Salander Strikes Again:
Lisbeth Salander, who appeared in three bestselling books by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson is a heroine for our times. Brilliant, brave, loyal and indestructible.
The writer passed away tragically young (in 2004), and Salander fans all over the world were bereft. But there is always a way keep a fictional character alive; if Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, James Bond and Jeeves can be resurrected, why not Salander? Larsson’s father and brother commissioned David Lagercrantz to write the fourth installment of the Millennium series— The Girl in the Spider’s Web, translated into English by George Goulding. (The Millennium trilogy – which comprises The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest – sold more than 80 million copies worldwide, giving a major boost to Scandinavian crime fiction).
There were debates on whether Lagercrantz’s book was as good as Larsson’s, but with Salander around, there can never be a dull moment. She has a strangely muddled cannot-live-with-cannot-live-without relationship with celebrity journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Salander’s hacking and martial arts skills came to Blomkvist’s aid many times in his journalistic career and saved his beloved magazine, Millennium, from shutting down. He is one of the few men she trusts and he feels protective towards her.
The Girl In The Spider’s Web was as intricately plotted and written with the same energy and chutzpah as Larsson’s work. The second, The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye was much too complicated and did not have enough of Salander to satisfy fans.
Now, Lisbeth Salander is back for her sixth adventure, The Girl Who Lived Twice, and again, Blomkvist has a bigger role to play in it; he is even more mopey than usual, though he acquires new love interest in the form of rival journalist-cum-confidante, Catrin Lindas.
At the centre of the hullabaloo in this book is an unknown beggar of Asian origin, who is found dead in suspicious circumstances. The medical examiner, Dr Fredrika Nyman, finds Blomkvist’s number in his pocket; her curiosity piqued, she calls him.
With some help from the missing Salander—she is in Moscow on a personal mission—the beggar is identified as a Nepali Sherpa, who used to guide mountaineers up the Everest. From his babbling to Lindas, there seems to be some connection between him and Swedish politician, Johannes Forsell, who was once popular but has, of late, been a subject of a vicious online vilification campaign.
Both Blomkvist and Salander are on the scent of Russian troll factories, whose job it is to mounts such online attacks and interfere in the political and economic interests of any country they pick. Besides their messages to each other—Salander communicates by hacking into Blomkvist’s computer and phone to leave cryptic texts—the two don’t meet till much later.
Most of the plot meanders over the mystery of the dead Sherpa—a whole lot of DNA unscrambling and the whats, whys and hows of his presence in Stockholm. It gets tedious after a point, and even Salander’s quick romance with a battered woman, Paulina is perfunctory; the most Salander-like scene in the book, however, comes when she irons the shirt of Paulina’s cruel husband… while he is still wearing it! Salander’s aversion to abusive men and her fight to get justice for women has been well-documented in earlier books; she herself had a sadistic father, and suffered abuse at the hands of a counseller when she was a child. She had tossed a molotov cocktail into the car of her vile father and watched him burn. Her hateful twin, the crime boss, Camilla, has a major part in this book, as she sashays in and out the story, along with her ragtag bunch of henchmen, hackers and biker gangs.
When, like a dark avenging angel, Lisbeth Salander comes to the rescue of Blomkvist being slowly roasted alive, does the book finally perk up and remind the reader why exactly this fiery young woman, described by a cop in awe of her, as “a bit like the fallen angel in paradise, who serves nobody, belongs to nobody,” became such a publishing sensation. If there is a seventh book in the series, she really must regain her starring position.
The Girl Who Lived Twice
By David Lagercrantz
(Translated by George Goulding)