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review 2018-02-09 08:00
The Girl Who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson

After finishing the first book I went immediately to the bookstore in order to buy the sequels. On the one hand I was really curious to figure out how to story would end, but on the other I was a little scared because the first book seemed rather closed for me.

While The Girl Who Played with Fire felt like a completely different book, with a different style and a completely different kind of mystery to it, I still liked it, though maybe not as much as the first book in the series. While this was a very fast paced read, it would take years for me to actually pick up the third book.

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review 2016-01-22 00:00
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson

This was audiobook #2 for me. It's definitely a different experience than reading the book again. That is to say, it took a heck of a long time to finish listening to it. If I'm not mistaken this second book is longer than the first in the Millennium trilogy in print, so it may be advisable to just read it next time.


Serving as a bridge between the first and third book, there is a lot more focus on new characters in relation to Lisbeth. The main plot this time revolves around the mystery of Lisbeth's past and the implication that she has been involved in the murder of three people. All of Lisbeth's problems stem from the fact that her antisocial behavior and legally checkered past, all of which she ignored because she just didn't care, actually make her look like a villain to the uninformed public in the book. A rather interesting look at how the reality of knowing someone in person contrasts to how they will be portrayed in media and the various presumptions and stereotypes about their personality will crop up amidst public speculation.


The same triggers for misogyny, murder, rape, prostitution, etcetera, still apply as from the first book. Extra horror implications due to the fact that nothing described is beyond the realm of possibility and, given the author was a journalist who probably met and saw a lot of crap happen in the world, probably really did happen to someone somewhere.


On the one hand, I like the social commentary that results from the dialogues and omniscient remarks via the narrator. On the other hand, the extensive flashbacks covering the same periods of time - mostly from Blomkvist and Salander's perspectives - are tedious. There could have been a different way to tell the story that would have dramatically cut down it's length.

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review 2015-08-14 22:55
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second novel in the late Stieg Larsson's Millennium series featuring the troubled, but brilliant, Lisbeth Salander. It is a thriller driven by a murder mystery as well as the mystery of "the evil" that set Salander's life course. There are psycho bad guys, corrupt health care professionals, a genetically modified killer, a task force of well and not-so-well intentioned cops, and a band of crusading journalists. All are tossed around in a ball of plot-threads that are wide-ranging before they are tied up (or at least brought into proximity). It's all held together by Mr. Larsson's depiction of Salander's quirky character and the mystery of her early life and the threats on her current life, which will keep you reading to the end.

I have not read the first book in the series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but I did see the two movies made on it (the Swedish one and the American one with Daniel Craig). So I knew the story and the Salander character, but didn't appreciate what made the books popular until I read the second one. In a nutshell, Mr. Larsson's formula is creating a Holmesian mystery to be solved by a very eccentric but brilliant protagonist with the aid of a much more grounded and moral partner. It worked for Arthur Conan Doyle and it worked for Mr. Larrson.

Lisbeth Salander is probably as brilliant as Sherlock Holmes, though her deductive skills are augmented with computer hacking skills. She's a genius in mathematics that carries over into a genius for computer technology. She is an accomplished researcher but, also like Sherlock Holmes, has minimal social skills. That social lack keeps her in trouble with coworkers and ultimately sabotaged her budding relationship with her partner, Mikael Blomkvist, in the first book. She sees life in black-and-white and is unforgiving. When she perceived Blomkvist as cheating on her in the first book, she turned completely against him. Regaining trust for Salander is a slow, painful, process and it is an aching progression in The Girl Who Played with Fire. Even so, it is interesting to see how Salander and Blomkvist are able to work together from a distance on the story's mystery.

So working apart, and with different motivations, Salander and Blomkvist apply their own skills to solving the murder of two of Blomkvist's journalist friends and of Salander's sleazy guardian--murders that Salander becomes the prime suspect of. This murder mystery thread is kicked off by Salander's guardian, Nils Bjurman, scheming to get free from Salander's blackmailing of him, which she did to be free of his brutal exploitation that occurred in the first book. That thread, however, is preceded by a chapter describing Salander's time in the Caribbean solving a mini-murder mystery, having a physical relationship with a teenaged boy, and weathering a hurricane. Nothing of that situation or its characters is raised again in the rest of the book, so it may have been to show a softer side of Salander before the main plot, or it just planted seeds for the third book (which I haven't read). Anyway, it struck me as bit of misdirection.

