|A new Lisbeth Salander novel!
The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye
Larsson had grand ambitions for his Millennium series, projecting a total of 10 novels. In Lagercrantz’s hands, the series is realizing grand ambitions of another sort. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for An Eye intensifies the mythic elements of Larsson’s vision. All the talk of stolen babies and a “search for origins” in this novel — along with the malevolent influence of Salander’s evil twin, Camilla — moves the series further into the realms of Star Wars and Harry Potter. A little of this legendary stuff goes a long way in Salander’s hard world. As Blomkvist thinks to himself during a key point in his investigations: “The sensational always sticks in the mind and stands out at the expense of the ordinary, which — maybe precisely because it is so ordinary — tells us something more significant about the real world.”
The Girl Who Took an Eye for an Eye is billed as the revelation of the appalling things done to Salander when she was a child, but the narrative meanders between a bewildering array of storylines that never come together.
Lagercrantz has turned Larsson’s eccentric and feral feminism into a simple inversion. This time there are two female arch-villains after Salander. One is an ageing, ailing Mad Scientist with a doctor’s bag of syringes and lethal poisons who is determined that nothing of her social eugenics programme will be revealed. The other is a ludicrously cartoonish gang boss who ends up hospitalised by Salander’s quick fists and is in cahoots with a pair of nasty brothers – billed as Islamists – who have hired her to persecute their jailed and silent sister. There are identity-switching twins who make the antics of Sebastian and Viola in Twelfth Nightseem pedestrian, and many references to Salander’s evil twin.
The reader is repeatedly told that Salander and Blomkvist are driven by a desire for justice, but because we spend so little time in close-up with the book’s heroine, it is not convincing. There is a sluggishness to the plotting and much of the tension relies on orchestrated interruptions and delays, which irritate. Lagercrantz has all the elements of the Millennium series at his disposal, but the adrenaline is missing.
The enduring draw at the center of the Millennium series is that image of a strange and solitary young woman trying to even the score with all manner of bullies by dint of her brains and her computer. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is entertainment for the moment, but “the girl” at the center of this wild tale is beginning to look like somebody we readers only used to know.