Alison's Reviews > The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
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's review
Oct 04, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: foreign, thriller, series
Recommended to Alison by: Amy Southerland
Read from September 29 to October 03, 2011 — I own a copy

If The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo drags in places, its sequel moves at an almost breakneck pace. I finished this book in four days, I was so enthralled.

This book is a tauter, more concise thriller than Dragon Tattoo. With few exceptions, everything seems related to the primary plot (at least, after Lisbeth Salander's detour in Grenada), and some of the disparate elements from the first book are fleshed out in this one.

The translation also seems smoother, or perhaps I was just more used to reading it. My one main beef this time is with the footnotes dotted throughout the narrative. On the one hand, as an American lacking anything more than the most basic knowledge of Sweden's political and governmental structure, I found it convenient to have various references explained (e.g., Olof Palme). On the other hand, it did interrupt the narrative, taking me out of the story. Minor quibble.

With the plot of this book so much tighter, Larsson is free to really spend time with his most fascinating character, Lisbeth Salander, and is wise to do so. Even after learning so much more about her and her history, and after finally getting an explanation for "All the Evil," I remain utterly fascinated by her. I especially like that Larsson doesn't try to justify her choices and behavior with her upbringing, history and victimization. As pointed out by more than one character, Salander has her own moral code. She may exact punishment on someone even the reader feels deserves it, but she also sometimes acts and reacts in ways that most other people would find baffling, and even immoral.

One of the smartest things Larsson does in this book is keep the reader away from Salander for a good long time after the murders of Dag and Mia. We last see Salander sitting down to coffee with them, and then the focus of the book shifts to Blomqvist and the police investigation, which left me wondering whether Salander really did have something to do with their murders. While, like Blomqvist, I didn't think Salander would kill without reason, what constitutes a good reason in Salander's head isn't necessarily clear, which leaves room for doubt. It's a great storytelling choice on the part of the author.

Although I figured out pretty early on what the connection between Zala and Salander is, the way it all comes together--Zala's history and the explanation of All the Evil--is far more intricate and involved than I would have guessed.

There is an extent to which the Men Who Hate Women theme gets a little tiresome. In my review for Dragon Tattoo, I noted that the bad guys are pretty much just bad, with no redeeming qualities of any kind. So holds here. In Larsson's world, there are Men Who Hate Women in all facets of life, and there seems to be little complexity to their personalities, no matter who they are or what they do. The man who trafficks young girls into prostitution also beats his girlfriend; the misogynistic police officer hunting Salander is also a homophobe who thinks all women are whores or bitches. One wonders if these men even love their mothers. I'm not suggesting that the bad guys be redeemed, but it's disappointing to read such single-note antagonists when the protagonists are so deliciously complex.

This book ends with such a doozy of a cliffhanger that I couldn't wait to jump into the final installment, which, conveniently, picks up right where this one leaves off.

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Reading Progress

09/29/2011 page 33

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