There has been a huge amount of hype about this book, as a new author takes up the mantle of Stieg Larsson and adds a fourth volume to his Millennium series. The animosity between Larsson’s partner, who inherited none of the royalties to his books due to Sweden’s outdated inheritance laws and Larsson’s father and brother who commissioned this new book, hovers uncomfortably in the background. Some have called it cashing in, but, let’s be honest, we all want more of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander – the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. To be left with only three books when Larsson spoke of nine or ten was tragic. We were short changed. So how does David Largercrantz get on in the imitation game?
Well, I think he does a really good job. Admittedly, it is a few years now since I read all of Larsson’s books, but this new addition catches all the pace, style and drama that I remember. Most of all, I recall not being able to put the originals down once I got going. This book is just the same, a real page-turner with lots of action and several stories running simultaneously as they weave towards a close.
Because we are all so familiar with the central characters, and the peripheral ones too, it is easy for Largercrantz to focus on the plot and not spend too long developing his cast. If we didn’t read the books, then we saw the movies and have a picture of Salander in our heads. Pierced and tattooed with a bad attitude and some terrible psychological traits. She is a brilliant character. As Larsson once described her, a grown up version of Pippi Longstocking.
The book for me is a winner. Largercrantz is a Swede, and also a journalist like the central character, helping him to write with an authentic voice. We feel the cold of the several stormy nights, and we are led through the strangely named districts of Stockholm. All the familiar characters are there, the slightly inept police force, Salander’s old guardian, and the haunting memories of her abusive father. Our memories are refreshed about what has gone before, but even if we know the previous books well, this does not spoil the pace or the story.
Largercrantz follows the pattern of the previous Millennium books. A potential journalistic story offers itself to Blomkvist, there is intrigue and then there is murder and eventually Salander is drawn into the story using her exceptional skills as a computer hacker to get deep into the intrigue. No-one quite trusts her apart from Blomkvist, whose loyalty and devotion to her good name are still there. The book has plenty of science and technical detail to make it sound convincing. I reviewed Largercrantz’s book Fall Man in Wilmslow about the death of Alan Turing, which was disjointedly slow and no-where near as fine as this. I think he is much better on his home turf in Sweden, especially when he has the benefit of some of the most enjoyable literary characters already created.