When Stieg Larsson’s Nordic Noir mystery Män Som Hatar Kvinnor was published in 2005 it quickly shot to stratospheric popularity and was followed by two sequels, international translations and adaptations in film, TV and comics. You’ll likely know it better by its English title The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Since Larsson died prior to the novels’ publications, it seemed that there would be no further adventures for abrasive hacker Lisbeth Salander and crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist, until a new instalment was commissioned by the publishers of the original books. Unfortunately, after The Girl in the Spider’s Web, you’ll wish they hadn’t bothered.
The story (eventually) involves events that follow the murder of a computer scientist developing advanced AI, ultimately reuniting Lisbeth and Blomkvist as the scientist’s autistic son is hunted by hitmen while a shadowy conspiracy surrounding the death is gradually revealed. However, it’s all done in such a laborious and convoluted manner that instead of wondering how everything will be resolved, the only mystery is attempting to figure out how the litany of disconnected events will actually coalesce into a coherent plot.
Almost every character, no matter how minor, is introduced with a mini-biography that invariably interrupts the flow of the story, and events are further disrupted by the book’s annoying habit of having a conversation end only to jump back and needlessly retell it from the perspective of the other side. Characters often think and act in ways that not only make no sense, but they are also consciously aware that they make no sense, as if the omnipotent hand of the author is forcing them to behave in an unnatural manner that the plot demands of them.
Lisbeth’s surly fury was always far more interesting than Blomkvist’s complacent narcissism, but for half the book she’s a nebulous and barely significant presence, and only truly comes to the fore when her personal connection to unfolding events surfaces. Yes, for despite Lisbeth’s story being resolutely concluded at the end of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, it was evidently decided that she couldn’t just be a character in the book, but things also had to ultimately be all about her. Thus, the mysterious big bad is not only a new nemesis for Lisbeth, but is also a dark mirror of her own characteristics. It’s actually an interesting perspective to have an antisocial rage monster be the light side of a good/evil duality, but this doesn’t seem to have been picked up upon.
It’s difficult to be sure if certain word choices are down to the author or the translator, but one of the two (or indeed both) has absolutely no idea how anyone under the age of 40 actually talks, peppering the dialogue with colloquialisms that were last in popular usage somewhere in the depths of the 1980s. Possibly in an attempt to associate the book with a current cinematic trend (or an even more egregious attempt to be down wit’ da kidz than the aforementioned dated slang), the premise of the rising background story arc is based around Marvel comics, and uses incorrect details that can only have come from hours spent trawling for a tenuous thematic link and then immediately jumping to an erroneous assumption that the smallest amount of reading would have revealed to be inaccurate.
This is not a worthy continuation of a popular trilogy. It’s the kind of thing an inexperienced teenage author might fire out in their first foray into novel-length writing; little more than glorified, officially sanctioned fanfiction.
THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER’S WEB / AUTHOR: DAVID LAGERCRANTZ / TRANSLATOR: GEORGE GOULDING / NARRATOR: SAUL REICHLIN / PUBLISHER: QUERCUS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW