THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE by Stieg Larsson

Book Quote:

“Blomkvist saw Salander lash out with her fist. At the instant she struck her attacker she dropped to the ground and rolled beneath the car.

Seconds later Salander was up on the other side of the car, ready for fight or flight. She met the enemy’s gaze across the bonnet and decided on the latter option. Blood was pouring from his cheek. Before he even managed to focus on her she was away across Lundagatan, running toward Hogalid Church.

Blomkvist stood paralyzed, his mouth agape, when the attacker suddenly dashed after Salander. He looked like a tank chasing a toy car.”

Book Review:

Reviewed by Kirstin Merrihew (JUL 27, 2009)

In The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second volume in the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, publisher Mikael Blomkvist and the police are conducting parallel investigations into three horrifying murders — and their initial evidence points straight at young computer genius and social misfit Lisbeth Salander. Kalle Bastard Blomkvist (as Salander has begun referring to him) hasn’t seen Salander in nearly two years, except for one night when he happened to witness a huge man attempting to kidnap her and both she and the attacker eluded him. He’s bewildered about why she cut him off cold, but had accepted her decision — until now. He doesn’t believe Salander killed these victims. Well, at least not two of them. He has to contact her, find out how she’s become embroiled in this, and help her. Salander, as usual, has her own ideas about who she’ll see and when….

In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Larsson partnered Blomkvist and Salander as they unraveled a twisted tale of corporate greed, Fascist connections, and perverse sex and violence. Fire highlights another subject on which Larsson wanted to shine light, namely the underbelly of the sex trade, a swill of human misery being forcibly imposed for money and simple loathing of women. Blomkvist’s magazine, Millennium, plans an issue devoted to this subject and based on the interviews and reporting of a criminologist and a journalist. There follows much in-house discussion of the lurid material and how it should be presented to the public. But the three murders turn the magazine and its people on their heads.

Meanwhile, Salander travels and markedly changes in the early chapters of the 512-page book (in the American edition; it is a 569-page book in the British) that covers four months overall and is told in four parts. Among her pursuits: attempting to proof “Fermat’s Last Theorem” in a way Fermat himself might have done and keeping tabs on Bjurman (whom, recall, she memorably tattooed in Dragon). Then, she disappears for quite a spell as the murder investigation gets cranking. Later, she regains the spotlight as the book rushes headlong into a heart-stopping denouement.

The last book in this series — tentatively entitled The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest in its English translation — is not scheduled for release until 2010. However, the entire trilogy has already been published in Swedish (naturally), French, and German. Larsson reportedly had planned a ten-volume series. He had written part of the fourth book and had outlined volumes five, six, and seven. Sadly, due to his early death, only the trilogy is complete and only that, according to his father, will be published. After reading Fire, the thought creeps in that perhaps the trilogy will not provide closure, and that the reader could be left dangling, unsatisfied. That would be a crying shame because Salander and Blomkvist — along with other continuing characters — do burrow themselves deeply into the reader’s (at least this reader’s) affections. Fortunately, reviewers who have read, in the other aforementioned languages, the entire completed story arc, including the third novel, seem generally very satisfied. Some claim that the last book, also the longest, is a grand finale that answers all outstanding questions. A few are less effusive, stating that the last book can’t meet the anticipatory heights set by the stunning, unusual first one.

This last criticism can be applied to the second book as well. Fire does not pack quite the punch of uniqueness that Dragon did. One can perhaps think of the movie trilogy The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolution as an analogy. The smash introductory film awed with its mind-bending perspective. The second and third passes were very solid, even amazing, partners, but they only reiterated the cutting-edge magic so novel in The Matrix, building on it, not inventing something mind-blowingly fresh. Familiarity takes a bit of the bloom off the rose, but it certainly doesn’t breed contempt (to mix metaphors) in these instances. Larsson’s Fire lags a little during the mid-section in which criminal investigation procedure grinds along and the author belabors certain points, seeming to believe his readers novices at crime mysteries. But overall, Fire accelerates the enthralling story of Lisbeth and Mikael with panache. One can’t help thinking the world they inhabit is too slimy, too vicious, but Larsson was a man with many crusades and causes, and his trilogy vividly paints the harsh pictures of society that he hoped to reform. The Millennium Trilogy encompasses uncompromising social critique; prickling thrills; and curious, bittersweet romantic hints. Fire drew me like a moth, and I can’t wait to get my hands on Hornet.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 72 readers
PUBLISHER: Knopf (July 28, 2009)
REVIEWER: Kirstin Merrihew
AMAZON PAGE: The Girl Who Played with Fire
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Stieg Larsson
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Bibliography:

Movies from books:

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2008)

July 27, 2009 В· Judi Clark В· 2 Comments
Tags: , , , ,  В· Posted in: Sweden, Thriller/Spy/Caper, Translated

2 Responses

  1. Vee - July 27, 2009

    Ohmygod, I LOVE Stieg Larsson! Not many people seem to know about him here (Canada) since he’s a Swedish author – I read the first in the Salander series a few times and it’s now one of my faves. Can’t wait to get my hands on the next one! Actually I’m gonna go start a page about Larsson on infloox.com and any other book recommendation sites I can find cos more people need to read his work! Two thumbs up for your post :)

  2. barb Pengelly - October 11, 2009

    Steig Larsson is a winner! I read alot, and generally have books figured out before I’m halfway thru them. These 2 were wonderful…kept me guessing all the way. Can’t wait for the “hornet’s nest” to be published here in the US…Why, for heaven’s sake is it taking so long. Get with it Knopf!

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