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.