Friday Book Whimsy: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

searchThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, and the two subsequent novels that made up the Lisbeth Salander/Mikael Blomkvist trilogy, were a thing a few years ago. It was hard to find anyone who reads mysteries who didn’t tackle at least the first of this trilogy. Movies were made, both in Sweden and the United States. I read all three novels, and enjoyed them. Lisbeth Salander is a character the reader is unlikely to forget, whether you like her or dislike her.

So, I was excited but surprised when I came across The Girl in the Spider’s Web a few months ago. The title had a familiar ring to it (the other two books in the trilogy were The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest), but I was certain it couldn’t be a new novel by Stieg Larsson because, well, the author had died.

These days, however, that doesn’t stop sequels from being written. Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels have been continued by a new writer despite the fact that Parker had died. The same holds true for Vince Flynn’s iconic Mitch Rapp series. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Lisbeth Salander has reappeared, penned by a new author, David Lagercrantz.

In this latest installment, a genius named Frans Balder has been developing artificial intelligence that could turn the world upside down. Surprisingly, he drops it all to take care of his 8-year-old son who is autistic. He contacts investigative reporter extraordinaire Mikael Blomkvist and requests a meeting to tell him about his work and to express his concern that he is being followed by bad people trying to steal what he knows. Unfortunately, he is killed before the meeting can take place.

Blomkvist of course is intrigued and seeks out his friend, Lisbeth Salander, herself a computer genius and all-around tough guy, only to find she is already deeply involved, but for her own reasons. What follows is an intricately crafted story of murder and mayhem.

There are very mixed opinions on how good a job Lagercrantz did in continuing the series. As far as I am concerned, he did an excellent job. The novels have always had an odd tone to them, largely perhaps because they are a translation from Swedish. Still, the novels have always had an unusual way that they present the characters, and I would not have been able to tell the difference if I didn’t know it was a new author. I think perhaps Lagercrantz’s stories were less sexually explicit. I thought he did a good job of capturing Salander’s complex nature.

I wouldn’t recommend that a person pick up this book if they haven’t already read the others. While I applaud Lagercrantz’s writing, I believe it is necessary to read Larsson’s depictions of Salander to truly get a picture of her character.

The Girl in the Spider’s Nest entails a lot of detail about computers and complex math concepts that I found a bit tiring. But I also found it interesting and somewhat frightening.

If you are a fan of the original series, this is a must-read. If you haven’t read Larssen’s trilogy, start with those.

Here is a link to the book.


Friday Book Whimsy: Agatha Christie’s The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery

imgresThe newest thing seems to be authors taking over the writing of popular mystery series after the original author dies. Ace Atkins continued Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. More recently author Kyle Mills continued the iconic Mitch Rapp series originated by the late Vince Flynn. It is my understanding that these authors have continued the series with the deceased author’s family’s permission.

I wasn’t aware, however, that there was a new Hercule Poirot book. SERIOUSLY?????

I was amused to find out very recently about Sophie Hannah’s new addition to mystery writer extraordinaire Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series. The reason for my amusement was that it has been said that by the later books, Christie was sick and tired of the somewhat annoying little Belgian detective. She is to have said “he was a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep.

But he was a detestable, bombastic, tiresome, egocentric little creep who I absolutely ADORED. As did many others. So I shouldn’t have been surprise to see this addition.

Since Christie famously killed off the detective in her final Poirot offering Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case, I wasn’t sure how Hannah was going to handle the new Poirot mystery. As it turns out, it is not subsequent to Curtain. Instead, it is just folded into his earlier life.

Hercule Poirot as portrayed by David Suchet in the wonderful PBS long-running series.

Hercule Poirot as portrayed by David Suchet in the wonderful PBS long-running series.

I was excited when I first began reading The Monogram Murders, though slightly apprehensive about another author besides Christie presenting Poirot, both in his appearance and actions, and by how the mystery would unfold. As much as I read mysteries, I admit I was rarely able to figure out the murderer in any of Christie’s books. Cheers to Dame Christie.

I started out optimistically, but I’m afraid I was soon disappointed. As hard as Hannah worked at presenting a reasonable imitation of the famous detective, it’s not surprising that she fell just short of success. Poirot did things in this book that he simply wouldn’t have done. It is hard to put my finger on what I mean, but if you are a fan of Poirot, you will understand. So then he was simply a detestable little creep.

Poirot has a new sidekick in this mystery, a Scotland Yard detective named Catchpool, and he is certainly no Arthur Hastings. I found him to be both unlikable and quite inept. It’s true Captain Hastings was not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but you couldn’t help but like him. Poirot and Catchpool worked together to solve the mystery of the murder of three people from the same small English village who share a dastardly secret.

I found the ending particularly unsatisfactory. One of Christie’s many strengths was that she could wrap it all up so satisfactorily, and all of the clues she sneakily placed throughout the book suddenly made sense. Hannah was not successful in this effort. The ending was frankly, terrifically confusing and chaotic. I found myself skimming the last confusing chapters because by that point I didn’t care who killed whom.

I’m thinking this might be the last attempt at adding to Hercule Poirot’s legacy.

Here is a link to the book.