Read The Girl in the Spider's Web (Millennium series Book 4) Online
Authors: David Lagercrantz
Translated from the Swedish by George Goulding
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest
I am Zlatan Ibrahimović
Fall of Man in Wilmslow
First published in Great Britain in 2015 by
An imprint of Quercus Publishing Ltd
50 Victoria Embankment
An Hachette UK company
Det som inte dödar oss
© David Lagercrantz & Moggliden AB,
first published by Norstedts, Sweden, in 2015
Published by agreement with Norstedts Agency
English translation copyright © 2015 by George Goulding
Maps © Emily Faccini
The moral right of David Lagercrantz to be
identified as the author of this work has been
asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988
George Goulding asserts his moral right to be identified as
the translator of the work
All rights reserved. No part of this publication
may be reproduced or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any
information storage and retrieval system,
without permission in writing from the publisher
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available
from the British Library
978 0 85705 999 4
978 0 85705 350 3
978 1 84866 777 8
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
businesses, organizations, places and events are
either the product of the author’s imagination
or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to
actual persons, living or dead, events or
locales is entirely coincidental
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Continuing Stieg Larsson’s
Characters in the
Part II: The Labyrinths of Memory
Author and Translator Biographies
CHARACTERS IN THE
– an exceptionally talented hacker with tattoos, piercings and a troubled past.
– an investigating journalist at
magazine. Salander helped him to research one of the biggest stories of his career, about the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. He later helped to clear her of murder and vindicate her in a legal battle over her right to determine her own affairs.
ALEXANDER ZALACHENKO –
also known as Zala, or his alias Karl Axel Bodin. A Russian spy who defected to Sweden and was protected for years by a special group within Säpo. He is Lisbeth Salander’s father, and used violently to abuse her mother, Agneta Salander. He was also the head of a criminal empire.
– Salander’s half-brother, a blond giant impervious to pain. Salander arranged for his murder.
– Salander’s twin sister, from whom she is estranged.
– Salander and Camilla’s mother, who died in a nursing home at the age of forty-three.
– Salander’s former guardian, a lawyer. One of the few people who knows Salander well and whom she trusts.
– Salander’s former, now-occasional, employer, the head of Milton Security. Another of the few she trusts.
– Salander’s sadistic child psychiatrist. Chief prosecution witness in Salander’s incompetency trial.
– a woman whose Norwegian passport has fallen into Salander’s hands, allowing Salander to assume her identity.
– a shadowy magnate who tricks Blomkvist into publishing an unsubstantiated defamatory article about his business, landing Blomkvist in prison. Salander uses her talents to empty his bank accounts in retribution.
– editor in chief of
magazine, occasional lover of Blomkvist.
– Erika Berger’s husband.
– managing editor of
– art director and partner at
– Blomkvist’s sister, a lawyer who represented Salander in her trial.
– scion of a wealthy industrial family, who disappeared as a girl and was found by Blomkvist and Salander at the behest of her great-uncle, Henrik Vanger. She became a shareholder in
– a motorcycle gang closely associated with Zalachenko. Members of the gang were seriously injured by Salander.
– a coalition of hackers, among whom Salander, who goes by the handle “Wasp”, is the star. Includes Plague, Trinity and Bob the Dog.
– the Swedish security police, which harboured a secret faction known as “the Section” dedicated to protecting Zalachenko.
– detective inspector with the Stockholm police, who headed the team investigating the Salander case. Now promoted to chief inspector. Known as “Officer Bubble”.
– a police officer who works closely with Bublanski.
– a police officer who, in Bublanski’s eyes, is perhaps the best crime scene investigator in the Swedish police force.
– a Stockholm policeman who clashed with Bublanski and leaked information to Prosecutor Ekström during the Salander investigation.
– the prosecutor who brought the case against Salander, now chief prosecutor. A manipulative and venal man, believed within the police to be interested only in self-advancement.
One Year Earlier
This story begins with a dream, and not a particularly spectacular one at that. Just a hand beating rhythmically and relentlessly on a mattress in a room on Lundagatan.
Yet it still gets Lisbeth Salander out of her bed in the early light of dawn. Then she sits at her computer and starts the hunt.
1 – 21.xi
The N.S.A., or National Security Agency, is a United States federal authority that reports to the Department of Defense. The head office is in Fort Meade, Maryland, by the Patuxent Freeway.
Since its foundation in 1952, the N.S.A. has been engaged in signals surveillance – these days mostly in connection with Internet and telephone traffic. Time after time its powers have been increased, and now it monitors more than twenty billion conversations and messages every twenty-four hours.
Frans Balder always thought of himself as a lousy father.
