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Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Played With Fire

January 20, 2010

5. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland (2006 in Swedish; 2009 in English)
Millennium Trilogy, Book 2

Read my review of:
– Book 1: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Read By: Simon Vance
Length: 18h 34min (512 pages)

Genre: Mystery / Thriller

Started: 23 December 2009
Finished: 13 January 2010

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a hugely pleasant surprise, so I was definitely going to read the sequel.

Working outside the
system is fine until the
system comes for you.

Summary: After the life-changing events of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, journalist Mikael Blomquist and introverted hacker Lisbeth Salander have gone their separate ways: Mikael back to his magazine, and Lisbeth (and her stolen millions) off to travel the world. Salander has cut off all communication between them, but their lives are about to be thrown together once more. When one of Mikael’s co-workers is killed in a grisly triple murder, the police target Salander as their main suspect. Mikael’s convinced she’s innocent, but finding the real killer will mean delving into the world of prostitution, gangsters, and the sex trade… as well as uncovering secrets from Lisbeth’s past that she’d thought were buried forever.

Review: I don’t know how Larsson does it – his books are pretty far outside of my normal reading preferences, in a genre that I’m not crazy about, and have little about them on the surface that would suggest that I would like them… and yet I find them totally fascinating. Part of this is certainly his ability to write realistic, multi-dimensional, and sympathetic characters. Salander in particular is one of the most unique and unforgettable protagonists I’ve come across in recent years, and Larsson has a way of writing her that makes even her running errands interesting.

This incredible characterization also helped me get and stay involved in the mystery itself. In comparison to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the mystery in The Girl Who Played With Fire was a lot more internal – focusing largely on secrets from Salander’s past, rather than some third party. I loved learning more about her, although at the same time, whenever the book shifted away from her point-of-view for too long in favor of people talking about her, it lost a little of its appeal. In general, though, I stayed involved in the mystery, which, although it doled out clues at a slower and patchier pace, was well-put-together and without any gaping plot holes, and even managed to surprise me once or twice.

There were a few things about this book that I wasn’t crazy about. First, I feel like this book maybe needed one more pass through an editor. Larsson is very fond of a lot of detailed description about everything and everyone in his book, and I really don’t need to know the entire backstory for every single John Q. Minor-Character. This is compounded by the fact that there are a LOT of peripheral characters to keep track of, which was something with which I really struggled. It’s partly because most characters are referred to only by their surnames, partly because most of those surnames were very similar (at least to a non-Scandinavian ear), and partly because I was listening to the audiobook rather than reading, so I couldn’t easily flip back and check, but I spent a fair amount of time confused as to who among the minor characters was doing what.

Another point, which didn’t bother me so much, but is worth mentioning – The Girl Who Played With Fire does not wrap up all of its loose ends. In fact, it wraps up very little, instead ending rather abruptly with a hell of a cliffhanger. Maybe Larsson used up all of his endings on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which seemed to have three or four too many, and so was fresh out of denouements by the time he got to the sequel? 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: For all of the random backstory that Larsson gives about other things, he doesn’t spend much time recapping the events of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and since I think the success of this book really depends on the reader being emotionally invested in the characters, the two books need to be read in order. If you liked the first book, though, this one is a worthy successor and well worth your time.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Another Cookie Crumbles, Bailey’s and Books, A Book Sanctuary, Books for Breakfast, Confessions of a Bibliophile, Crime Scraps, Fleur Fisher Reads, A Garden Carried in the Pocket, The Literate Housewife Review, Mysteries in Paradise, Reactions to Reading, Redlady’s Reading Room, Rhapsody in Books Weblog, S. Krishna’s Books
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: She lay on her back fastened by leather straps to a narrow bed with a steel frame.

Cover Thoughts: Love it. Very eye-catching, I love that it loops through the title, and I love that it could be both fire/sparks, and long blond hair.

27 Comments leave one →
  1. January 20, 2010 3:54 am

    I’ve been meaning to pick up the first book for quite a while. Must do soon.

  2. January 20, 2010 7:56 am

    I went to get the Larsson books from the Library last night, and they were all checked out! I’ll be the last person in the world to finally get to read them. They sound so good and clever. I might just read them, as well as the Hunger Games and Catching Fire, in the same month.

    • January 20, 2010 1:13 pm

      TKAM – And here I thought I was the last person in the world to read these! I’m sure you won’t be, either.

