The Girl in the Spider’s Web was okay. I didn’t have any glaring problems with it; nor was I especially blown away by it. Lagercrantz does seem to have done a good enough job capturing the spirit of the original trilogy, and his background as a crime reporter certainly prepares him for suspenseful crime thrillers — particularly ones where one of the protagonists is himself a journalist.
Here’s the Goodreads summary: “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 haven’t read the original Millennium trilogy since it was initially released here in the US, so I’d probably have to go back and re-read to say any of the following for certain. But I do feel like these are true:
— Lagercrantz seems to “get” Blomkvist on a fundamental level; his is nearly indistinguishable from Larsson’s in ideals, progression, and motivation. He seems to have a much more simple read on Salander, though. She has all of the skills, social maladroitness, and renegade-for-justice lingo of the original, but something about Lagercrantz’s version just seems like a fanfiction version of Larsson’s Salander in a way I can’t really get a finger on. She always was incredibly resilient, resourceful, and intelligent, but after reading Spider’s Web it’s like she doesn’t have any weaknesses at all; she’s 100% idealized and perfect in her own iconoclastic way.
— I just didn’t get the same sense of suspense here as I did in the original trilogy, which is saying something because even those are affectionately known for accidentally taking time away from the suspense by describing, in detail, every sandwich Mikael Blomkvist has ever eaten. Without having read any of Lagercrantz’s other work, I don’t feel that this is a statement on his writing ability so much as it is just about this particular book. It’s just a shame that it had to be a book that also has so much buzz and so many expectations behind it.
Overall, I’m just not sure how necessary this book was. The major points of the story are more of the same: Millennium magazine is about to go under; Salander has some nefarious figure from her past after her (and that’s complicated by her being in trouble with law enforcement in the present, because she’s a badass and can’t help but get into trouble.) There are still a billion side characters, and some of them are dropped in randomly, just to tie into the prior books, like “See? We all remember these people, don’t we?”
It’s a perfectly serviceable dramatic crime thriller that is probably equally hindered by its association with Millennium as it is helped by it. On the one hand, it probably wouldn’t have enjoyed near the amount of popularity in terms of sales as it has, but on the other, the critics are going to be especially harsh with their nostalgia and expectations.