The Girl Who Lived Twice
by David Lagercrantz
(trans. George Goulding)
‘She laid a hand on the Beretta in its holster and felt herself pitched into the same icy cold as when she threw the petrol-filled milk carton at her father.’
This is David Lagercrantz’s third excursion into the world of Larsson’s zany heroine, Lisbeth Salander. The Girl Who Lived Twice is a complex, page-turning thriller involving mountain rescues, espionage, revenge and a lot of hacking. All the main original characters are here – Blomkvist and Berger, Chief Inspector Bublanski, Aramsky of Milton Security, Plague, the villains of the Svavelsjo MC and of course Salander herself and her evil twin Camilla, whom we first met for real in Lagercrantz’s first Millennium novel. There are a host of new characters too, good and bad.
Blomkvist is researching an article on troll factories in Russia when he is contacted by medical examiner Frederika Nyman about the mysterious death of a beggar in Stockholm. Who is he? Did he commit suicide or was he murdered? And if the latter, why?
‘[Conny] looked up and fumbled for his gun. But that was as far as he got. She kneed him in the groin and, as his body folded, she headbutted him twice.’
Salander meantime is tracking Camilla, intending to kill her. [Camilla has her own hacker Bogdanov, who is doing his best to find Lisbeth, also with murder in mind.] When she (Lisbeth) receives a message from Blomkvist asking her help to identify the beggar, she takes time off to work on his DNA profile.
At the heart of the ‘beggar’ mystery is a disastrous expedition to Everest during which two high-profile people have died, an American woman, Klara Engelman, the wife of a gangster, and her lover, the Russian Viktor Grankin. Also on the expedition were Johannes Forsell, now Swedish minister for defence, and his aide Svante Lindberg – and their courageous Sherpa Nima Rita.
‘She …. began to stmble downhill, like a sleepwalker with hands stretched in front of her, and even though she barely knew which was left and which was right, she was guided by howls, inhuman screams which seemed to be showing her the way. It was a long time before she reliased that the screams were her own.’
Although the connection between the parallel plots is tenuous, it does exist. However, the Russian and American underworld are probably not the real focus of this intricate story. Rather, it is the familiar intrigue and corruption in Swedish government as well as the prospect of a final confrontation between Lisbeth and Camilla, that drives the novel.
‘He twisted his head and saw a woman with strawberry-blond hair and a face of unearthly beauty. She smiled, and that should have given him hope of some sort of relief. Instead he felt only a greater terror.’
As usually happens in this series, Blomkvist forms a romantic liaison with one of the many women characters. However, it is Lisbeth and their unusual friendship that often occupy his thoughts. She pops up everywhere, doing what Lisbeth does best in her own special way. Violence is part of her life, but is she really a killer?
The action moves from Moscow to Copenhagen to Prague to Stockholm, and occasionally back ten years to Nepal as rapidly as the hacker’s fingers. Point of view shifts just as rapidly between both major and minor characters. And at the end, we get a climax not unlike that in the very first Salander story, with the journalist in the hotspot (literally!) and the girl with the dragon tattoo on a race against time to rescue him. There are spills and thrills, motorbikes, hot irons, Faraday Cages and gleaming scalpels, all raising the tension as the forces of good move in on the wicked.
But will they be on time? Perhaps on this occasion, Lisbeth Salander is biting off a bit more than she can chew. Camilla is not only her twin but she has the sadistic mafia operative, Ivan Galinov, as her willing ally. So you’ll have to read The Girl Who Lived Twice for yourself to find out how it ends.
Though I very much enjoyed this thriller, I didn’t think it was quite as good as the previous stories. There are a couple of places where the action seems to detach itself from what matters. I also found the frequent POV changes more distracting than usual. This may be due to the plethora of Swedish and Russian names. [On one occasion I suspect the author himself may have confused Blomkvist and Bublanski.]
If this is indeed the last chapter of the saga, as suggested on some websites, I shall miss it!
You can read my reviews of the other Girl stories by David Lagercrantz here:
My reviews of the Stieg Larsson trilogy are included in my little book Classic Reviews, available from Amazon: