The Girl in the Spider’s Web: A Lisbeth Salander novel by David Lagercrantz
Published by: Knopf
Published on: September 1, 2015
Page Count: 416
Genre: Crime Fiction
My Reading Format: Audiobook purchased through Audible.
Audiobook Published by: Random House Audio
Narrator: Simon Vance
Audiobook Length: 13 hours 22 minutes
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook, and Audiobook
Summary from the Publisher:
She is the girl with the dragon tattoo—a genius hacker and uncompromising misfit. He is a crusading journalist whose championing of the truth often brings him to the brink of prosecution.
Late one night, Blomkvist receives a phone call from a source claiming to have information vital to the United States. The source has been in contact with a young female superhacker—a hacker resembling someone Blomkvist knows all too well. The implications are staggering. Blomkvist, in desperate need of a scoop for Millennium, turns to Salander for help. She, as usual, has her own agenda. The secret they are both chasing is at the center of a tangled web of spies, cybercriminals, and governments around the world, and someone is prepared to kill to protect it . . .
I am a loyal reader. If I’ve loved a book you’ve published, I’ll read your next book. If I don’t like the second book as much, I’ll still read your third because of that first connection. I’m loyal in the other direction as well. I have loved Gone With the Wind since I was in high school. That book captured my imagination like none before it and to this day, a quarter of a century or just a tad more later, I often find myself contemplating the fate of Rhett and Scarlett. I love Margaret Mitchell until the end of time for that gift. So, when a sequel was announced written by some other author, I was scandalized. I refused to read it out of loyalty to both Mitchell and the world she created. I’ve yet to pick up any of the other spin off novels. If the story didn’t come from Mitchell’s pen, my imagination is as good as these other authors. It allows what happens next to transform as I experience more and more stages of life.
When a fourth book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series was first publicized, I felt the same way about some other author’s interpretation of the continuing story of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. In fact, I compared Lisbeth to Scarlett in my review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Mikael and Lisbeth have become as sacred to me as Rhett and Scarlett. I had no intention whatsoever of reading what is now titled The Girl in the Spider’s Nest. No intention whatsoever until I found out that Simon Vance would be returning to narrate the fourth book in the series. That I love Simon Vance is no secret. What I had not realized until that moment was that my love of this audiobook narrator trumps my loyalty to the author. This is not to say that I didn’t waver at all before I started listening to the audiobook, but if this form of author disloyalty is wrong, I don’t want to be right. I simply couldn’t imagine Simon Vance continuing with Lisbeth without me.
Beginning The Girl in the Spider’s Web was like finally being able to slip on my favorite pair of gloves after a long, hot summer. I was there, again, in a cool Swedish autumn. As I was being introduced to the new players in this game, Vance’s narration brought an undeniable continuity between Larsson’s novels and this new one written by David Lagercrantz. Vance transitioned from one book to the other seamlessly, as if he finished narrating The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest the day before. This was the series that began my love affair with audiobooks and that magic was still there. I was always happy to be reunited with my favorite Millennium series characters and enjoyed several of the new characters. My favorite new character was an American NSA agent. The tone and accent Vance chose for his character reminded me very much of one of my uncles. I could see him, through Vance, trying to bulldoze his way through Stockholm.
That the narration of this audiobook worked so well for me that it did two things for The Girl in the Spider’s Web: it kept me listening after my first “Lisbeth wouldn’t do that!” moment and it made it very apparent that it didn’t have me sitting on the edge of my seat the way the first three books did. As the book was drawing toward the climax, I noticed that almost every significant, action packed moment in the book was told in retrospect or from another character’s point of view. This kept me at a distance from the story and it took all of electricity out of what would have been an exciting end had it been experienced live with Lisbeth. That lack of connection or sense of immediacy as I listened made the story less fulfilling.
While the story wasn’t as satisfying an experience as it could have been, there was much that I did enjoy. An 8-year-old autistic boy named August plays a major role in this story and it brought a lot of heart to this series and the way that his situation impacted Lisbeth. It was there that she was most herself even as their relationship challenged her and made her grow. I will be interested to see how this experience shapes her as the series continues.
It must be a difficult task to follow in the footsteps of a deceased author who has created characters like Lisbeth and Mikael. Not only do you have to dream up a plot grandiose and unlikely enough to involve them (even in the first three books, I tried not to think too hard about that), but you have to remain true to readers’ perceptions about the characters. For me, the key to Lagercrantz’s success was Simon Vance. He was the bridge that brought me to the table and it was his innate ability to narrate that kept me there through a few early glitches. Should Lagercrantz continue writing Lisbeth Salander novels, I can only imagine them getting stronger. I plan on reading them, too, so long as they are narrated by Simon Vance.