“First you find out the truth. Then you take revenge.” Thus the ninjalike guiding ethos of Lagercrantz’s (The Girl in the Spider's Web, 2015, etc.) latest installment in the Lisbeth Salander series.
One thing that anyone who’s crossed paths with Lisbeth, the lethal heroine who bowed into the world of mystery with the late Steig Larsson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2008), should have learned by now is that it’s best not to cross paths with her at all. That’s a lesson Benito learns the hard way: the gang leader in Flodberga Prison, where Lisbeth finds herself after yet another brush with the law, interrupts Lisbeth’s studies of mathematics and quantum mechanics one too many times, picking on Faria, a young Bangladeshi inmate, and ends up just this side of death. She had it coming, of course, but the whole encounter opens up a whole 'nother can of worms, from shadowy immigrants to Russian hackers and crusading journalists and—well, suffice it to say that, in a turn reminiscent of Jean-Christophe Grangé’s Crimson Rivers, there’s some genetic tinkering with twins involved, too. Whether Lisbeth’s doppelgänger is dragon-adorned awaits the reader’s investigation, but most of the action, always satisfying if sometimes a little far-fetched, centers on Lisbeth and her various and often violent encounters with corrupt prison officials and guards, corrupt CEOs, corrupt mental health professionals, corrupt government workers, and—the list of not-so-nice people goes on, and Lisbeth, as always, serves as an avenging angel who herself isn’t the nicest of people. Lagercrantz, Larsson’s appointed heir, does serviceable work in all this, and if his version lacks some of Larsson’s ironic touch and politically charged contempt for the nasty undercurrents flowing beneath Sweden’s clear waters, he doesn’t falter in the mayhem department.
Tattoo artists will be interested in the as-if-born-in-fire origins of Lisbeth’s body art, while fans of Larsson, while perhaps not thrilled, certainly won’t be disappointed.