Book – “The Girl in the Spider’s Web”

Spider's Web feature image

The Girl in the Spider's Web audio book cover

I am a complete-ist.  We know from my inability to stop reading terrible books that I will probably finish reading a series, no matter how dumb the first entry.  I have been known to figure out early on that a particular series is not worth my time, but that’s not often the case.   More likely, I read the first book and go “GIVE ME ALL THE BOOKS NOW.”  It’s a dangerous habit, especially when you have to put yourself on a waiting list for audio books from the library.

But this book is a little different.  It’s part of a series, which started with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” – a really great, fast-paced thriller/mystery set in Sweden.  It was so different from everything else that was out at the time, and I was not the only one entranced.  The sequels that followed were decent, but not as starkly thrilling as the first.  Unfortunately, the author of that original trilogy died before the first book was even published, and perhaps that’s part of what made the series so thrilling – this was the culmination of his novel-writing career (having previously been a journalist – an influence we see in the character of Mikael Blomkvist).  While there is unpublished material that outlines future books, the ownership of that material is under debate.  So instead of getting into a protracted legal battle, the Swedish publishers commissioned a Swedish writer to continue the series.  If you’re thinking that they’re just cashing in on a known intellectual property…you might be right.

The book itself isn’t bad.  It continues the story of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, and this time they are investigating the connections between a computer scientist, the NSA, and a European criminal organization.  It’s a decent enough story, but it feels mostly like one that didn’t necessarily need either of the “Millenium series” characters in it to also be live up to that same standard.  Yes, it makes good use of both of them, slotting in nicely to known tropes – activist hacker and intrepid reporter, and benefits from their prior relationship, but since these connections to the previous story aren’t strong.  Yes, there are references to the previous stories but those could easily have been added in later as additional details.  It’s possible to give the characters new names, to change the identifying details, and have it be a standalone story that works.

There are a few other problems too – so much of the original trilogy focused on Lisbeth and her life and motivations.  This book feels like it glosses over those aspects at the times that we do get to see her – and her entrance to the book doesn’t even happen until a few chapters in.  The stakes don’t feel so desperate for her OR for Mikael.  And so much of the narrative focuses on new characters.  Perhaps I’m remembering wrongly from the originals, but I seem to remember them having a narrower vision that surrounded what was going on with Lisbeth and Mikael, and not being as meandering with it’s POV.  It didn’t help that in a crime novel, the central crime to be investigated doesn’t occur until what feels like a third of the way through the book.

So.  Did I enjoy the book?  Yes…sort of.  I might have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read the previous trilogy (as it’s decent enough on it’s own), but there’s enough thrown in that you might be confused about characters and relationships if you hadn’t read the previous books.  I can’t see myself re-reading it the way I could see re-reading the first book.  Would I recommend it to you?  Maybe…if you’re a complete-ist like me, and can forgive some tediousness, it’s possible to enjoy it while still understanding that this is not the original series.

Details: “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” by David Lagercrantz, based on the novels by David Lagercrantz, published 2015 by Knopf.

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