Janelle Dazzlepants's Reviews > The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
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's review
Jun 10, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: whodunnit, thriller, murder-mystery, movie-tv, crime
Read from June 06 to 10, 2012

** spoiler alert ** I didn't care for the first novel, and The Girl Who Played with Fire wasn't much better either. I was initially drawn in by the change in setting to the Caribbean, and the attempted murder in the midst of a hurricane. I assumed that the story would follow Lisbeth as she dug into the reasons behind Forbes' attempted murder of his wife, and Lisbeth getting in over her head in some international conspiracy. Then Lisbeth goes back to Sweden, and the entire story on Grenada seems like a red herring.

When she gets back to Sweden, the story then seems like it'll be a tale of Lisbeth evading the police after being framed for the murder of Bjurman, as well as a journalist and PhD candidate who were about to blow an international sex-trafficking ring wide open. It seemed as if it would be this fast-paced cross between Angelina Jolie's Salt and The Net, with Lisbeth persecuted for knowing too much. I think that would've made for a much more exciting story than what actually followed, which was a weirdass family history of Lisbeth and her father.

In a word, this book was fucking weird. We hear more about Lisbeth's time in institutions, where she continually refers to an event in her life called 'all the evil'. It turns out that the leader of the sex-trafficking ring is randomly her father, a guy who sought refuge in Sweden after escaping from the Soviet Union. He ran an international prostitution ring and used to beat the shit out of Lisbeth's mother. When Lisbeth finally loses it and lights him on fire as a tween, he uses his loyal clients in the Security Police to have her committed to mental institutions. The doctor that oversaw her stay was on the take, ensuring she was treated as poorly as possible during her stay there.

We also have this weirdass tale of a blonde giant with an inability to feel pain, who's responsible for cleaning up Zala's (Lisbeth's father) messes. Turns out he's Lisbeth's mutant half brother, and that Zala sired enough children to practically form an army. I really don't understand what Zala's aims were and his connection to Bjurman, but it all comes to a head when Lisbeth confronts him at his house in the sticks. Lisbeth is shot in the face, back and hip, and buried alive by her hulk brother. Somehow she manages to dig her way out, attack Zala and her mutant sibling and take refuge in the house, where she's found by Blomkvist. The novel draws to an end there.

Like I said, this book was weird. I no doubt missed some things as I was listening to an audiobook while on my walks to work and around the city, but there's no doubt that the book featured some poor writing too. This book would've benefited indefinitely if Larsson had kept it simple; either go with investigating Forbes, or keep it to a 'she knew too much' sex-trafficking story. Adding in all the stuff about Zala being Lisbeth's father and her mutant half brother just served to complicate things. I had no idea where the story was going, and not in a good way like with James Dashner's The Maze Runner.

That being said, I'm glad we finally understand how Lisbeth came to be declared incompetent and locked away in various institutions. When I read Dragon Tattoo I just couldn't comprehend how they justified locking away a 12 year old and putting her under guardianship. I put it down to the Swedish welfare system being really frakking strange, although that explanation didn't satisfy me. Now I know there's a lot more to the story, and I don't entirely want to throttle Lisbeth for being socially inept and refusing to speak to the authorities.

Now I said I didn't entirely want to throttle her. I feel more sympathy for Lisbeth than I did while reading Dragon Tattoo, but I still feel like she goes out of her way to act difficult and obnoxious at times. Perhaps the best example is when Blomkvist is communicating with her via Microsoft Word. He repeatedly asks her to explain what happened, but Lisbeth can't be bothered to come off her fucking high horse and string together a sentence, instead giving him a bunch of stupid fucking cryptic clues. Blomkvist expresses his frustration at how difficult she's being, but she thinks he's being amusing in trying to play off her emotions. While I now understand Lisbeth's backstory, I still think she's a royal fucking twat. *throttles her*

I also had to roll my eyes during the whole boobjob story at the start of the novel. Now, I'm not against flawed insecure protagonists. I loved Melissa Glasser at the start of The Secret Circle TV series, where she felt used and abused by Faye and Nick. She was a wonderfully human and realistic character, and I wanted to give her a big hug. Not the case with Salander. She dresses like a tryhard douche and acts abrasive, but on the inside she's just pathetically whiny and insecure. Her self-loathing is so severe that she just irritates me. Even when she's about to make ~sexytime with Miriam, she whines some more about being insecure about her boobs.

Overall: I'm going to keep going and read the final instalment of the series, but I have very low expectations of it at this point. It's hard to feel enthusiasm for a series when you constantly want to punch the protagonist in the face. I continue to disagree with my friends' assertions that Lisbeth is a fantastic strong female lead. She's too flawed for my liking. It's also incredibly hard to feel enthusiasm for a series when the author seems dead set on making the story as convoluted as possible. *sigh*
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Reading Progress

06/06/2012 "If I didn't care for the first book, am I likely to enjoy this one? =/"

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