"Millennium" mystery: Will there be a fourth Stieg Larsson novel – or not?

Stieg Larsson's partner says in a memoir that she will finish his fourth "Millennium" book, but his publisher says no.

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    Lisbeth Salander may – or may not – return in a fourth "Millennium" novel. Larsson's plan, says his partner, was to use the fourth novel to allow his troubled protagonist to free herself from "her ghosts and her enemies."
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Stieg Larsson fans may be feeling very confused. First, they were assured that they hadn’t heard the last of fictive protagonist Lisbeth Salander. Eva Gabrielsson, longtime partner of the Swedish journalist-turned-crime novelist, said she plans to finish the fourth novel in the "Millennium" series that Mr. Larsson left uncompleted upon his death.

In a new memoir released this week in France, Norway, and Sweden, Ms. Gabrielsson shared her plans to secure the rights to complete Larsson’s fourth novel. According to Agence France-Presse, which obtained a copy of the memoir, Larsson had already written some 200 pages of the fourth novel before he died unexpectedly in 2004.

In fact, Larsson died before any of his three "Millennium" novels featuring Salander – “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl who Played with Fire,” and “The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” – were published. His books have since become an international phenomenon. More than 46 million copies have sold worldwide, the books have been translated into 44 languages, and a Hollywood adaptation of his first book, starring Daniel Craig, is in the works.

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In her new memoir, “Millennium, Stieg and Me,” Gabrielsson says she was inspired to finish the fourth novel because “Stieg and I often wrote together.” She refuses, however, to share any details about the forthcoming novel, saying only, “It is not my intention to recount here the plot of the fourth volume…. On the other hand, I want to say that Lisbeth little by little frees herself from her ghosts and her enemies.”

But because Gabrielsson and Larsson never married and Larsson never left a will, the author’s estate and assets were bequeathed to his family, under Swedish law. Gabrielsson has been locked in an extended dispute with Larsson’s family over the proceeds from the book and the rights to Larsson’s Millennium brand. Further complicating the legal morass, Gabrielsson says she will only finish the book if and when she gets rights to her late partner’s works from his family.

And Larsson's publisher has now seemed to throw cold water on the notion that that day will come anytime soon. “There is no fourth book from Stieg Larsson on the horizon,” a Knopf spokesperson told the press. “Only the estate, controlled by his family [Joakim and Erland Larsson], can authorize publication of a fourth book, and they have no intention of doing so at the moment.”

For now, fans will have to be satisfied with the rare glimpse into Larsson’s personal life offered by Gabrielsson's memoir “Millennium, Stieg and Me.” In the 160-page book, which is to be released in the US later this year, Gabrielsson chronicles how she and Larsson met and explores the creation of the megahit crime series. She recounts Larsson’s struggles at Expo, an antifascist publication he founded in 1995 as the extreme-right was gaining popularity in Sweden. Larsson, Gabrielsson, and the Expo staff “moved around constantly to escape the Nazis who were harassing them,” because of the publication, she writes.

Gabrielsson also expresses concern at the way Larsson’s family is handling his legacy and the Millennium brand. “I don’t want to see coffee mugs and other ‘Millennium’ merchandise; I want to see the real Stieg respected,” she writes.

In spite of Gabrielsson’s concerns, news of the forthcoming Hollywood adaptation of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” (which, according to early reports, differs significantly from the novel) is sure to drum up publicity for the memoir and – should it ever appear – the fourth and final novel.

One way or another, it would appear that the last chapter of the saga of Larsson's life and legacy has not yet been written. Stay tuned for more.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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