“The Girl Who Played with Fire” by Stieg Larsson

Title: The Girl Who Played with Fire
Series: Millennium Trilogy
Author: Stieg Larsson
ISBN: 9780307454553
Pages: 656
Release date: March 23, 2010
Publisher: Vintage
Genre: Fiction, thriller/suspense
Format: Paperback
Source: Millie’s collection
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Summary

After firmly re-establishing himself as the fearless investigative journalist and publisher behind Millennium magazine—a publication once scorned for its inaccuracy that is now flying off newsstand shelves—Mikael Blomkvist is, once again, on top of his game. So when he is approached by Dag Svensson, a young man who has just spent years writing a dissertation on sex trafficking, Mikael is immediately taken by the idea of publishing Svensson’s controversial findings.

Svensson’s discovery of a prostitution ring in Sweden will take down dozens of high-level government and judiciary figures. But before he has a chance to wrap up his research, he and Mia Johansson, his girlfriend, are found murdered in their apartment.

In an inexplicable twist, the police quickly name their primary suspect, who is none other than Lisbeth Salander.

Lisbeth spent a year traveling on money stolen from Hans-Erik Wennerström, visiting Caribbean resorts and reading books about complex mathematics. After she returns to Sweden and becomes linked to the murder cases of Blomkvist’s new friends, she immediately goes back underground.

Even though she has written Mikael off after witnessing his womanizing ways, Lisbeth can’t ignore the notes he’s been leaving her on his hard drive—a place that he knows she is sure to check regularly. (And they say I’m OCD.)

When Lisbeth reads these documents, one name throws her completely off-guard. She reluctantly begins assisting Blomkvist in his investigation—and coming far closer to the truth than the amazingly incompetent police force ever do—but in doing so, she is forced to confront her painful past.

Analysis

I was glad to see much of the focus switch to Salander in this, Larsson’s second book. And this Lisbeth is a different person from the somewhat one-dimensional, angsty punk we met in the first book; during her travels, she has gotten to know herself better, and she seems much more adult and mature.

For a large part of the text Salander—and her history—are merely gossiped about and guessed at. As Mikael and the police in attempt to tease out pieces from Salander’s past, one’s interest in what Salander is hiding behind that tough facade only intesifies. Here Larsson shows off his ability to hold the reader in suspense; throughout the book, he only feeds us enough to make us hungrier.

Larsson does better job of intertwining the plotlines in The Girl Who Played with Fire than in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Indeed, the events of the book culminate in quite the cliffhanger. But my feverish desire to finish the book and unravel the mystery only made me more disappointed when I reached the unsatisfying and unclear end. I felt a little toyed with; I read 656 pages for this?

Zala, the mysterious man who catches Lisbeth’s attention and takes center stage in her investigation with Mikael, is a little too close to a stereotypical thriller character. A wizened former Soviet agent, he seems to have his fingers in every vice available in Sweden’s underworld: drugs, guns, girls. His sidekick, Ronald Niedermann, is equally hard to believe; he’s a gormless giant incapable of feeling pain. Such a duo seems straight of a comic book, and they made the story take on an element of unreality.

Between the thrilling plotline and revelations of Lisbeth Salander’s past—and her present transformation—I raced through this book. But the book raises questions that it does not answer, and the ending left me feeling frustrated and a little less enamored of Mr. Larsson’s style.

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