Friday, January 22, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson

Title: The Girl Who Played With Fire
Author: Stieg Larsson
Publisher: Viking Canada, 2009 (Hardcover)
Length: 500 pages
Genre: Adult; Mystery, True Crime
Started: January 15, 2010
Finished: January 22, 2010

From the author's website:
Lisbeth Salander is wanted for a triple murder. All three victims are connected to a trafficking exposé about to be published in Mikael Blomqvist’s magazine Millenium, and Lisbeth’s fingerprints are on the weapon.

Lisbeth vanishes to avoid capture. Mikael, not believing the police, is despairingly trying to clear her name, using all his resources and the staff of his magazine. During this process, Mikael discovers Lisbeth’s past, a terrible story of abuse and traumatizing experiences growing up in the Swedish care system.

When he eventually finds her, it’s only to discover that she is far more entangled in his initial investigation of the sex industry than he could ever imagine.

As soon as I finished The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo a week ago, I went out and bought the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, almost immediately. This book is set up in a similar matter to the previous one, where the first 200 pages or so are used to introduce key plot points, and the main events described in the cover blurbs don't occur until past this point. In this case, the novel begins a year after the events of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, so readers are brought up to sped with what the characters, especially Lisbeth Salander, were doing during this year. We learn about Blomkvist's new story about to be published in Millennium, a damaging and telling report on sex trafficking written by Dag Svensson and Mia Johansson. When Dag and Mia, as well as Salander's guardian are found murdered shortly before the story is published, Blomkvist immediately suspects one of the key figures identified in the piece. Police suspect Lisbeth Salander after finding her fingerprints on her guardian's handgun. Blomkvist spends his time trying to unravel the truth, just as Salander does while in hiding, uncovering her sordid past in the process.

This installment in the series didn't affect me quite as much as the first novel due to the differences in the plot. In the first book there was an outside case that Blomkvist and eventually Salander were involved in, so there were developments in that case as well as character development and exploration of Blomkvist and Salander that you were looking forward to. In this novel, the mystery involves Salander directly, she is the suspect, and you know she obviously didn't do it (unlike the Harriet Vanger case of the first novel where you really didn't know what happened to her), so all you're looking for is background knowledge on Salander, which is also the key to solving the case (everything leads back to Salander and everything is connected). There was always something being revealed in the first book, it was never boring; this second book had its share of slow parts that I could skim and still get the gist of what I needed to know.

What I loved was the focus on Salander. Blomkvist takes a back seat to this book and gives Lisbeth some much needed development. I can't really express how much I like Lisbeth, I love her identity theft, I love her anti-social behaviour, I loved her scenes with Miriam Wu, I love her changes from the first book to the second book. She's just one of those characters you simply love, she really makes this novel what it is.

The one part of the book I found myself liking was the scene where Cilla Noren, head of the Evil Fingers, is questioned by Inspector Faste on Salander's involvement with the group (pg. 351). She essentially turned each of his questions back on him, it was a nice commentary on sensationalism in the media and how people get worked up over elements that have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

The plot itself really wows you once things begin to reveal themselves, you almost can't believe the implications and suggestion that a government could be that underhanded and callous. You usually don't see portrayals like that except in dystopian fiction, and Orwell of course (granted Orwell is dystopian but oh well). It was shocking and a little satisfying to see that kind of insinuation about a government that could just as easily be our own.

If you liked the first book, reading this one is a no-brainer. Some slow parts, but the focus on Lisbeth is worth it.

Thoughts on the cover:
Since this is the hardcover I read (the paperback doesn't come out till March here, I think), the covers are different. What looks like blond hair is spread out against an orange background, and it does kind of look like fire at first glance. I honestly don't get the image of the hair, but perhaps the paperback will have a different cover.

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