The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

26 July, 2010

I picked up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson last year partly because of the hype and partly because it had the word tattoo in it (there’s something about tattoo’s I find hard to resist) expecting it to be a good, solid thriller in the vein of Tana French or Ian Rankin, both whose novels I really enjoy. But I didn’t expect to find a crime novel that opened up a world that was familiar yet so foreign to me as I haven’t really read much Scandinavian fiction. I really enjoyed the fast-paced plot, the chase, the politics and the world of journalism that Larsson discusses in depth and, most of all, the character of Lisbeth Salander. Don’t get me wrong, there were parts that I found extremely disturbing, not particularly surprising when you know the original title in Swedish is Men Who Hate Women. Larsson isn’t afraid of showing the dark underbelly of Swedish society, something we don’t hear much about in the UK. But the book kept me hooked and I couldn’t wait to start its sequel as soon as I finished it. So why did it take me so long to read The Girl Who Played With Fire? Beats me.

The sequel is as strong as the first volume in the Millennium Trilogy and we find out a little more about Salander’s history and background. I have to admit I guessed most of what was revealed, but the pace of the plot kept me reading and I really didn’t know how it was all going to turn out. We meet some new characters as well as some old friends and enemies. And I probably don’t need to tell you that the subject matter is once again gritty and disturbing as both Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist who runs the investigative journal Millennium, and Salander are plunged into the murky world of European sex trafficking.

One of the things I liked about Larsson’s novels is the lack of excessive sentimentality exhibited by the characters. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t care for each other. In fact, Salander seems to become more whole as her past is stripped away, although it is impossible for her to be fully healed. She will always be a loner, misunderstood and targeted. However, she’s not without friends who are determined to save her.

Overall Larsson’s sequel once again gripped my imagination and attention. My only quibble would be that the dialogue could have been tightened with a bit more editing. The translation from the Swedish by Reg Keeland is smooth and natural and didn’t interrupt the reading experience. Needless to say I’ll be looking forward to reading the final volume, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest, and watching the second and third films when they are released next year.

I read this as part of the TBR 2010 Challenge and the Thriller and Suspense Challenge 2010.

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11 Responses to “The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson”


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo the most out of all three — I didn’t mind the last 2 but the 1st was really the one that I enjoyed the most. I agree that he doesn’t mind to show the uncomfortable sides of a society, and I think he did that fairly well in the first one. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the final story!

  2. Melody Says:

    Great review! I’ve yet to read this series, one reason being that all of them in this series are chunksters, and they intimidate me, LOL. Still, I’ve all these books in my pile and it’s just a matter of time I’ll get to them. 😉

  3. Nymeth Says:

    I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying this series so much. I keep going back and forth on whether I think I’d like it, but I guess the only way to find out for sure is read it 😛

  4. novelinsights Says:

    I’m taking this on holiday and can’t wait to read it!

  5. savidgereads Says:

    I didn’t love The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and couldnt get into it at all so I gave up about 40 pages in. I have to say the film was brilliant and made me want to try again and this sounds like the books get better and better.

  6. chasing bawa Says:

    Natalie: I know so many people reading this trilogy. I’m assuming the 3rd book will continue the arc started in the 2nd. Interesting to hear you liked the 1st the most, but then the mystery was an entirely separate plot from that of Blomkvist and Salander.

    Melody: Once you start them you’ll whizz through them in no time! I read mine on the plane which was a great way to kill time.

    Nymeth: You won’t know until you try it!

    novelinsights: Looking forward to your review. It’s a great holiday read.

    savidgereads: I guess it takes a while to get into a big chunky book. But if you liked the film, you might like it more second time around^^ The second book is definitely more fast-paced and the mystery is about Salander.

  7. Rebecca T. Says:

    I loved Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I can’t wait to read this one. I loved the movie too.

  8. Mae Says:

    I loved this series and sped right through it. I’d avoided it because I initially thought the first book was about China…hmm, yes. I think Lisbeth is a terrific heroine and I cheered when she beat up the two bikies. It was bad but good on her.

  9. chasing bawa Says:

    Mae: China?? That’s so funny, although I do get the dragon tattoo connection 😉 Yeah, Lisbeth sure kicks ass. But she really goes through hell, doesn’t she?


  10. Jeeze! I finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo recently and wrote a post about it! And my opening line was not that different from yours!!! Hype and the tattoo! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!


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