-willed when it comes to resisting women, usually having several on the go at one time.
The plot is intelligent, complex and gripping – this is not a book that can be skim-read. Lagercrantz’ writing has an easy flow to it, ensuring that the story remains well-paced whilst allowing sufficient time for the plot to develop slowly and methodically, enabling the reader to follow the story as it switches between viewpoints. Whilst the story is a bit of a slow-burner there is enough action to make for a thrilling read, although I must admit that some of the more technical descriptions did impact the flow slightly.
The story does not finalise things between Salander and Blomkvist, leaving plenty of room for continuation of the series. I understand that the next book in the series The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is out on 7 September 2017.
Given that the English version is a translation of the original Swedish, it is difficult to tell whether Lagercrantz has stuck closely to Larsson’s writing style. Personally, I think that Lagercrantz has done a decent job of continuing Larsson’s Millennium series and the overall feel of the series/characters seems to have survived relatively intact (whether or not continuation novels should be written at all is another argument that I do not intend to address in this review!). The book is imaginative, complex and thrilling. If you enjoyed the earlier books in the trilogy, you will enjoy this one too.

About the Author

David Lagercrantz was born in 1962, and is an acclaimed Swedish author and journalist. In 2015 The Girl in the Spider’s Web, his continuation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, became a worldwide bestseller, and it was announced that Lagercrantz would write two further novels in the series. Book 5 will be published in Autumn 2017. He is also the author of the acclaimed and bestselling I am Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Fall of Man in Wilmslow, on the death and life of Alan Turing.

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