The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The second book in Larsson’s Millennium Series is just as lengthy as the first, weighing in at over 500 pages, or somewhere around 23 hours if you opt for the unabridged audiobook. You’ll find it is also just as riveting and well-written as the first. This series began as a curiosity for me, and has developed into an addiction as Lisbeth Salander has become one of my favorite characters in contemporary literature. Her character is developed in significantly more depth in this novel as the guardian who so horribly abused her in the first installment of the trilogy returns for vengeance. With each glimpse into her past, we find ourselves agreeing with the justice she delivers to those who wrong her and others, even though we feel as though we shouldn’t. Larsson continues the themes of a scarcity of forgiveness and the nature of justice through this novel. He also continues his perplexing habit of exhaustive descriptions of relatively minor details (when Salander furnishes her new apartment, the reader is walked through a descriptive itemization of each item she purchases and how she transports it back to the apartment) that could perhaps have been excluded in the editing process without loss to the reader or the story (and, I imagine, an abridged audio version would cut exactly these sections).
This novel walks through some events in Salander’s life taking place after the conclusion “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” that provide insight into her character from the beginning. She is drawn into a murder investigation that again crosses her paths with Blomkvist, and reveals details of her past that leave the reader unable to put the book down. Like any good mystery, the plot involves a substantial number of characters that weave into and out of the narrative in intriguing ways, and more than once left me pausing and thinking, “wait…this guy is who, again?” There is substantially less sexual violence in this novel, which is more focused on dealing with the outcomes of said violence. Aptly so, Salander is described by Blomkvist as the “woman who hates men who hate women.” These, then, are her adventures.
In the same vein as “Dragon Tattoo,” though, this novel is more than just a well-crafted mystery. Larsson also makes bold social commentary, both on the sex trade industry and the reality of an innocent girl who has been, quite literally, raped of her innocence in the name of homeland security.
Read “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” first. Although this novel will stand alone, the background gained from the first novel will be most important to the reader. Then sit back, and try to keep up as the mystery unfolds.