Reviewed by WF Pray, author of A Dozen Miles of Unpaved Road and Terminal Cure

Flushing out the plot line is more difficult that one might expect. This is a complicated novel and one not tightly wrapped.

The Plot: An ace computer scientist is murdered. His autistic son can draw a picture of the killer. The killer(s) wants to eliminate the autistic boy. The anti-hero, Lisbeth Salander steps in to protect the child. This tangles her up with the Spider Society – Russian criminals who are busy hacking the NSA – and this pits her against the leader of the Society, her own twin sister, Camilla, who has it in for Lisbeth. Mikael Blomkvist enters to help Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth and the boy race toward a crescendo of violence at the climax, with Salander and the boy escaping. By the ending, Lisbeth Salander has morphed something of a superhero; a woman described as weighing around 100 lbs taking down and beating up professional mercenaries. At times, the superhero bit becomes a bit much. The final dozen pages are something of an epilogue, spent in trying to tidy up the loose ends. However, given the complexity of the plot’s presentation, and all the sidebars, the effort is only marginally successful. I would say, at the end of the day, if you are a lazy reader, this is probably not the book for you.

Offhand Details: The first thing to note is that David Lagercrantz is taking over the Lisbeth Salander series from the deceased Stieg Larsson. The fact that Lagecrantrz is a different writer is apparent from the beginning. This does not make The Girls in the Spider’s Web a bad book; Lagecrantrz is a competent, professional writer. However, this book is far more complicated than the Larsson books.

Within the first few pages it is obvious that reading the previous books in the series is strongly advised. A lot of info quickly comes your way. Without previous understanding it is occasionally difficult to follow. Then too, Lagecrantz throws a blizzard of names at you which he does little to individualize. For example, the anti-hero, Lisbeth Salander, has a twin sister (Camelia) who has several aliases, which only adds to the confusion. Consequently, at times the reader will experience a certain amount of congestion as a crowd of underdeveloped characters move across the page; I want to stress that this is not typical, but it does occasionally led to several passages where increased focus is required to follow the story line.

Somewhere around page 350 fatigue sets in. There was a point where I actually had to go to Wikipedia to review the book’s plot line. I would say that part of the problem is the great number of characters in the novel. At the very beginning, Lagecrantrz provides a list of 23 characters found in the first three books. To that list add at least 5 to 8 more characters he will introduce. This sheer top-heavy number of characters occasionally makes the novel an effort to follow. This is compounded by the author’s extensive use of pronouns rather than proper names; the overuse of “he’s” and she’s” makes losing track of the characters a very easy thing to do. There are times when there are several pages of running dialogue, with sparse identification of the speakers. It gets downright irritating.

Will I pick up another in the Lagecrantrz series? Probably not. It would only cause me to miss Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander all the more.