Thursday, August 13, 2009

a review of "The Girl Who Played With Fire"

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson (Alfred A.Knopf, ISBN 978-0-307-26998-0)

Last week, I reviewed the first book in The Millennium series trio, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and this week we will have a look at the second by the late Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played with Fire.

The book opens with the fascinating Lisbeth Salander, who came by a vast amount of money in an interesting way at the end of the first book, on a bit of a world tour. It seems that as interesting as this rather odd, anti-social, computer wizard young woman was in the first book, we had yet to learn about a number of her talents. We also have a great deal more to learn about her life, past and present, and this and how it all ultimately ties into the murder mystery is really the focus of the book.

Lisbeth returns, in a very stealth way, to Sweden and gets caught up in the latest investigative reporting work of her old friend Blomkvist by hacking into his computer and reading his files. His magazine is going to publish an article about the illegal sex trade in Sweden, an article that will find a number of the most powerful and influential men in Sweden, in business, the government and even in the police, with, if you will forgive the pun, their pants down. When three people, tied in various ways to the sex trade story, are found dead and there is forensic evidence to connect Salander to the crimes, we will be following both Blomkvist and Salander, connected only by some computer messages, as they try to prove her innocence. Meanwhile Salander is also trying to solve some mysteries from her own childhood that have haunted her and now may come back to threaten her in the present.

As a thriller, as a mystery story, I am sorry to say this book is not without some serious weaknesses. For example, there are just two many coincidences, always a cheap shortcut in a suspense novel in my opinion. There are just too many little plot lines that never go anywhere and are just left hanging. And there are a few too many one dimensional characters, including one villain, a huge hulking figure with almost superhuman strength, who feels no pain and almost borders on a cartoon character.
Larsson also has a habit, that becomes rather annoying, of listing minute details about the characters lives. I found I really did not need to hear, yet again, about the brand of frozen pizza Salander was buying at the 7-11 or her exact shopping list, with all the model names, from Ikea when she furnished her apartment...even as much as I like Ikea.

But, even with those weakness, The Girl Who Played With Fire is a pretty good read and those that loved the first book will have to pick this one up too. While I though the plot in the first book was tighter, and even in it's most over the top moments, more believable, in one way this book has an advantage. That advantage quite simply is the very good character of Lisbeth Salander, a character strong enought to carry this book through it's weaker moments. Oh yes, many of the other good characters from the first book are back. Blomkvist, his on again, off again, married girlfriend/business partner Erika Berger, Salander's first boss, security company owner Dragan Armansky, her first official Guardian Palmgren, are all back in this second installment...along with a number of other good characters, with their still difficult to remember Swedish names. But the interplay between Blomkvist and Salander, that was such a large part of the first book, is almost nonexistent this time around. No, this time, without question, the center of interest, the driving force, is the character of Salander, and happily, she is without question able to carry the readers interest in this book.

Bottom line, if you read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo...and you must read that one first...and loved it, this is a must read. I can't say that I enjoyed it as much, but I did enjoy it and am anxiously awaiting, next year I believe, the third and final volume in this story.

Thanks to the folks at Read Street and their Freebie Friday for the chance to win this one!


  1. You are plowing through them! I have yet to read the first one, although the audio should be delivered soon from the library (I'm wondering how these crazy Swedish names are going to work on audio...). Before I started blogging, I read mysteries about 80% of the time, and so many of them cheated me out of a complicated thread. One of the series I read became so every book, they stumbled on dead bodies. Drove me nuts. Didn't stop me from picking up every book in the series, but I always felt ripped off. You are probably right. If I read the first book, I will most definitely have to continue with the second, I will just be forewarned.

  2. As a sign of their readability, I read both of them in a weekend...almost a miracle for me.

    I guess if I had not enjoyed the first one so much, I might not have seen so many flaws in the second.

    I too read mostly mysteries pre-blog-time but I hate authors that take cheap short cuts...and ones that get very predicable.

  3. I haven't read the first one yet and I've had it since last December. I need to get off the computer and get my nose in a book!

  4. Great review Caite! I like how honest you were. I've never read this author before but I think I'll give the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a try first!

    Happy Reading!

  5. oh Kathy, I know what you

    Amy, you might agree with me or you might not agree with me...but I always try to be as honest as I can be.

  6. I just skimmed through the review, because this is sitting on my whelf waiting for me. It sounds like I'll enjoy it, though. I really like the first one and Salander is a wonderful character.

  7. I've been seeing these covers around and was kind of interested and now your reviews have decided me...they are going on the list!!

  8. I keep seeing these books pop up all over the place. They sound pretty good and I really like the titles. Great review Caite.


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