Once the main plot is kicked off, however, it becomes another engrossing read, for the most part. It is carried along by Salander's computer hacks (which struck me as pretty accurately depicted for pre-2004 technology), Blomkvist's journalistic research (and it's interesting to see the editorial workings of Millennium magazine, at least it was to me), and the investigations of the police task force. In all this, there are a lot of characters to keep up with, especially among the police. The major ones coalesce into characters, but many remain just names. In fact, there were so many characters with small threads entwining the main cable, that I nearly lost the flow a few times. The omniscient point-of-view added to the sprawling effect, with the POV changing sometimes from sentence-to-sentence. It never got too bad, however, and it was worth sticking with it.

Part of the story involves sex-trade trafficking and the reader learns a bit about that. We see that it's mostly done by low-level gangs of low-brow criminals rather than a high-powered mafia. Prostitutes are created from impoverished young women taken, or enticed, from eastern European countries to the more advanced ones, like Sweden. That creation is done brutally and provides a key plot element. But then there are sections where Mr. Larsson describes some very open-minded sexual attitudes among his characters, including Salander. They're so open-minded they seem unreal, but it may have simply been a device to contrast attitudes between regular people and the criminals. Still, some of Mr. Larsson's characters engage in some very casual sex to the point that it didn't seem believable and it seemed out-of-character even for Salander. Of course, maybe it's that way in Sweden.

My other little criticism is that there are long sections where the plot is advanced only by a lot of dialogue among characters and little action. I think Mr. Larsson took this a tad too far, but not enough for me to abandon the book. The dialogue is interesting but it is a lot of telling-not-showing, technically speaking. On the other hand, Mr. Larsson was skilled enough to get away with it, as the conversations were generally interesting. It's like listening in on professionals discussing an engrossing topic.

The story is told in four parts. Each part begins with a mathematical rule or theorem, implied as coming from a book of mathematics that Salander is reading. I supposed Mr. Larsson was making a connection from the math to the section of his story it headed. If that's the case, I'm not mathematical enough to appreciate it.

The last third of the book turns very action-oriented and leads to a thrilling and satisfying conclusion that is enhanced by Mr. Larsson making Salander a Christ-figure. It took some guts for him to make that come off well, and he did it.

The Girl Who Played with Fire is a continuation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo more than a sequel. The characters evolve, especially Lisbeth Salander, who does so in a believable and engaging way. She is already a new classic in literary characters and is the great strength of Mr. Larsson's Millennium series.

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review 2015-04-27 00:00
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson,Reg Keeland Lisbeth Salander has cut off ties with everyone she knows and is travelling the world with a dead man's money, but when she returns home to Sweden she becomes embroiled in the murder of three people: two who were about to reveal some big names involved in illegal sex crimes and the third an old antagonist who apparently won't do as he's told. Blomkvist, one-time lover but forever a friend is famous for bringing down a corrupt business man and has time to bring down a few more...

Whilst this book was nowhere near as good as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in terms of plot, intrigue and general crime-thriller-murder-mystery type trope (I'd rate those at probably 2 or 3 / 5), it is still an almighty read. It made me even more angry than the first one did, not that I thought that was possible.

Again, it was Lisbeth Salander. There was less identifying here (as one would expect) but still there was a connection I could not fathom. Her morals are shaky at best and she is certainly infuriating and straightforward but there is just something there. Her past is brought hurtling in to the present in this second book and the two are colliding like the tornado and hurricane she experiences in the opening chapters.

Again, no comment on the writing since it's translated. There were a lot of typos in this book, actually, but it seemed to flow well and I'm sure the Swedish was no different.

I don't think people realise how important it is that a white man is writing about feminist issues with a tender touch and a hell of a lot of gumption thrown in. He's passionate about these things and it's obvious in these works. The only other author I've read who has taken such an interest in writing memorable, non-girly, non-stereotypical female characters is the late Sir Terry Pratchett.

I'm incredibly intrigued to see the film but I'll need to read the third and final book before I do that: if they so much as make light of any of the feminist issues in the books I doubt I'll watch another Hollywood film again.

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review 2014-08-22 00:52
The Girl Who Played with Fire - Stieg Larsson

This second book in Stieg Larsson's trilogy has a tighter plot structure than it predecessor. Overall, it was an enjoyable thriller.

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