From the moment she first appeared on the page—a slender misfit with piercings and short hair dyed black—Lisbeth Salander has been known as “the girl with the dragon tattoo.”
A brilliant hacker with an unwavering moral compass, Salander made for an ever-tantalizing protagonist whose mysterious background drove the vengeful narrative of Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium series. But a central question has remained, beyond Larsson’s death and beyond the first continuing novel from David Lagercrantz: What is the dragon tattoo’s origin?
The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye strikes at the heart of that question, diving into a story that reveals how and why Salander chose the symbol. Lagercrantz begins the follow up to The Girl in the Spider’s Web with the once-elusive Salander behind bars, due to lingering prosecutorial resentment more than any crimes. It’s a two-month sentence, but there’s enough time inside for two crucial developments: the psychotic Benito Andersson marks Salander as an enemy, and Salander hacks into some confidential files.
On one of their weekly visits, Salander tells investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist about an “old list of names” and asks him to check one out: Leo Mannheimer. Working at the mystery from two angles, Salander and Blomkvist both delve into the Registry, a shadowy organization somehow connected to both Salander and Mannheimer. It’s soon clear that the Registry is willing to kill to protect its secrets; Benito Andersson, now escaped from prison, is intent on ending Salander’s life.
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.
Eric Swedlund writes about music, books, science, travel, food and drink. He lives in Tucson.