He had hardly attempted to shoulder the role of father before and he did not feel comfortable with the task now that his son was eight. But it was his duty, that was how he saw it. The boy was having a rough time living with his ex-wife and her bloody partner, Lasse Westman.
So Balder had given up his job in Silicon Valley, got on a plane home and was now standing at Arlanda airport, almost in shock, waiting for a taxi. The weather was hellish. Rain whipped into his face and for the hundredth time he wondered if he was doing the right thing.
That he of all self-centred idiots should become a full-time father, how crazy an idea was that? He might as well have got a job at the zoo. He knew nothing about children and not much about life in general. The strangest thing of all was nobody had asked him to do it. No mother or grandmother had called him, pleading and telling him to face up to his responsibilities.
It was his own decision. He was proposing to defy a long-standing custody ruling and, without warning, walk into his ex-wife’s place and bring home his boy, August. No doubt all hell would break loose. That bloody Lasse Westman would probably give him a real beating. But he put that out of his mind and got into a taxi with a woman driver who was dementedly chewing gum and at the same time trying to strike up a conversation with him. She would not have succeeded even on one of his better days. Balder was not one for small talk.
He sat there in the back seat thinking about his son and everything that had happened recently. August was not the only – or even the main – reason why he had stopped working at Solifon. His life was in turmoil and for a moment he wondered if he really knew what he was getting himself into. As the taxi came into the Vasastan neighbourhood it felt as if all the blood was draining from his body. But there was no turning back now.
He paid the taxi on Torsgatan and took out his luggage, leaving it just inside the building’s front entrance. The only thing he took with him up the stairs was an empty suitcase covered with a brightly coloured map of the world, which he had bought at San Francisco International. He stood outside the apartment door, panting. With his eyes closed he imagined all the possible scenarios of fighting and screaming, and actually, he thought, you could hardly blame them. Nobody just turns up and snatches a child from his home, least of all a father whose only previous involvement has consisted of depositing money into a bank account. But this was an emergency, so he steeled himself and rang the doorbell, fighting off the urge to run away.
At first there was no answer. Then the door flew open and there was Westman with his piercing blue eyes and massive chest and enormous fists. He seemed built to hurt people, which was why he so often got to play the bad guy on screen, even if none of his roles – Balder was convinced of this – was as evil as the person he played in real life.
“Christ,” Westman said. “Look what we have here. The genius himself has come to visit.”
“I’m here to fetch August,” Balder said.
“I’m taking him with me, Lasse.”
“You must be joking.”
“I’ve never been more serious,” he tried, and then Hanna appeared from a room across to the left. True, she was not as beautiful as she had once been. There had been too much unhappiness for that and probably too many cigarettes and too much drink as well. But still he felt an unexpected wave of affection, especially when he noticed a bruise on her throat. She seemed to want to say something welcoming, even under the circumstances, but she never had time to open her mouth.
“Why should you care all of a sudden?” Westman said.
“Because August has been through enough. He needs a stable home.”
“And you think that you can provide that, you freak? Since when have you done anything except stare at a computer screen?”
“I’ve changed,” he said, feeling pathetic, in part because he doubted that he had changed one little bit.
A shiver ran through him as Westman came towards him with his mighty bulk and his pent-up rage. It was crushingly clear that he would have no means of resistance if that madman let fly. The whole idea had been insane from the start. But the strange thing was that there was no outburst, no scene, just a grim smile and then the words, “Well, isn’t that just great!”
“What do you mean?”
“That it’s about time, isn’t it, Hanna? Finally some sense of responsibility from Mr Busy. Bravo, bravo!” Westman clapped his hands theatrically. Afterwards that is what Balder found the most frightening – how easily they let the boy go.
Perhaps they saw August only as a burden. It was hard to tell. Hanna shot Balder some glances which were difficult to read and her hands shook and her jaw was clenched. But she asked too few questions. She should really have been cross-examining him, making thousands of demands, warning him and worrying that the boy’s routine would be upset. But all she said was:
“Are you sure about this? Will you manage?”
“I’m sure,” he said. Then they went to August’s room. Balder had not seen him for more than a year and he felt ashamed. How could he have abandoned such a boy? He was so beautiful and strangely wonderful with his curly, bushy hair and slender body and serious blue eyes, engrossed in a gigantic jigsaw puzzle of a sailing boat. His body seemed to cry out “Don’t disturb me!” and Balder walked up to him slowly, as if approaching an unknown and unpredictable creature.
He nonetheless managed to get the boy to take hold of his hand and follow him out into the corridor. He would never forget it. What was August thinking? What did he imagine was happening? He neither looked up at him nor at his mother and of course he ignored all the waving and the words of farewell. He just vanished into the lift with Balder. It was as simple that.
