About Me

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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.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Stieg Larsson's Literary Legacy and Swedish Inheritance Law

The 4th Salander / Blomkvist thriller and Eva Gabrielsson
The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson has been one of the most successful mystery / thriller series of all time. An estimated 80 million copies have been sold around the world. As Larsson died just before the series was actually published he could not carry on the series. It was little surprise that publishers wanted another author to take over the series. Earlier this year the fourth thriller, The Girl in the Spider’s Web and David Lagercrantz, with Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist, was released. While the original trilogy were great books I found The Girl in the Spider’s Web a good book.

Yet the fourth in the series need not have been a completely new book. Larsson was well on his way to completing a fourth book. Reports indicate he had about 200 pages of the fourth book written at his death.

Many deceased authors have had a partially written book completed by another author after their death. Among the most famous examples in crime fiction involves Raymond Chandler and his sleuth, Philip Marlowe. Poodle Springs was completed by Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser series.

Several unpublished books by Robert Ludlum have been polished and published since his death.

Why Lagercrantz wrote a completely new thriller revolves around Swedish inheritance law. Larsson had been in a 32 year long common law marriage with Eva Gabrielsson when he died at 50. Larsson died without a will.

In a quirk of Swedish law Gabrielsson is not entitled to any of Larsson’s literary estate because they were in a common law relationship rather than a formal marriage. His father and brother inherited all the money made from the books.

I was startled, even shocked, to learn of the Swedish law a decade ago for in most of the Western world the survivor of a common law relationship has inheritance rights as a spouse by statue.

In Saskatchewan if a couple has lived together for two years in a common law relationship they are deemed spouses and have all the rights and obligations of officially married couples. If one of the partners subsequently dies without a will the surviving spouse receives the whole estate if they do not have children. If there are children it will be shared between the survivor and children.

In Sweden there is a comprehensive statutory regime on common law relationships with regard to all financial issues except estates.

Swedish couples living in common law relationships are described as living as “sambos” (samboförhållande – sambo relationship). The law governing those relationships is the Swedish Cohabitation Act (“Sambolag”).

There are extensive provisions on division of property in that law and the legal responsibilities for children are the same for common law as married couples.

What is different is that there is no provision for spousal support after a common law relationship ends and there is no right to share in the solely owned property of a deceased common law partner’s estate.

The reasoning on estates is given in a 2015 National Report: Sweden by Prof. Maarit Jänterä-Jareborg, Prof. Margareta Brattström and LisaMarie Eriksson is:

The Swedish model, adopted in the Cohabitation Act of 2003, is to protect the partners through a right to share in certain property acquired for the couple’s joint use, the ‘cohabitation property’; this model also applies when the relationship is ended by the death of a partner. Probably due to this emphasis, the surviving partner does not enjoy any rights of inheritance in the case of intestate succession.

Cohabitation property will include such shared property as a home.

The justification is weak because surviving spouses in a formal marriage receive far more from the estate of a deceased partner.

Hardly believing Sweden was clinging to such an outmoded inheritance law distinguishing between common law and formal marriages I sought out information through personal connections from a practising Swedish lawyer. He confirmed the law and said “the legislation is far behind but for some unknown reason nothing is being done about it”.

With regard to the continuing legacy of Larsson, when he died the partially completed book was on the laptop computer in the possession of Gabrielsson.

Gabrielsson unsuccessfully negotiated with father Erland and brother Joakim with regard to the literary legacy. While she claims they wanted too much control I expect the problem is that she was dealing from an impossible legal position. Moral claims fare poorly in legal negotiations. She would have been well advised to take the reported seat on the board and 1.75 million pounds.

On what the 4th book could have been The Independent newspaper said:

From the Larsson aficionado’s point of view, the quarrel matters because the writer – who planned 10 books in all – left a 200-page fragment of a fourth Millennium volume behind at his death. Preserved on a laptop, the unfinished narrative takes place in northern Canada. It was intended to deepen Salander’s back-story, and would have been called God’s Revenge. Thanks to the breakdown in relations between Gabrielsson and the estate, this material has never come to light, so it can form no part of Lagercrantz’s sequel.

I would love to have seen Lisbeth in Canada’s Arctic. If only the widow, father and brother could have co-operated as all of them were willing to have proceeds of the 4th book benefit Expo magazine which was Larsson’s real life magazine.
* Larsson, Stieg – (2009) - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; (2009) - The Girl Who Played with Fire; (Best of Fiction for 2009) (2010) - The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Lagercrantz, David - (2015) - The Girl in the Spider's Web (see Stieg Larsson)


  1. Great post Dad.

    I enjoyed your cogent analysis of why the justification for treating the partner of a married couple differently from the partner of a cohabiting couple upon the death of their spouse is based upon a distinction that is without merit.

    Hopefully your blog post will contribute to an eventual change in the law.

    Perhaps you should use Google Translator to translate your post into Swedish. Unfortunately, with the passage of time my ability to write in Swedish has diminished to the point that I am unable to offer translation services.



    1. Jonathan: Thanks for the comment. I was glad to hear from you and get your perspective. (For other readers Jonathan lived in Sweden for a year on a Rotary Youth Exchange.)

  2. This is, indeed, a fascinating post, Bill. I'd read a bit about the disagreement over Larsson's estate, but didn't understand the Sambo laws and other legal issues regarding common-law relationships. Thanks for explaining it clearly. It would, indeed, have been interesting to read a story where Lisbeth Salander was in Canada's Arctic region. Fascinating to speculate on what it would have been like.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. That a decade after Larsson's death the law has not changed is the greatest surprise to me. There must be many more unjust situations comparable to that of Gabrielsson.

  3. "a spouse by statue"

    The only instance of this I have heard of is the case of Pygmalion and Galatea.

  4. Roger: Thanks for the comment. A letter means all the difference in a word.

  5. That is quite funny "spouse by statue."

    Sweden is so behind the times with this law. Millions of couples live together without being married, and here, the partners have legal rights when there is a break-up.

    I wonder why Sweden can't just pass progressive legislation on this.

    I read Lagercrantz's book and thought it pretty good and that he got the characters right.

    However, a great injustice was done to Eva Gabrielsson who lived with and helped Larsson for 32 years. She was his closest friend and supporter. I hope she can get legal and economic justice.

  6. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. Inertia is a powerful force. An amendment should have been made but the issue does not seem a priority in Sweden. I would still recommend to Ms. Gabrielsson to take the money available to her. If she does not want it than she could use it to work to change the legislation.