Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

Lisbeth Salander is not a woman to be toyed with, messed with or wronged. Nor is she someone who sits idly when hurt, physically or emotionally.

For those of you not familiar with Lisbeth, let me offer you a passage that I think goes right to the heart of who she is:

She wondered what he would do if she were attacked.

She would make use of the hammer she had bought at MacIntyre’s hardware store and kept in the outside pocket of her shoulder bag. There were not so many physical threats that could not be countered with a decent hammer, Salander thought.

Yeah, no pepper spray or whistles for this woman – she goes right for a hammer.

GWPWF US coverSo when this second book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, The Girl Who Played with Fire, opens with Salander in the Caribbean for all intents and purposes licking the wounds of her damaged pride over Mikael Blomkvist, I see there is a slight turn in what I have come to expect of Salander. But not for long, soon enough she is in the middle of a hurricane (quite literally) and a murder.

Once Salander returns back home to Stockholm we really see her maturing – she buys not only a luxury apartment, but goes on an Ikea shopping spree, and then fills her closet with brand new clothes rather than her second-hand well worn wardrobe.

While she tries to avoid Blomkvist, he, not knowing why she has removed herself from his life, continues to try and contact her and of course finds himself as her only advocate when she becomes the sole suspect in a double-murder of a couple investigating sex-trafficking in Stockholm and abroad. (A couple that Blomkvist is working with to publish the expose. Yes, soon enough everything in this book becomes connected.)

This book is filled with intrigue as we follow the police tracking Salander, Salander trying to track down the real murderer and Blomkvist trying to track down and help Salander – this story really is Lisbeth’s. We learn the reason behind her motivations, and find out about her troubled past that leads her to her present hunted situation.

I won’t write any more about the book for fear that I will instead turn this into a book report and also give too much of the plot away. There are many characters, all well-developed and for me leave me with a love or hate of them, there isn’t much room in-between.

In doing so though, I know I am not in any way doing justice to reviewing this book. As it is, I have been putting off reviewing this book because I found it daunting to write about a character that I love so much for all her strength, and all her faults (and she isn’t sugar-coated, she has many). And not only do I love Lisbeth, but I enjoy the whole story. It is very dark, disturbing and violent (no punches are pulled) but so well-written and intriguing I didn’t want to put it down. I can’t wait for the third book in this series to come out, but it will be with a heavy heart because it will be the last written by Larsson before he died.

As I mentioned, this is the second in a trilogy of books. Do you need to have read the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, to read the second? No, there is enough background provided to help you along. But I wouldn’t recommend it because in addition to it being a great book, I think you lose a lot of the background and character development, especially of Salander, Blomkvist and their relationship.

The Girl Who Played with Fire
Author: Stieg Larsson
ISBN: 978-0307269980
Pages: 512
Publisher: Knopf

An aside about my copy of The Girl Who Played with Fire :
GWPWF my coverThe info above on publication of the book is from the U.S. released edition. But my copy is not, and while I am always very open about sharing my books with my friends and family they are out of luck with this one. I’m not loaning it out. If you have been reading my blog for the past few months, you might remember my post The Well-Traveled Shelf about getting books while I travel. My copy of The Girl Who Played with Fire is actually an English-language paperback edition I picked up in Stockholm this summer. I had one hour before we were to leave to race through town to try and find a bookstore. No, I didn’t ask anyone, but made my way to a touristy-looking street that was filled with shops, locals and tourists. I found a store selling cards and books, with one English-language shelf, and one copy of this book. Since I was in Stockholm for only a very short period of time, I am not sure of my location in relation to other locations mentioned in the book (I should do some research), but the Stockholm connection on its own is enough to make this one of my favored books on my shelf.

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3 Responses

  1. I’ve got The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but haven’t read it yet and I definitely do want to read it before I read this one. I don’t blame you at all – I wouldn’t lend that one out either.

  2. I also feel you really need to read the first. The one objection I had to this one (which I liked better than the first) was that Lisbeth seemed to like Mikael so much less. I didn’t think that was in character. But maybe it was…. Hard to know her, as The Bubble keeps saying!

  3. Tam thanks for stopping by-your photos of Vietnam are beautiful. You have done a good job of capturing the country’s beauty. I will need to post some of mine on the blog. You will enjoy Confections of a Master Baker-have you read A Homemade LIfe?

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