August was autistic. He was most likely also mentally disabled, even though they had not received unequivocal advice on that point and anyone who saw him from afar might easily suspect the opposite. His exquisite face radiated an air of majestic detachment, or at least suggested that he did not think it worth bothering with his surroundings. But when you looked at him closely there was something impenetrable in his gaze. And he had yet to say his first word.
In this he had failed to live up to all the prognoses made when he was two years old. At the time, the doctors had said that August probably belonged to that minority of autistic children who had no learning impairment, and that provided he was given intensive behavioural therapy his prospects were quite good. But nothing had turned out as they had hoped and Balder had no idea what had become of all that remedial care and assistance or even the boy’s schooling. Balder had run away to the U.S.A. and lived in his own world.
He had been a fool. But now he was going to repay his debt and take care of his son. Right away he ordered up casebooks and called specialists and educational experts and one thing became immediately apparent: none of the money he had been sending had gone towards August’s care, but instead had trickled out to pay for other things, probably Westman’s extravagances and gambling debts. The boy seemed to have been left pretty much to his own devices, allowed to become set in his compulsive ways, and probably worse – this was also the reason why Frans had come home.
A psychologist had called to express concern about unexplained bruises covering August’s arms and legs, chest and shoulders. According to Hanna they were because the boy had fits and hurt himself thrashing back and forth. Balder witnessed one already on the second day, and it scared him out of his wits. But that could not account for the sheer number and type of bruises, he thought.
He suspected violence and turned for help to a G.P. and a former policeman whom he knew privately. Even if they were not able to confirm his fears with any degree of certainty he grew more and more angry and set about submitting a series of formal letters and reports. He almost forgot all about the boy. He realized that it was easy to forget him. August spent most of his time sitting on the floor in the room Balder had made ready for him in the house in Saltsjöbaden, doing his exceedingly difficult jigsaws, assembling hundreds of pieces only to break them up and start afresh.
At first, Balder had observed him in fascination. It was like watching a great artist at work, and sometimes he was taken by the fantasy that the boy would glance up at any moment and say something grown-up. But August never uttered a word. If he raised his head from the puzzle it was to look straight past him towards the window overlooking the sea and the sunshine reflected in the water, and eventually Balder just left him alone. Balder seldom even took him outside into the garden.
From a legal point of view he did not have custody of the boy and he did not want to take any chances until he had sorted this out. So he let the housekeeper, Lottie Rask, do all the shopping – and all the cooking and cleaning. Balder was no good at that side of things. He understood computers and algorithms but not much else, and he immersed himself in them even more. At night he slept as badly as he had in California.
Lawsuits and storms loomed on the horizon and every evening he drank a bottle of red wine, usually Amarone, and probably that did little good either, except in the short term. He began to feel worse and worse and fantasized about vanishing in a puff of smoke or taking himself off to some inhospitable place, somewhere remote. But then, one Saturday in November, something happened. It was a cold, windy evening and he and August were walking along Ringvägen in the Södermalm district, feeling frozen.
They had been having dinner at Farah Sharif’s on Zinkens väg. August should have been asleep long since, but dinner had gone on late and Balder had revealed far too much. Farah Sharif tended to have that effect on people. Balder and she had known each other since they read computer sciences at Imperial College in London and now Farah Sharif was one of the few people at his level in Sweden, or at least one of the few who was by and large able to follow his thinking. It was an incredible relief for him to meet someone who could understand.
He also found her attractive, but despite numerous attempts he had never managed to seduce her. Balder was not much good at seducing women. But this time he had received a farewell hug that almost turned into a kiss, which was a big step forward. He was still thinking about it as he and August passed Zinkensdamm sports centre. Maybe next time he should get a babysitter and then perhaps … Who knows? A dog was barking some way off and there was a woman’s voice shouting behind him, hard to tell if she was upset or happy. He looked over towards Hornsgatan and the crossroads where they could pick up a taxi or take the Tunnelbana down to Slussen. It felt as if it might rain. Once they got to the crossing the light turned to red and on the other side of the street stood a worn-looking man in his forties who seemed vaguely familiar. At precisely that moment Balder took hold of August’s hand.
He only wanted to make sure his son stayed on the pavement, but then he felt it: August’s hand tensed as if the boy were reacting strongly to something. His look was intense and clear, as though the veil which always seemed to cover his eyes had been magically drawn aside, and instead of staring inwards at his own complexities, August had apparently understood something uniquely deep and great about that crossing. So Balder ignored the fact that the lights had turned green. He just let his son stand there and observe the scene, and without knowing why, he was overcome by a strong emotion, which he found strange. It was only a look, after all, and not even an especially bright or joyful one at that. Yet it rang a distant bell, stirred something long dormant in his memory. For the first time in an age he felt hopeful.