Review: ‘The Girl Who Takes An Eye for An Eye’ by David Lagercrantz

Foyles Bookshop, London, September, 2015. David Lagercrantz takes to the stage to talk about The Girl in the Spider’s Web – a book which sees him continue Stieg Larsson’s best-selling Millennium trilogy.

Photo of book cover.

One would be surprised if the author didn’t feel a little bit under pressure that night, or, more specifically, after the book was released. The original three novels chronicling Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist’s adventures are classics, and there was a chance that some were worried about the reboot of the series.

Yet, the book did well. Keen to stay true to the lore, Lagercrantz kept character development minimal and instead, it was how the main duo interacted with a gripping plot which made the book interesting.

Fast forward to today and the Swedish writer has lost the air of hesitation. In some regards, The Girl in the Spider’s Web was Lagercrantz dipping his toe into the water. This time, however, with The Girl Who Takes An Eye for An Eye, he’s prepared to take some risks, and be a bit more daring.

There’s two main plot points in particular which will probably leave devoted fans shocked, but for the sake of this review and spoilers, I won’t mention them. Nevertheless, it shows bravery and competence on Lagercrantz’s part to change the story in such a way.

Although, with that being said, the story perhaps could have worked better as a ‘personal vendetta’ story, as the name suggests. The plot in itself was interesting somewhat, but it was nothing extraordinary. However, the character development in this follow-up is to be commended.

Whether or not this is down to my lengthy breaks between reading (I blame university) or the story itself, but as I turned the last page whilst on the tube, I couldn’t help but feel a little confused. In some regards, the title hadn’t lived up to my expectations, and the epilogue lacked the sense of completion and satisfaction that one normally feels.

So, as a whole? It’s an enjoyable book which is satisfying for the most part. To some, it may well be seen as the ‘filler’ that the second book in a trilogy tends to be. Nevertheless, we approach the final instalment in the new trilogy knowing Lisbeth and Mikael a whole lot better, and with a refreshed, confident writing style from Lagercrantz.

The sixth Millennium novel looks set to be a gripping tale indeed.

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Review: ‘Child Taken’ by Darren Young

An investigative journalist looking into a missing person’s case is nothing new in the world of crime fiction (one only has to look to Mikael Blomkvist and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for a classic example of this), but as with most books in this genre, it’s about the characters. A struggling young reporter trying to get her big break at the local paper had me interested as a student journalist, and I soon began reading Child Taken by Darren Young.

Cover for Child Taken, with a child in a yellow dress on the beach, with her back to the camera, looking out to sea
Whilst it was the blurb which primarily had me hooked, part of me was curious to find out just how many stereotypes about newspaper editors and journalism would end up in the novel. Aside from the character of David Weatherall sounding a little like J. Jonah Jameson from the Spider-Man movies and one day off too many, the Gazette‘s newsroom wasn’t too unfamiliar…

Admittedly, having read this book over the space of two or three months, the first half of the book has been somewhat forgotten. However, it can be described as a ‘slow burner’ of a novel. As the mystery unwravels over the course of 438 pages, it’s around two-thirds of the way in where the pace really starts to pick up, with action in every chapter.

It was at this point that I was reminded how good a movie or TV Show Child Taken could be. Written in an intriguing and descriptive narrative style, it was one of the few books which made me imagine every scene in detail. It made each action scene more intense, and the big finale even more impactful (no spoilers).

Gripping and thrilling with a perfectly constructed plot, Child Taken is a brilliant debut from the writer, Darren Young.

A huge thank you to Red Door Publishing for sending me an advance copy of Child Taken and apologies for the review going up late! Whilst I was sent a free copy, this review contains my honest opinion.

Review: ‘The Method’ by Shannon Kirk

There’s always something risky about the hostage subcategory of the crime fiction genre. If done poorly, the ‘slow burner’ plot can easily put off the average reader. Thankfully, with strong developed characters and a story which cuts to the chase from page one, Shannon Kirk’s The Method is a novel packed with intensity and intrigue.

The main character in the story is Lisa Yyland – a pregnant 16-year-old girl who is kidnapped. Through detailed first person narrative, we’re able to gain a strong insight into the thought processes of a teenager who wants to fight back against her captor.

As she plans her escape, her labelling of tools as ‘assets’ strikes some interesting comparisons to the analytical skills of Sherlock Holmes. Without wanting to give away spoilers, her pure disgust towards her captor has some similarities to Lisbeth Salander. With an authoritative mindset, Lisa is almost like the teenage version of Stieg Larsson’s protagonist – something which really made this book enjoyable.

Whilst the book did feel a little bit descriptive and confusing at times, that didn’t impair my ability to imagine certain scenes in the novel. Kirk’s ability to paint some vivid pictures with powerful metaphors and adjectives adds to the strength of the novel.

As mentioned previously, numerous novels about kidnaps can fall victim to a monotonous and dull day-by-day account of the victim’s activities, but this is not the case for this particular book. In fact, this cliché is humorously referenced by Lisa herself. Instead, The Method sees Kirk construct a well thought-out story that sees readers wanting to see the escape, but also what happens next.

Rating: 4/5

Review: ‘Never Alone’ by Elizabeth Haynes

It was Into the Darkest Corner which introduced me to Elizabeth Haynes. Chosen as part of Channel 4’s TV Book Club, I was intrigued and bought a copy. Since then, I’ve kept an eye on Elizabeth’s releases, and Never Alone caught my eye.

Never Alone is a book with intrigue at its core. There’s lies, secrets and interesting relationships between all characters involved, but with no actual crime taking place at the beginning. It’s a novel filled with suspense, raising questions at the start and only at the end are these answered – with an intense finale complete with a plot twist that caught me completely off-guard. Whilst I prefer books which open with a crime scene, and the rest of the novel becomes a whodunit, there were parts of this intense, twisting thriller I really enjoyed.

All characters in Never Alone are different, brilliantly described by Elizabeth, believable and work well together. Sarah as the main protagonist is an awkward, grieving woman with two dogs – also complete with their own characteristics. It’s a personality which is easy for the reader to imagine.

An aspect of the novel which took me by surprise was the fact it is somewhat erotic in parts, complete with detailed sexual imagery. At these points, it detracts from being a crime novel and moves towards erotica – I genre I don’t read at all.

That being said, the way that Never Alone is written – with the story alternating between the viewpoints of Sarah and a character named Aiden per chapter – was a clever way to tell the story. At first, Aiden’s second person narrative did confuse me, but I soon got used to it. It’s a bold move for Elizabeth Haynes to adopt this narrative style and it worked well.

On the whole, Never Alone is not your ordinary crime novel. With questions and intrigue that grips you from the start and a climatic finish, it’s a more suspenseful novel as opposed to a fast-paced thriller. Although I may prefer the latter, Elizabeth Haynes latest release is another novel which is wonderfully eery – very much like Into The Darkest Corner. If you love slow, developing stories about secrets and mysterious pasts, then this book may be right up your street.

Liam