Although written by David Langenkrantz the first impression is that The Girl in the Spider's Web has much the same structure and feel as the original three Millennium books by Stieg Larsson. So much so that I thought it might be based on the substantial, but incomplete, draft of book four that Larsson had written prior to his death. However the publisher confirms that The Girl in the Spider's Web is all David Lagenkrantz's work. It is a shame that it is not based on the Larsson draft but that may be due to the dispute over Larsson's literary estate; his father and brother who under Swedish law are his literary executors as Larsson did not leave a will.
In The Girl in the Spider's Web a new period in Lisbeth Salander's early life comes to the fore to provide the background to the story. It focusses on the time she spent in a mental health unit and the relationship with her fraternal twin sister, Camille. It brings more clarity to Salander's dysfunctional childhood and her relationships with her mother, father, sister and the abusive treatment she received from the authorities that should have protected her as a child and young adult.
The earlier books suggested that Salander was on the autistic spectrum and probably even a savant, she is certainly has considerable abilities in several areas, computer hacking and mathematics amongst others. The Girl in the Spider's Web explores, or uses, autistic savants as a theme for the adventure. The story hinges around the kidnapping and threats to a young autistic boy, the son of a famous academic who himself may have been on the spectrum. Salander seems to understand the child and risks her own life to protect him and his abused mother.
I read the first four books in the Millennium series over a matter of a few days. The Girl in the Spider's Web, despite the new author, has some of the same feel as the earlier Larsson books. However, as one gets deeper into one comes to realise that Lagenkrantz does not seem to handle the psychological aspects quite as well as Larsson. As a result the descriptive passages slow the narrative more than those by Larsson. It should be mentioned that some readers criticised Larsson for the amount and detail of the description but I did not find myself skipping the Larsson descriptive passages. I did with those in The Girl in the Spider's Web. Equally the new characters, Camille in particular, were not as rounded as those in the Larsson books.
It should be noted that is only in comparison with those created by Larsson. Taken in isolation The Girl in the Spider's Web is a decent psychological thriller with some serious action. The first three books are a hard act to follow but David Lagenkrantz has done a fair job. Many, myself included, question the merit of using a new author to continue someone else's work. The new writer inevitably has a different, not necessarily worse, voice that jars with the fans of the original work. It rarely really works, although I suspect this book will be a commercial success unlike the Hollywood remakes of previous classic films (Lavender Hill Mob, Italian Job etc) that so often bomb. It will be interesting to see how long the Millennium series stays commercially viable. Will it manage the ten books that Larsson envisaged?
So when all is said and done, The Girl in the Spider's Web is a good enough thriller, there are many worse. Does it do justice to the earlier books? Perhaps not, but then that is something each reader should decide for themselves. Would I recommend The Girl in the Spider's Web? Yes, but if you are a fan of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and the other Stieg Larsson books in the Millennium series you should be prepared to be a little disappointed, it is different.
The Girl in the Spider's Web (ISBN: ) by David Lagenkrantz is published in paperback by @@@. It is available as a paperback for £5.19, paperback or £3.99 for the Kindle edition from Amazon UK.