The Girl in the Spider’s Web: The Perils of an Author Picking up a Series

Perhaps you’ve already read The Girl in the Spider’s Web?  I was hesitant to jump in because I enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo so much.  (I liked the second book, too, and the third one to a much lesser degree–which figures in to my tale here.)

Despite the press hype, The Girl in the Spider’s Web is not a compelling read.  It reads a lot like a first-time novel writer’s attempt at writing a book.  And it should.  It’s author David Lagercrantz is a journalist and has written primarily biographies.

The question is, why did Stieg Larsson’s estate hand off this series to this man?  Is it because he shares the same occupation as one of the series’ main characters–who is a journalist?  Or because he is Swedish, like the original author?  Or is Lagercrantz a personal friend?  For whatever reason, don’t expect The Spider’s Web to be as nuanced or polished as The Dragon Tattoo.  The style and tone are completely different and not nearly as engaging as Larsson’s original works.  (It’s reported that the third book in the series, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, was incomplete when Larsson died and patched together after his death for publication, which explains a lack of coherency in that novel, too.)

If you approach The Spider’s Web with no expectations and having not read Larsson’s original series, you will find the book a a descent enough read.  But it’s no where near what Larsson’s first book approached.

Which begs the question:  should a series be continued after the original author dies?

Perhaps the answer lies in the author’s style.  If the books are straight forward and the author’s voice is less unique and more mainstream, it seems that other writers might be able to mimic that and move the series forward with little disruption or fan anger.

But series where the author’s voice is highly unique, relying on an incredible imagination, an ability to describe unknown worlds, or a sharp sense of humor will most likely not be successful.

I’m afraid that the Girl in the Spider’s Web falls into this latter category.