Book review: “The girl in the spider’s web” – Millennium part 4

It took a while for a copy to become available, as all the other fans using the local lib reserved, borrowed, read the book. It also took a while for me to decide to start on part four of the Millennium series. For the first three books, with their endearing main characters and gripping plots were created by author Stieg Larsson. 

Stieg Larsson died unexpectedly in 2004. He had not written a will. So his partner did not inherit any money made from the roughly 80 million Millennium copies sold worldwide, nor received any money from the tv series and at least one film. All the money went to Stieg Larsson’s father and brother, whom he had not seen for ages and might not have included in his will – had he written one.

girl in the spiderThe “estate”, which decided not to share anything with Stieg Larsson’s partner, did decide to squeeze more money out of their dead relative. David Lagercrantz was contracted to write part four: “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”. This whole business surrounding the Millennium series caused me to remain wary of part four. After all: any fan of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, will probably have some kind of justice-injustice notion.

Nevertheless, the past weekend part four was carted off home, read, and will be returned. Reviewers were mostly positive about Lagercrantz’ book. However, that I managed to read it within 24 hours is no recommendation. This thriller is definitely not of the same impressive quality as Stieg Larsson’s trilogy.

The reason I managed to read it within 24 hours had more to do with skipping and skimming pages containing unnecessary information, than this crime novel being “unputdownable”. Less than halfway through, I started wondering: had Mr Lagercrantz’ contract contained a paragraph about the minimum number of pages his sequel was supposed to have?

For example: it contains pages of background information about practically all the characters. Background info about Mikael Blomkvist and Listbeth Salander may be handy for readers who are unfamiliar with the previous three thrillers. It may be handy when introducing new characters. But does anybody really need background info on practically all stock characters who only pop up to help kick the plot along?

As the reviewer of the Guardian mentions, Mr Lagercrantz did not have access to Stieg Larsson’s laptop. He read the three thrillers and then used what he had gleaned about Millennium and its main characters to revive them in part one of the new series. For at the end of part four, it is clear round one may have been won by Lisbeth and Mikael, but at least one antagonist is looking forward to round two.

Noomi Rapace , Film VergebungReviving Blomkvist went well. He is nearly his usual self. On the other hand, Lisbeth has altered and is clearly more of a clone. Somehow, she seems less harsh and independent and her aggression less directed against men who harmed her. A few other characters reappear or are mentioned, as are the earlier parts in the series. But part four can be read independently.

The plot involves business espionage and the stealing and selling of ideas and new developments within the IT world. Unfortunately, it was deemed necessary to involve the NSA . These days, it sells. There is even a character called Ed, though only the name reminds one of Snowden. But as the New York Times reviewer states: this thread simply does not work.

A few descriptions of hacking, servers, cyber attacks actually made me grin. Unintentional, for the author took things seriously. He received help from for instance Kapersky. This crime novel does not contain much comic relief.

One of the other threads of the plot involves Lisbeth and her family. Why she is caught in a spider’s web becomes clear after Blomkvist has a chat with her former guardian. As stated above, the clutches of Lisbeth’s family may have been temporarily clipped, it is clear the fight is not over. The publishers and “estate” are clearly aiming at several more additions to this saga.

One of the main characters in part four is August. He is an autistic child living with his actress mother in an abusive relationship. His biological father arrives back in Stockholm from the US and abducts him. August later witnesses a murder.

He develops from a severely autistic eight-year-old into a character like Rainman or Christopher Boone. Though autistic children may develop as fast as August, that Lisbeth is able to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with August is rather unconvincing and has more to do with bringing together various developments and threads of the story.

Do all the flaws make “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” unreadable? Certainly not. As with other books of this genre, the pace is fast and there is plenty of action, while tension regularly peaks.

So: still unfamiliar with Stieg Larsson’s trilogy, read this first before starting on Millennium part four. A fan of Larsson’s trilogy? Have a try at part four while forgetting it is a money-spinner. All four books are ideal – though hefty – holiday reads provided you love the James Bond kind of genre.

The Girl in the Spider’s Web”, David Lagercrantz, over 400 pages, published August 2015, is available in over 30 translations and as hard-back, pocket, E-book, Kindle.


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