About Me

My photo
Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz – The fourth book in the Lisbeth Salander / Mikael Blomkvist saga could have been a great book.

A pair of brilliant new characters are introduced. Frans Balder is a Swedish computer genius who has recently returned to Sweden from the United States with a computer full of research on his breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. He has come back to care for his young son, August, who has major developmental issues.

Once August is in his custody Balder sees, to his astonishment, that the 8 year old August can produce drawings of events that are startling in their precision and accuracy. He also appears to have a genius level talent with numbers.

There is a convincing evil organization, the Spider Society, with Russian criminals at its core. Their successful efforts at stealing leading computer technology are a real threat to the world. Their connections with America’s NSA (National Security Agency) is truly frightening.

Balder had originally left Sweden over issues of industrial espionage and theft of his research and had been in contact with Lisbeth.

Lisbeth is back in hacking glory. She has been lured by the Hacker Republic into launching a cyber-assault on the NSA. Using all of her hacking skills she penetrates to the heart of the NSA. It does not read like a fantasy.

Blomkvist is in a funk having not been involved a major investigative reporting story for some time. He is stagnating.

Yet it did not all come together for me.

Balder’s death took one of the two most interesting characters out of the book.

The mythic figure of “Thanos” leading the Spider Society felt contrived. With the identity of numerous members known it was hard to believe there was a secret leader.

Lisbeth becomes an almost conventional heroine in saving August from harm. Lisbeth has never been conventional. She verges on the maternal in her relationship with August.

Her ability to carry out despite multiple serious injuries was too much the comic book hero of many contemporary thrillers.

It is a rather clumsy scenario when a young associate of Balder, Linus Brandell, contacts Blomkvist to convince him that Balder is the next great “scoop” for Millennium.

The introduction of a new family antagonist for Lisbeth was my least favourite plot line and could have been omitted without damaging the story.

The best part of the book was August’s relationship with Lisbeth. Neither mind operates well in our world. Their capacities leave them ill-equipped to function well in modern society. August, who may have Savant Syndrome, is on the verge of being institutionalized.

Unlike the Supergun of Louise Penny’s most recent book, The Nature of the Beast, the technologies at risk of theft in The Girl in the Spider’s Web are a danger to world security.

The book has an intriguing subplot on the continuing travails of the magazine publishing industry. It is ever more difficult for a thoughtful independent magazine such as Millennium to survive in a media world driven by brief celebrity driven stories. A major Norwegian media empire has taken a significant minority stake in the magazine. Tension is rising between the business goals of the investors and the editorial leadership of Blomkvist and Erika Berger.

Lagercrantz cannot quite draw together the threads of a thriller like Larsson. I missed the driving momentum of the plots in the trilogy.

For the first time in a long time I felt a 400 page book was not long enough for the plot. Larsson’s original trilogy averaged over 600 pages per book. Except for the last book in the trilogy I thought the lengths suited the plots. The complexities of The Girl in the Spider’s Web could not be properly developed in 400 pages.

I am not sure whether I will read another by Lagercrantz in the series. As with most writers who try to carry on the series of a deceased author the new story goes well but not great. I kept wishing the 4th book had been the one Larsson had started before his death.


  1. It is a shame that this book did not work well for you. I am still undecided as to whether I will read it. I usually don't read books when they first come out anyway, so I have plenty of time to decide.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Looking around the web abit I seem to be in a minority on The Girl in the Spider's Web.

  2. Thanks for your candor and your thoughtful review, Bill. I'm sorry to hear that this one didn't quite do it for you, although I must be honest and say I wasn't sure it would. I agree with you about follow-on books, in general. And you're right: Lisbeth has never been conventional. That's one thing that makes her character appealing.

  3. Margot: Thanks for the comment. While you infrequently offer an opinion on a book I would be interested in your conclusions on The Girl in the Spider's Web.

  4. Bill, I read a couple of favourable reviews of this book though neither was enough to convince me to read it, especially since I still hadn't read Larsson’s trilogy. I know I'm being unfair when I say this, but I'm not inclined to read series books continued by other authors. I suppose, anyone who has read this book would wonder how Larsson would have written it, a point you have alluded to in your fine review.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. I hope you read the trilogy. They are exceptional books.

  5. I was very skeptical and leery about reading this book, but I'm glad I did. I don't think it really got interesting until Lisbeth Salander entered the story.
    I don't think Stieg Larsson's energy was duplicated, but there was enough substance to make it worthwhile. Salander is her usual brilliant self, without social skills.

  6. Kathy D.: I do not regret reading the book but did not enjoy it as much as yourself. I thought Lagercrantz significantly softened Salander.