  3. January 20, 2010 8:11 am

    great review! I definitely feel like I am late to the party with this series – I keep hearing so many good things. I will have to get on reading them!

    • January 20, 2010 1:14 pm

      Colleen – Now is a good time to get to them, since the third book has only recently been translated – otherwise you’d have been stuck waiting!

  4. January 20, 2010 8:38 am

    How bizarre. I just picked this one up in the charity shop, just over an hour ago. I have this one and the first one and I want to get the third, so I can read them all in one go. Though your review is making me want to read them now.

    • January 20, 2010 1:15 pm

      Vivienne – I don’t know how fast you read, but couldn’t you at least start the first one and then pick the third one up the next day? :)

  5. January 20, 2010 9:15 am

    I love the cover too! But I’m still leery of these books, from all I’ve heard about the violence against women in them. :\

    • January 20, 2010 1:18 pm

      Jenny – On the one hand, that’s totally legit – there is no shortage of violence against women in them, so if you’re super-squeamish about such things, it’d probably be better to skip it.

      On the other hand, though, these books are largely about opening people’s eyes to the realities of violence against women, and how the system often can fail to do anything about it, and there’s a feeling that with awareness comes change for the better… so although they contain violence against women, they’re certainly not glorifying or legitimizing it.

      • January 21, 2010 9:27 am

        I’m pretty squeamish about it – I’m a pretty high-anxiety person to start with, and I also got mugged & assaulted myself a few years ago, which has made me even more jumpy. (Ack, that sounds worse than it is; the muggers were just being creepy with me, I wasn’t raped or anything.) Whenever I read books with lots of violence against women, I get panicky and paranoid. Alas!

      • January 21, 2010 10:29 am

        Jenny – Yikes! If I’d been through something like that, I don’t think I’d much care for these books either. And really, as good as they are, they’re not good enough to be worth giving yourself a panic attack.

  6. January 20, 2010 9:35 am

    Wow! This is a genre I enjoy, so I’ll probably love these books. I have The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – hopefully I can get to it soon.

    • January 20, 2010 1:19 pm

      bermudaonion – These do seem like they’d be your type of books… I hope you get a chance to read TGwtDT soon, and I’ll look forward to hearing what you think and seeing if I’m right! :)

  7. January 20, 2010 10:36 am

    I love Salander – she certainly makes the series. The third book (available from the UK Book Depository) does wrap up loose ends, but in a somewhat contrived way, since the author intended this series to have ten books before he died unexpectedly. For me, the third was the best!

    • January 20, 2010 1:20 pm

      Rhapsody – TEN?!? Really? Wow. I had no idea – I’ve always just seen it referenced as a trilogy.

      I think I’m going to hold off on ordering the UK version. I’ll be okay until May when the US audio version is scheduled to be released… I really dislike changing audio/paper formats midway through a series!

  8. January 20, 2010 9:44 pm

    I’ve been drawn to these books for their titles and covers for a while now, but never read them because I don’t usually like this genre. Maybe I will give them a go after all.

    I always saw this cover as fire sparks because of the title I guess. Now that you mention how it also looks like blonde hair, I don’t know how I missed it before!

    • January 21, 2010 10:31 am

      Laura – I always saw it as sparks too, I’m sure because our brains make the connection with the title automatically. It was only when I looked at it up-close that I saw the hair.

  9. January 21, 2010 2:26 am

    I had to pick up book 3 immediately after finishing book 2 as it leads straight on from it and doesn’t stand alone as much as the first book. I loved all three and I think that was to do with the characters. You do have to read the third one immediately and I am glad I waited until all were in print before I started them.

    • January 21, 2010 10:32 am

      Melissa – This one does end with a cliffhanger, but it’s not SO BIG of a cliffhanger that I can’t hold off until book 3 is published in the U.S.

  10. January 23, 2010 10:19 am

    I have read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I enjoyed it hugely. I am sure I will like this one too. Really looking forward to reading it

    • January 25, 2010 8:26 am

      Nish – I hope you do wind up liking it! (Although I’m sure you will.)

  11. February 21, 2010 8:20 pm

    I just reviewed the same book on my blog (my first book review) and came across yours while searching for some additional info. Your review is great — it really does Larsson’s writing justice.

    Great site, and great review!


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