Tangled but worthy follow-up to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2008), also starring journo extraordinaire Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, the Lara Crofts of the land of the midnight sun.
That’s not quite right: Lisbeth is really a Baltic MacGyver with a highly developed sense of outrage, a sociopathic bent and brand-new breast implants, to say nothing of a well-stuffed bankbook. The late Larsson’s sequel does not absolutely require knowledge of its predecessor, but it helps, given the convoluted back story and the allusive, sometimes loopy structure of the present book. In all events, Lisbeth bears her trademark dragon tattoo still, but her wasp is gone, for a curious reason: “The wasp was too conspicuous and it made her too easy remember and identify. Salander did not want to be remembered or identified.” She cuts a fine figure all the same on the beach at Grenada, where she falls into a sticky skein of intrigue involving the usual suspects: self-righteous crusaders, bored Club Med types and some very nasty characters on both sides of what used to be called the Iron Curtain. So sticky is the plot, in fact, that Lisbeth finds herself accused of committing murder. It’s a predicament that the utterly self-reliant but unworldly hacker (when we catch up with her, she’s reading a mathematics treatise picked up during one of her frequent visits to university bookshops) needs Blomkvist’s help to get out of. Some of the traditional elements of the espionage thriller turn up in Larsson’s pages, while others are turned on their head—sometimes literally, at least where the romantic bits come in. Still, while endlessly complex, the plot has the requisite chases, cliffhangers and bloodshed. Not to mention Fermat’s theorem.
Fans of postmodern mystery will revel in Larsson’s latest. Those who prefer the old Jason Bourne (or Mr. Ripley, for that matter) to the Matt Damon variant may not be quite as wowed.