Veil soon lifted on new Mil­len­nium thriller


With se­cret codes and locked­down com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Swedish pub­lisher Norstedts has kept the plot of the se­quel to the best-selling Mil­len­nium crime tril­ogy, due out on Thurs­day, shrouded in se­crecy.

The mys­tery is fit­ting for the scifi spy in­trigue en­ti­tled “The Girl in the Spi­der’s Web,” the high­lyan­tic­i­pated dark thriller penned 11 years af­ter the death of the se­ries’ cre­ator Stieg Lars­son.

Only a few peo­ple have read the 500-page tome — just trans­la­tors and ed­i­tors — that takes up the story of tat­tooed com­puter hacker Lisbeth Sa­lan­der and jour­nal­ist Mikael Blomkvist.

And Norstedts has given only a small sneak preview.

“One night pro­fes­sor Frans Balder, a lead­ing au­thor­ity within AI (ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence) re­search, calls up Blomkvist,” it wrote on its web­site.

“Balder says he has world shat­ter­ing in­for­ma­tion on U.S. in­tel­li­gence ser­vices. He has also had con­tact with a fe­male su­per hacker, who bears a cer­tain re­sem­blance to a per­son Blomkvist knows well.”

The thriller is keenly awaited by de­voted read­ers. The first three Mil­len­nium books, pub­lished in 2005-2007, have sold 80 mil­lion copies world­wide and have been made into Swedish and Hol­ly­wood

fans movie adap­ta­tions.

But be­fore the fourth in­stall­ment even went to press it was al­ready en­veloped in scan­dal.

Among the book’s de­trac­tors is Eva Gabriels­son, who was Stieg Lars­son’s part­ner of 32 years un­til he died sud­denly of a heart at­tack in 2004 at age 50.

The cou­ple were not mar­ried and Lars­son left no will, so his es­tate went to his brother and fa­ther. Gabriels­son, 61, lost a bit­ter bat­tle with them to man­age his work.

To write the tril­ogy’s se­quel, Lars­son’s brother and fa­ther chose David Lager­crantz — a Swedish jour­nal­ist known for writ­ing soc­cer star Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic’s of­fi­cial bi­og­ra­phy — a “to­tally id­i­otic choice,” Gabriels­son told AFP in Fe­bru­ary, say­ing he knew noth­ing of the mi­lieu Stieg Lars­son de­scribed in the books.

The writ­ing of the novel was shrouded in se­crecy, with the au­thor, ed­i­tors and trans­la­tors work­ing on com­put­ers dis­con­nected from the In­ter­net to avoid leaks.

“We saw how Sony Pic­tures got hacked in 2013 and we didn’t want to get hacked,” Norstedts spokes­woman Linda Altrov Berg told AFP.

“We have made things more ex­pen­sive for our­selves,” she said in her of­fice near Stock­holm’s Old Town.

For the trans­la­tions, the novel was de­liv­ered by courier to the pub­lish­ing houses who owned the rights to the first three vol­umes.

A slew of con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ments were signed, and no in­ter­view with the au­thor can be printed be­fore the book is re­leased on Aug. 27.

But some ac­cuse Norstedts, Stieg Lars­son’s heirs and David Lager­crantz of milk­ing a cash cow.

In Swe­den’s pa­per of ref­er­ence Da­gens Ny­heter, Stieg Lars­son’s child­hood friends re­cently com­pared the pub­li­ca­tion of the fourth tome to “grave rob­bing.”

Norstedts has re­jected the crit­i­cism, say­ing the novel doesn’t tar­nish Stieg Lars­son’s mem­ory.

Altrov Berg in­sisted Lager­crantz was not like a “ghost­writer who im­i­tated Stieg’s voice. It’s his own book.”

A Money Ma­chine

In Eva Gabriels­son’s eyes, the book is only see­ing the light of day be­cause of greed.

“Ev­ery pub­lish­ing house in the world pub­lishes books to make money. They’re not char­i­ties,” coun­tered Altrov Berg.

Norstedts will not ut­ter a word on the book’s ex­pected sales.

Lars­son’s heirs have how­ever said they plan to do­nate the roy­al­ties to the anti-racist mag­a­zine Expo, co-founded by Stieg Lars­son.

For literary critic Mats Svens­son, the money is­sue is typ­i­cal of Swedish pub­lish­ers’ in­creas­ingly ag­gres­sive busi­ness strate­gies.

“The big Swedish pub­lish­ing houses, just like the An­glo-Saxon ones, are in­creas­ingly be­ing run like reg­u­lar busi­nesses, ex­pected to pro­duce high re­turns and ris­ing sales ... Norstedts ... has gone from churn­ing out books to churn­ing out prof­its,” Svens­son lamented.

“This is a book com­mis­sioned by the sur­vivors and the pub­lisher. They want to con­tinue to make money off the fran­chise that’s been built up around the Mil­len­nium tril­ogy,” agreed Sara Kar­rholm, a literature pro­fes­sor at Lund Univer­sity.

The novel should have no trou­ble find­ing an au­di­ence, she said.

“There are so many peo­ple who liked the char­ac­ters ... and want to know what be­comes of them.”

“You can sort of com­pare the Mil­len­nium se­quel to a new sea­son of a TV se­ries: you want to fol­low it be­cause you want to con­tinue your ac­quain­tance with the char­ac­ters,” Kar­rholm said.

Norstedts in­sists it has no plans for a fifth in­stal­ment, and tried to tone down the hype a few days be­fore the re­lease date.

“It’s just a book. The read­ers will de­cide,” Altrov Berg says.

Around 2.7 mil­lion copies go on sale in 25 coun­tries on Thurs­day, and in the U.S. on Sept. 1.

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