Karin Smirnoff is one of the more unknown in the realms of Scandinavian writers. Although her work is mostly unseen in the UK, she began to make a name for herself with the Jana Kippo Series, first released in 2018.
Since then, Smirnoff has written a handful of novels, mostly in the thriller genre.
A trilogy, and beyond
Book number #7 in what was originally billed as a trilogy, Lisbeth returns; but this time she has a partner. No, it’s not Mikael Blomkvist (although he is a big part of this book), it’s her twelve-year-old niece, Svala.
The story centers around a plot for government officials trying to tap into some of Gasskas’ natural resources. However, these resources are underneath the land of a stubborn old lady who won’t budge and a reindeer farm.
Blomkvist’s estranged daughter is getting married to a politician from Gasskas who is putting up some resistance to the change, leading to Blomkvist’s next big story for Millenium magazine (now a podcast).
Elsewhere, Svala’s mother has disappeared which leaves her in the custody of her aunt, Lisbeth Salander. Svala is currently under surveillance from a local biker gang as they feel her mother has stolen from them and is in hiding.
Immediately, we’re playing the whole, “Here’s a family member that you knew nothing about, but you must now work with/against them to achieve your goal”. From memory, I believe this is the fourth time this has happened in the series thus far.
Lisbeth looking after a younger girl has been done before, but when that said girl has the intelligence of an international spy, along with what seems like basic weapon training, there is little at stake. I never cared for her journey, and Lisbeth herself felt much more grounded in her actions. Likewise, she doesn’t step to the forefront until a third of the way through, so there’s plenty of build-up with little payoff.
I feel it was an attempt to build tension, but it meant that my enthusiasm to engage with Lisbeth fizzled out by the time she arrived on the scene.
Another pet peeve is the book becomes self-referential and meta. There are multiple references to real-world events and even subjects relating to The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo; Stieg Larsson, Noomi Rapace, etc.
This completely takes you out of the book and constantly reminds you, “Hey, this story isn’t like the others. We can be fun and quirky.” It makes it look like a poor imitation in comparison.
Maybe this book isn’t as terrible as I’m making out. Surely, a major publisher like Quercus Publishing wouldn’t release a story if they themselves thought it wasn’t up to scratch.
It’s possible that I’ve become jaded and tired of the series. I’ve written about all of the books, and the trilogy in much greater detail, and this means I see a lot of the patterns repeating themselves. To an everyday book buyer, that might not be the case.
If this is your first taste of the series, there’s a chance you’d play it off as okay in the genre of thrillers. However, I can only write this review with my perspective in mind – and that’s never to undermine anyone involved with the project.
The writing feels shallow in comparison to previous editions, the characters are cardboard; offering nothing new to their journey, and the plot is lukewarm at the best of times – not to mention that this feels like a setup for another (dare I say) trilogy! All these combine to an uneventful end to the series; for me at least.