Lisbeth Sander returns, bruises raw and dander up, in this continuing installment of the late Stieg Larsson’s crime series.
Lisbeth is perhaps getting a little long in the tooth to be called a girl, but no matter: she still has a young person’s aching desire to right the wrongs of the world. There are plenty of them, no doubt, but Swedish journalist/biographer Lagercrantz gives this the timeliest of spins by centering evil on the National Security Agency and its villainous operatives (“Ingram usually had a malicious grin on his face when he stuck a knife in someone’s back”), who dig illicit sex and snappy repartee and all the usual things that bad guys enjoy. The NSA and its explosive chief data cowboy make perfect foils, as it happens, for Lisbeth and her cohort of hacking pals, bearing names like Trinity, Plague, and Bob the Dog. Lagercrantz follows the Larsson formula: take a more-or-less ordinary event, in this case a brittle battle over custody rights, and wrap it into a larger crime that the smaller one masks. It’s not as if he doesn’t skip a beat in doing so, but mostly he captures Larsson’s patented tone, a blend of journalistic matter-of-factness and world-weariness. If the bad guys are sometimes cardboard cutouts, Lisbeth is fully rounded in her fury—as one of them cries, “What kind of freak are you?” No ordinary one, as Larsson well established and Lagercrantz reinforces. Larsson’s journalist hero/alter ego Mikael Blomkvist returns as well, bound in events while trying to do his work in the face of disappearing print, focus groups, and consultants—the latter a force for evil as formidable as the spooks back at Fort Meade. “It was no bloody market analysis that had created the magazine,” he fumes. “It was passion and fire.” Passion and fire, check: there are plenty of both here and plenty of loose character-development ends to pick up in another sequel.
Fast-moving, credible, and intelligently told. Larsson fans won’t be disappointed.