I have just completed the #ReadtheGirl challenge. While I read Stieg Larsson’s series about Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist during the original hype, I was keen to re-read the originals before the fourth book in the series was to be released.
While the book, titled The Girl in the Spider’s Web, is fully authorised by Larsson’s estate; his long-term partner Eva Gabrielsson has strongly suggested that allowing this book to happen at all was not in the series’ best interest. Gabrielsson claims to have 200 pages of a fourth (claimed by Larsson’s family to be a fifth) in the series, and continues to fight to hold his literary rights.
David Lagercrantz is the author of this book, and so heavily-guarded were the details of the book by the publishers, that Lagercrantz wrote the draft on a computer without internet access, and personally delivered the typed pages to his publisher. I’m not sure exactly how all of the publishers who are releasing the title simultaneously on 27 August have kept the secret, despite needing to edit it on their computers, and print it digitally; but okay, we get the gist.
What are the strengths that I hope Lagercrantz is capable of emulating in his book? The most crucial element in the Millennium trilogy for me, the main reason in fact that it worked, is Salander’s unique character. Her strengths and weaknesses were essential to solving the crimes in each of the three books that I have just re-read. She is seriously your go-to girl for hacking computers and for kicking some bad-guy woman-haters’ butt.
Larsson was also an excellent writer of political intrigue, and this reflects his own background as a journalistic expert in right-wing extremism, as well as being himself a far-left activist. He gave enough detail about the Swedish political system as it stands, to convince me that the activities that led to Salander being declared mentally incompetent are not too far-fetched to make a compelling storyline.
The way in which Larsson utilised his many excellent characters was very well planned. He thought nothing of pulling up a bit-part player to follow through third-person narration, simply to get across the sense of this person’s motivations. In the third book, we heard from Edklinth in this way, also Inspector Faste in the second book; rarely have I seen an author who was so able to pull in the number of view-points required to get the full story across with all of its complexities. This was more necessary in the second and third books of course, because those dealt more closely with Salander’s backstory and the cover-up needed to keep her shut up after her attack on her father.
However, I hope that Lagercrantz doesn’t micromanage the settings of his book as much as Larsson was guilty of. There were moments in the first three books where I was shouting ‘I don’t care what the bloody room looks like or where the flowers were, just get on with the action, man.’ I am not so visual a reader that I need the accuracy Larsson gave his settings; I’m more than happy to get the gist and move on.
So where did we finish with the third book? Without giving out obvious spoilers, most of the plot surrounding Salander and her father Zalachenko has been put to bed. The only outstanding element of Salander’s background concerns her twin sister, Camilla, so I expect to learn more concerning her in the coming book. Where is she, and why was she complicit in covering up her father’s actions? Blomkvist has completed his book about the Section, and published it, while Erika Berger – the editor of the Millennium magazine, who briefly left to work for a big newspaper – is back where she belongs. Salander and Blomkvist have made up, sort of, by the end of the book; while Blomkvist has a relationship with Monica Figuerola that is still on the cards.
On the topic of Blomkvist’s amorous pursuits, I have always struggled to see Blomkvist as anything more than an idealistic version of the author himself, with a similar background, and passions; and the fact that no woman within 50 miles is safe from his charms has always struck me as far-fetched and frankly, irritating. I must add I am not a fan of crime novels as a general rule, similarly because the men are “Men” and the women are “Women”. Luckily, Larsson is enough of a feminist for none of the women in his books to be completely within the “Women” mould.
One thing that the exercise of ‘reading the girl’ has given me, indeed the point of the promotion, is a great desire to read the next in the series. Controversy or not, this is going to be a huge seller for booksellers across the world. I wish it all the best and look forward to reading along.
Reviewed by Sarah Forster
The latest editions of the Millennium trilogy:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, published by MacLehose Press, 9780857054036
The Girl who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson, published by MacLehose Press, 9780857054043
The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson, published by MacLehose Press, 9780857054050
The Girl in the Spider’s Web, by David Lagercrantz, published by Maclehose Press, 9780857053503