As a big fan of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy about Lisbeth Salander, I welcomed a fourth novel in the series. I had great hopes of continuing to read about the angry, intelligent and unforgettable character. While Swedish writer David Lagercrantz does a fine job of bringing back Mikael Blomkvist, Salander’s journalist counterpoint, alas, he does nothing for me in his interpretation of Salander in Girl in the Spider’s Web.
The late Larsson wrote just three novels about Salander, all published posthumously, and selling more than 80 million copies around the world, thus far. Unfortunately, Larsson died without a will, leaving his estate to his father instead of his long time, but unmarried, live-in partner. The father was all too happy to hand the reigns over to Lagercrantz; while the unmarried partner, Eva Gabrielsson, has vocally opposed the continuation of the series.
I think that Eva was right — Larsson would not have been happy with this follow-up to his brilliant series. But then again, this book doesn’t really feel like it has much of a connection to the original series anyway, except for the use of the same characters and a great deal of explaining about the character’s back stories. Perhaps as an entirely new series, I would have less to complain about.
Larsson’s point in the Millennium series was to show all the types of violence against women — I think I counted 27 ways of hurting women in the first book, The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo. After all the real Swedish title to his first book was Men Who Hate Women! The Dragon Tattoo title change was for the sensitive American audiences. This Girl in the Spider Web follow-up, while not nearly as violent as Larsson’s books in the first place, also doesn’t make much mention of women at all.
This book is not about Salander— Blomkvist is the main character really. And not one we are all that concerned with. We see Blomkvist moping about. Bored now that the Millennium series is over (I couldn’t agree more!). But Lisbeth doesn’t even appear until a third of the way into the book. Lagercrantz tries so hard to tie this book to the first three through many pages of explanation of Salander’s back-story. Rather annoying to read about — I much prefer to see the action in a book, not be told of it.
The best part of the book is the autistic boy’s story line. But even here as Salander saves the boy, her motivation and intensity does not come through.
In fact motivation is a big problem in the book — the primary motivation for the crimes committed is simply greed, per usual, and not the complex need for power over others, especially women, that Larsson showed us in the Millennium Series.
The New York Times and The Guardian loved The Girl in the Spiders Web, but for me it was a shallow follow-up to a wonderful series. As a new stand alone, however, it was interesting and held my attention as long as I skipped over the back-story explanations, which were unfortunately, too often. I can only give it a 3 out of 5.