Monday, October 19, 2015

Lisbeth Salander is Back, Better Than Ever

Last week my friend Don and I made the semi-annual "snow-bird" trek from Maryland to Florida. We have found this to be a relaxing and enjoyable interlude, no rushing as we're retired. The trip has been enhanced by our reading interests. Listening to books makes the ride pass almost too quickly.

On our way north in May we discovered the fascinating political backstory about the building of the Panama Canal through David McCullough's "The Path Between the Seas." The problem is that I immediately had to book us on a December cruise so that we could actually experience traversing the canal. Not wanting another book quite so expensive, and after listening to the author on The Diane Rehm Show, we decided on "The Girl in the Spider's Web," by David Lagercrantz.

Product Details
You may remember the massive amount of attention that went into Steig Larsson's Millenium Trilogy, the story of the journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his magazine, Millenium, which nabbed the biggest story of the century when he paired up with young computer hacker, mathematical genius, and Asperger's sufferer, Lisbeth Salander, aka, the girl with the dragon tattoo.
Well, Larsson died back in 2004 and a tawdry, lengthy battle over his estate ensued between his family and his life partner, a woman he had been with for some twenty years. Now, apparently an agreement has been reached, and the family has given their blessing to another Swedish writer, David Lagercrantz, to continue Mikael and Lisbeth's story. He has done a remarkable job. Larsson would be pleased.
For a refresher we binge watched the three Swedish films based on the original trilogy - please, forget the American version. Then we settled in for the ride. Lisbeth is the strongest female protagonist you'll ever meet and it's so much fun  to get inside her head. She may not be comfortable interacting with people but oh what you'll learn about the darker side of the Internet.
This book has it all. There's a major espionage case involving the Russians and the theft of scientific research. In the states, the NSA is investigating, as is the Swedish contingent. A mathematical genius, Frans Balder, worried that his work on advanced algorithms is in danger, returns to Sweden from Silicon Valley, reclaims his autistic son August from his former wife and her abusive boyfriend, and hunkers down in an effort to protect his work and spend time rebuilding his relationship with his boy.
Balder realizes, now that he's taking time to notice, that August, who doesn't speak or make eye contact, has an amazing photographic memory and can draw perfect replicas of all that he sees. August, it seems, is a savant. But Balder will find no peace with his son. Threats on Balder's life force him to hire security and he reaches out to respected journalist Blomkvist to whom he hopes to tell his story as a sort of insurance policy. Of course, by the time Blomkvist arrives at Balder's home it's way too late for storytelling.
This cerebral literary thriller has already been optioned for film and there's no doubt that it will translate well. Blomkvist and Salander have a wonderful chemistry even though they're never at the same place at the same time. Whether online, through texts, or over the phone, they work together and with the Swedish police, members of which you'll recognize from Larsson's previous books, to bring the bad guys to justice. Naturally, Lagercrantz leaves just enough of the mystery unsolved to keep open the possibility of a fifth  book in the series. We welcome it!


Malcolm Campbell said...

I take the opposite view on this book. It's my firm belief that only the author has the right to pass the torch to another author when s/he is unable to carry a series forward.

If the books in the series were nearing the end of their copyright protection, it's understandable that the author's estate--like that of Margaret Mitchell--might opt to contract with an author to publish a viable sequel to keep somebody outside the estate's control from doing it.

This was not the case here. This is all about money rather than honoring the body of the original author's work. I read the previous volumes, but will not touch this one because I believe it to be unethical.


Sallyb said...

Hi Malcolm,

I feel what you are saying and, at first, I had mixed feelings about this. Then I heard the author interviewed on radio and he talked about the fact that much of the proceeds (not all) will go to a charity that Larsson had endorsed when alive.

The cynic in me initially thought it's all about the $$$, but the optimist said, no, it's just about giving readers continued access to characters they've come to love and know.

It's not unprecedented. Ian Fleming's family chose Sebastian Faulks to write a knock-off 007 novel for the anniversary of Fleming's death and Robert Parker's widow gave the Spenser series to Ace Atkins.

Thanks for voicing your opinion!

Malcolm Campbell said...

That charity makes it a little better. It's too bad Swedish law doesn't recognize the rights of his common law wife who should have had a say and a stake in all this. I epxect the book will do well.


Sallyb said...

Oh, I agree completely about his wife. She was treated very badly by the press and the family. A lesson there in proper estate planning?