THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE
BOOK TWO OF THE MILLENNUIM TRILOGY
The fierce heart of this novel is Lisbeth Salander, the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years, genius hacker who teamed up with crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
This time, Lisbeth is implicated in a murder: Her fingerprints are found on the weapon used to kill two journalists the night before their explosive story about sex trafficking in Sweden was set to be published. Now, while Blomkvist—alone in his belief in her innocence—plunges into his own investigation of the slayings, Lisbeth is drawn into a hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past in an effort to settle with it once and for all.
Tangled but worthy follow-up to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2008), also starring journo extraordinaire Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, the Lara Crofts of the land of the midnight sun.
That's not quite right: Lisbeth is really a Baltic MacGyver with a highly developed sense of outrage, a sociopathic bent and brand-new breast implants, to say nothing of a well-stuffed bankbook. The late Larsson's sequel does not absolutely require knowledge of its predecessor, but it helps, given the convoluted back story and the allusive, sometimes loopy structure of the present book. In all events, Lisbeth bears her trademark dragon tattoo still, but her wasp is gone, for a curious reason: "The wasp was too conspicuous and it made her too easy remember and identify. Salander did not want to be remembered or identified." She cuts a fine figure all the same on the beach at Grenada, where she falls into a sticky skein of intrigue involving the usual suspects: self-righteous crusaders, bored Club Med types and some very nasty characters on both sides of what used to be called the Iron Curtain. So sticky is the plot, in fact, that Lisbeth finds herself accused of committing murder. It's a predicament that the utterly self-reliant but unworldly hacker (when we catch up with her, she's reading a mathematics treatise picked up during one of her frequent visits to university bookshops) needs Blomkvist's help to get out of. Some of the traditional elements of the espionage thriller turn up in Larsson's pages, while others are turned on their head—sometimes literally, at least where the romantic bits come in. Still, while endlessly complex, the plot has the requisite chases, cliffhangers and bloodshed. Not to mention Fermat's theorem.
Fans of postmodern mystery will revel in Larsson's latest. Those who prefer the old Jason Bourne (or Mr. Ripley, for that matter) to the Matt Damon variant may not be quite as wowed.
BOOKLIST (starred, featured Review of the Day)
In our review of the late Larsson's first novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2008), we commented that the charismatic computer hacker Lisbeth Salander stole the show from her costar, journalist Mikail Blomkvist. In the second of Larsson's three novels, Salander and Blomkvist return, but this time the focus is mainly on Salander, and thank God for that! She is one of the most compelling characters to strut the crime-fiction stage in years, and it's a great shame that she will have such a short run. This time the plot begins, as did the previous book, with investigative journalism: Millennium, the magazine Blomkvist publishes, is about to do a story exposing the Swedish sex-trafficking trade when the authors of the story are both murdered, and Salander's fingerprints are found on the gun. Larsson jumps between Blomkvist's attempts to investigate the murder (and, he hopes, prove Salander's innocence) and Salander's own efforts to tie the killings to her past. It is that backstory that drives the novel: a ward of the state after being institutionalized as a teenager, following the day when "All the Evil" occurred, Salander has fought through a lifetime of abuse, familial and institutional, surviving through iron will and piercing intelligence. Whether those qualities will see her through yet again remains in doubt, even beyond the last page of this suspenseful, remarkably moving novel. Salander is one of those characters who come along only rarely in fiction: a complete original, larger than life yet firmly grounded in realistic detail, utterly independent yet at her core a wounded and frightened child. This is the best Scandinavian novel to be published in the U.S. since Smilla's Sense of Snow.—Bill Ott
Lastly, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has just overtaken Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol in the Amazon Top 10 in the UK and is at number 5 in the overall chart. It is currently the bestselling adult title as Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books are at positions 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Stieg Larsson who lived in Sweden, was the editor in chief of the magazine Expo and a leading expert on anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and Nazi organizations. He died in 2004, shortly after delivering the manuscripts for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.