spidersweb“The Girl in the Spider’s Web, A Lisbeth Salander Novel” by David Lagercrantz, translated from the Swedish by George Goulding

Alfred A. Knopf, $27.95, 400 pp.

Review by David Steinberg

Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy – the first was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” – received international acclaim and drew attention to Scandinavian crime fiction.

David Lagercrantz’s recent supercharged novel “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” that may not have gained the same status but it deserves it.

Lagercrantz’s novel continues the story of Lisbeth Salander, the tattooed, physically strong computer hacker and feminist who was the heroine of Larsson’s series. Her foil and friend is still Mikael Blomkvist, star investigative reporter of Stockholm’s muckraking Millennium magazine.

Lagercrantz extends the weblike intrigue to the international stage with a deep thread of corporate espionage, illlegal activity by Swedish and American security officials, and sales of stolen computer programs by a Russian criminal gang, the Spiders.

The story’s trigger is the murder of genius computer scientist Frans Balder and the murderer’s hunt for his savant-son August. August can’t speak but he possesses powerful artistic skills that could reveal the identity of the murderer. August also is a brilliant mathematician.

There are, believe it or not, captivating peripheral subplots that round out this thriller.

Salander is a shadow player in these elements, saving August’s life, striking down bad guys, feeding tips to Blomkvist, who wants to report this entangled tale for the magazine.

Twenty-five pages before the book’s conclusion, there’s a neat summary as seen through Blomkvist’s eyes: “On one level he intended the report to be a murder story about Frans and August Balder – an account of an eight-year-old austistic boy, who sees his father shot, and who despite his disability finds a way of striking back. But on another level Blomkvist wanted it to be an instructive narrative about a new world of surveillance and espionage, where the boundaries between the legal and the criminal have been erased.”

Larsson’s trilogy revealed the value of investigative journalism. Lagercrantz’s novel expands on the subject. It tells of the bravery of a younger generation of reporters, the precarious financial state of newsmagazines and the business of journalism in the 21st century.

The novel also maintains reader interest in Salander’s personal life – the deep emotional scars of her youth – with the surprising appearance of her twin sister and their monstrous brother.

Followers of Larsson’s series should be pleased with the novel by Lagercrantz, a Swedish novelist and crime journalist.

For those unfamiliar with that series, the new novel contains sufficient background to jump in with Lagercrantz’s absorbing, substantive follow-up. Then you’ll want to go back and read Larsson’s trilogy.

A pity that Larsson died before his trilogy and Lagercrantz’s novel were published.

Reviewer’s footnote: Albuquerque’s Steve Murray, under the name Reg Keeland, translated Larsson’s famous series.