Lisbeth Salander is back for her sixth adventure (The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, 2017, etc.), and she’s got vengeance on her mind.
A small man, not 5 feet tall, sweats his way through a Stockholm heat wave wearing an expensive parka, an unusual accoutrement given his otherwise ragtag appearance. He dies. In his pocket the authorities find a scrap of paper bearing crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist’s phone number. Why? Blomkvist has been busy taking down a Russian troll factory that has been seeding the media with propaganda and lies. Not coincidentally, Salander is in Moscow. She’s cleaned up nicely for the occasion: “Her piercings were gone and she was wearing a white shirt and her black suit…because it had become habit and she wanted to blend in better.” There’s nothing like launching a full-bore assault on a crime-lord sister and her nasty entourage to call attention to yourself, however conservative the appearance. This being Stieg Larsson by way of Lagercrantz, there’s a deeply tangled plot underneath all this, involving politicians with questionable records, hackers, motorcycle gangs, and cops who are lucky to be able to tie their shoes in the morning. More, Lagercrantz stirs in improbable elements, including superhuman DNA—not just Salander and her family, with their “extreme genetic features,” but also our poor dead beggar, whose story ties in with Sherpas on Everest, a murder plot, and a high-up member of Sweden’s seemingly orderly government. Toss in small subplots—a fling Salander has with an abused woman whose ill-behaved husband requires serious correction as only the tattooed genius can deliver it, for instance (“Then she put tape over his mouth and eyed him the way a wild beast eyes its prey”). If Lagercrantz strays into Smilla’s Sense of Snow levels of unlikelihood in weaving all these threads, he writes economically, and though he works ground he’s covered in his two earlier contributions to the series, disbelief suitably suspended, it all makes for good bloody fun.
Formulaic, but it’s a formula that still works, as Salander and assorted bad guys spread righteous mayhem wherever they go.