I feel sorry for author David Lagercrantz, who wrote the fourth book in the Millennium series. The Girl in the Spider’s Web is just an okay thriller. But Lagercrantz could never live up to the trilogy created by Stieg Larsson, who died at just 50 years old.
The story of Larsson, his first three books, and untimely death are so compelling that I’d hate to be the one who came after him. Massive international bestsellers, the Millennium trilogy introduced me (if not the world) to the Nordic Noir genre. They were gritty, intense, and unputdownable.
Larsson created Lisbeth Salander, a truly unique woman and character. She’s the tough chick’s toughest friend. Except she has no real friends. Her life is the very definition of a hot mess. Enter Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist and publisher of a struggling magazine. Together the two rebels do incredible things. But that’s in the original trilogy. In this book, not so much.
Lagercrantz fails to capture either character in Spider’s Web. He just creates cardboard cutouts of the U.S. movie versions, which were watered down to begin with. What Larsson wrote was strong characters in disturbing situations. They made you think. Sadly, Lagercrantz just creates a vanilla version of Larsson’s work.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web is about crime syndicates who hack into the world’s intelligence services. It’s about digital intrusions, and marginally about artificial intelligence. Lagercrantz tells the story through a wheelbarrow load of characters. The sheer volume prevents him from delving deeply into anyone, most especially Salander or Blomkvist.
At the midst of the intrigue is a little boy named August, who’s on the autism spectrum. Although he’s eight years old, his negligent parents haven’t arranged for him to have any help or treatment. They both are regrettably caught up in their own lives. So Salander is the one who starts to really pull him out of his shell, since she’s likely on the spectrum herself. It’s an interesting premise, but puts her in a story line that’s incongruous to the previous novels.
If you loved the original trilogy, just go reread those books. Don’t bother with the David Lagercrantz book. It doesn’t live up to Larsson’s work in the slightest.