No bars can keep Lisbeth Salander from learning the truth

The latest Millennium Series thriller is a goodie, but still can't beat the originals, writes Rob Kidd.

David Lagercrantz


Like its wily protagonist Lisbeth Salander, the Millennium Series just keeps on keeping on.

Stieg Larsson's original trilogy put Swedish crime writing on the map and must have seen a sustained boost to the country's tourism takings.

Even his death in 2004 has not been enough to stop the literary juggernaut from rolling on.

The man now responsible for pitting the girl with the dragon tattoo against Stockholm's underworld is David Lagercrantz.

His first novel - the fourth in the series - The Girl in the Spider's Web, focused on cyber crime and threw Salander into battle against her long-lost (evil) twin sister.

Lagercrantz's newest offering again delves into her past.

It begins with Salander behind bars following her previous efforts, but Flodberga is no normal prison.

It houses some of the country's most dangerous female criminals and the baddest of the bunch has even got her claws into the facility's manager.

The inmates are in control, or one in particular.

Predictably, that level of corruption does not sit well with our moral crusader, Salander.

Her unspoken relationship with the vulnerable Muslim woman in the cell opposite hers sets in motion a compelling strand to the storyline featuring honour killings and religious radicalism.

Meanwhile, Salander is unravelling the truth behind her upbringing with the help of her partner in crime-fighting, investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist.

As ever, there are plenty of mysterious deaths that serve to simultaneously help and hinder his inquiries: the collateral damage of any criminal thriller.

Tips from his incarcerated friend, along with his own journalistic instincts, lead Blomkvist to Leo Mannheimer, a seemingly respectable businessman.

Gradually, he begins to unlock the secrets of Salander's past while she is released from prison and starts her usual single-minded rampage.

I am sure it is not spoiling the plot by telling you the pair uncover the shocking truth, leaving Salander with bloody satisfaction and Blomkvist with a couple of incredible scoops.

By now, it is pretty formulaic.

But that is as much a strength as it is a weakness.

The pair have almost become a modern-day Holmes and Watson, albeit with more booze, violence and electronic gadgetry.

The story is perhaps more ambitious than some of the earlier books in the series but characters become a little cartoonish under the new author.

Larsson's expertise lay in his ability to avoid creating a trashy page-turner by his inherently macabre filter.

The characters were flawed and unpredictable.

It is the ever-growing pace and the woven plot lines, however, where Lagercrantz's strengths lie.

But do not let the critics persuade you he has surpassed his predecessor.

He has not.

-Rob Kidd is an ODT court reporter.

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