Lisbeth Salender is back -- but she's definitely not better than ever. The previous books in the series (including not just the original Steig Larsson books but also David Lagercrantz's The Girl in th...
e Spider's Web) have been by turns harrowing, epic, glorious, and tragic. In Lagercrantz's latest installment, unfortunately, the story is more predictable and the impact less far-reaching. Most importantly, Lisbeth's heroic-but-tortured personality is flat; we see Lisbeth's actions, but her relationships (odd though they may be) and her feelings are beyond our perception. The darkness of the earlier novels has been replaced with the mere coldness of the Nordic winter; unadulterated, almost unimaginable evil has been diluted until is banal cruelty.
The story focuses on the people who made Lisbeth what she is, i.e., the perpetrators of the cruel institutionalization of her youth. Lagercrantz fleshes out Lisbeth's personal history by explaining more of what happened to Lisbeth as a child. He ties that story to a present-day situation discovered coincidentally (and somewhat implausibly coincidentally, at that) by Mikael Blomkvist who returns in his starring role as a journalist of the Millenium magazine. Many other characters who have appeared elsewhere in the series reprise their roles, including Erika Berger, Jan Bublasnki, and Holmer Palmgren. But, their appearances are de riguer; we learn little of them we did not already know.
All that said, the story hangs together well enough and the writing is sufficiently compelling. It's impossible not to continue turning the pages. There is an interesting, well-researched twist that provides the interested reader with knowledge of a rare, but very real, human condition. It's a perfectly enjoyable book -- just not a worthy heir to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.