Get caught up in ‘The Girl in the Spider’s Web’

the girl in the spider's web
(Alfred A. Knopf)

Oh no, I see

A spider’s web it’s tangled up with me

-Coldplay, Trouble

The Girl in the Spider’s Web (original Swedish title translates to That Which Does Not Kill Us) is the fourth published book in the popular Millenium Series, which has a fascinating history. The first three books, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (original Swedish: Men who Hate Women), The Girl who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest (The Air Castle that was Blown Up), were written by Stieg Larsson, who died in 2004.

This trilogy was published posthumously and there exists a significant portion of a fourth book and possible detailed plot outlines of fifth and sixth books. These writings, however, have been subject to a controversial wrangling between Larsson’s legal heirs and his long-term partner, who is currently in possession of this material. In 2013 however, a Swedish publisher, on behalf of Larsson’s heirs, contracted Lagercrantz to write an independent fourth book to the series. Lagercrantz did not have access to Larsson’s unpublished writings, but instead drew upon open plot lines from the previous book to conceive the story for Spider’s Web.

The tale begins with Millenium magazine’s fortune on the rocks and Mikael Blomkvist being squeezed out the door by impatient investors seeking to broaden the circulation by diluting the intellectual content. Hoping to find a blockbuster story to save his and the magazine’s fate, Mikael agrees to long-shot meeting with a potential source. Initially unimpressed with the wild tales of alleged cyber espionage and conspiracies within no less than the NSA of the US, Blomkvist’s attention is piqued when he realizes one of the players involved can be none other than Lisbeth Salander.

For those of you not familiar with the books or films, the tension and collaboration between Salander and Blomkvist is one of the most enthralling aspects of the series. Romantically, the most obvious comparison to Salander/Blomkvist would be Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes. Professionally however, there is much more entanglement- albeit typically at a distance- that the pair more closely resembles something along the lines of the Steves Wozniak/Jobs. Lagercrantz has kept these two characters true to Larsson’s creations and has done an estimable job at keeping their story alive.

(Columbia Pictures)

The plot, too, is every bit the spellbinding and electrifying ride that the first three books were. The only thing missing from Spider’s Web was the periodic meandering rambles into Swedish politics that arose from Larsson’s radical views. I have mixed emotions regarding their absence. There were certainly times in the first three books that the story pace faltered during these political dialectics, at least for me. But that may have had more to do with my ignorance of Scandinavian history is general than any deficiency of the writing. In fact, I very much enjoy and appreciate an opportunity to learn, particularly one ensconced neatly within a thrilling tale. I think the re-introduction of these elements into future sequels would be welcome.

Overall Lagercrantz has done a marvelous job with the series continuation and regardless of whether Larsson’s unfinished efforts ever make it to press or not, more installations of this vein would be marvelous.

About Andrea Sefler

Andrea Sefler
Andrea is a consultant and technical writer for various scientific software and instrumentation companies. She has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Berkeley and has never met a genre of music or books that she hasn’t liked. As a gamer since the days of the Apple II, Andrea can relate any number of hair-raising tales about role-playing games stored on 360 kB 5.25” floppy disks and may, someday, put them to paper.

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