The latest novel in the Lisbeth Salander Millennium series (taken over by David Largercrantz after Stieg Larsson's death), in which our heroine finds herself serving a two-month sentence in Flodberga, the only maximum security women’s prison in Sweden.
Mr. Lagercrantz is doing a wonderful job. It would be hard to imagine a sequel more faithful to its work of origin than this one, which emulates the spirit and style of the initial trilogy—with its determinedly self-sufficient heroine and dogged journalistic investigator, its focus on abuse of power and its bracing explorations of evils old and new ... Salander emerges as the most dramatic, charismatic and effective investigator of them all: weak in social skills but unmatched in speaking blunt truth to corrupt power; wary of having friends but laden with admirers; adrift in an intellectual world all her own but unrelenting in defending underdogs; hellbent on binding her own physical and psychic wounds. 'Why was she not like other people?' frets the police inspector and would-be protector. But readers wouldn’t want her to change one bit.
Salander shines as bright as ever in The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye, but the plot often keeps her and Blomkvist separate, resulting in an unfortunate deficit of the vibrant (if uneasy) chemistry the two shared in Larsson’s trilogy. And Blomkvist fades a bit here, as Lagercrantz feels more devoted to the characters of his own creation, Mannheimer in particular. Society’s ills drive Lagercrantz’s writing much the same way they did Larsson’s. The original trilogy laid the story across a complex backdrop of injustice, government corruption and pervasive masculine violence. Lagercrantz added privacy concerns and government surveillance to the mix in his first entry, while this one revolves around racism, religious fundamentalism and questions about genetics vs. environment. Like The Girl in the Spider’s Web, this book is a worthy successor to Larsson’s trilogy. But The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye also feels like a tipping point, in which Lagercrantz begins to march the saga in a direction all his own.
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 ... 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, when called for, some martial arts moves. A bit far-fetched, certainly, but it's rooted in the just barely possible. The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye is entertaining, but 'the girl' at the center of this wild tale is beginning to look like somebody we readers only used to know.