The answer, according to the New York Public Library, is to read The Tattooed Girl. The library’s “if you’re searching for more” list also included Eva Gabrielsson’s memoir and a selection of Swedish crime fiction books released in the US in the past half year or so.
As deeply immersed in the Stieg Larsson phenomenon as we are, we know most of these books quite well and thought it might be worth sharing our own thoughts on a selection of them.
There Are Things I Want You to Know About Stieg Larsson and Me by Eva Gabrielsson.
We have commented several times on this memoir and continue to think that while in some ways it is disappointingly incomplete, the book provides valuable insight into Stieg Larsson, the things that influenced him and his books, and the life he and Eva had together. It also dramatically tells of her pain in losing him and her lingering anger over what she says Stieg’s “enemies” have done to his legacy.
Stieg Larsson: Our Days in Stockholm: A Memoir of Friendship by Kurdo Baksi.
Baksi has made news and generated controversy by his claim of being a very close friend to Larsson (“He called me his kid brother and I called him my big brother”) and by declaring that Larsson was not a very good journalist or writer.
While there is no question that the two were close friends for a time and that Baksi literally saved Expo from imminent demise in 1998, Eva Gabrielsson told Swedish TV that Kurdo was performing “character assassination” and engaging in “pure slander.” Eight members of the Expo staff objected publicly to the book, citing factual errors and made up stories. A writer friend of Larsson characterized Kurdo as someone who in her opinion “didn’t always take truth very seriously.”
In its review of the book, the Globe and Mail (Canada) concluded that “While the reader gets the now-obligatory references to Larsson’s fondness for coffee and cigarettes (20 cups a day, 60 to 80 smokes a day), his insomnia and ‘the fantastic energy’ he expended on myriad political causes, there’s precious little of the textures or confidences that usually constitute a memoir, let alone a friendship.”
The Informationist by Taylor Stevens.
As the New York Public Library’s reviewer notes, “The protagonist of this author’s first novel, Vanessa Michael Munroe, is unabashedly inspired by Lisbeth Salander.” Munroe was also inspired by her own experience in Africa as a member of a well-known cult. We were drawn by the promise of the plot and some of the very positive early reviews. In the end we were disappointed, however, finding the writing unconvincing, the characters without much dimension, and many loose ends too loosely tied up. We put ourselves in the camp of those who gave the book three stars or fewer in their Amazon.com reviews.
The Snowman by Jo Nesbø.
Nesbø is one of three who have received the most attention in the US for being the “next Stieg Larsson.” (The others are Roslund Hellström for Three Seconds and Lars Kepler for The Hypnotist.)
This is Nesbø’s fourth book about the Oslo-based and suitably melancholic detective Harry Hole, who here hunts a killer in a bleak winter landscape with a new partner, Katrine Bratt, a lawyer. It’s a smart, stylish, and satisfying thriller with many well-drawn characters and settings that kept us fully immersed. We’re looking forward to picking him up again.
Three Seconds by Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström.
The Wall Street Journal predicted — incorrectly, as it turns out — that this duo would be the next to achieve the popularity of Stieg Larsson for their well done police procedural that begins dramatically by a drug deal gone terribly wrong.
We have admired the pair since meeting them in Stockholm and looked forward to the release of their book in the US. (Our interview with the pair is in Chapter 6 of The Tattooed Girl.) Having now read it, we can report that Three Seconds was a little hard to get into and, to our taste, quite violent, even grisly. But an undercover cop, a dour detective, and evidence of complicity in high places kept us reading. The pace picked up significantly in the last third of the book and kept us glued to the plot until the end.
A final note: We understand why competing publishers have wanted to market “their” Swedish crime fiction writers as the “next Stieg Larsson,” and why most reviewers have taken the bait. But in setting up the reader for a binary “yes they are, no they’re not” choice they risk doing these authors a disservice in the long run. Hopefully, readers will judge them for their ability to hold us in their Nordic thrall alone. Based on that criterion, each of these authors stand up well on their own, and deservedly so.