As you know, I went through Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Canada, USA, Europe) as quickly as humanly possible. The book was impossible to put down. Fortunately, when I finished the novel one night in Melaka, Malaysia, I just had to open my suitcase to pick up the sequel. Hence, about a minute passed between my finishing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and my beginning The Girl Who Played With Fire. Would that it could always be this easy, right!?!
Here's the blurb:
Lisbeth Salander is a wanted woman. Two Millennium journalists about to expose the truth about the sex trade in Sweden are brutally murdered, and Salander's prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and vengeful behaviour makes her an official danger to society - but no-one can find her anywhere. Meanwhile, Mikael Blomkvist, editor-in-chief of Millennium, will not believe what he hears on the news. Knowing Salander to be fierce when fearful, he is desperate to get to her before she is cornered and alone. As he fits the pieces of the puzzle together, he comes up against some hardened criminals, including the chainsaw-wielding 'blond giant' - a fearsomely huge thug who can feel no pain. Digging deeper, Blomkvist also unearths some heart-wrenching facts about Salander's past life. Committed to psychiatric care aged 12, declared legally incompetent at 18, this is a messed-up young woman who is the product of an unjust and corrupt system. Yet Lisbeth is more avenging angel than helpless victim - descending on those that have hurt her with a righteous anger terrifying in its intensity and truly wonderful in its outcome.
With Mikael Blomkvist and the folks at Millennium about to publish a story that will expose a far-reaching sex trafficking network implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, financial world, and government, you just knew that this one would suck you in the way The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo did. Don't know how he manages to do it, but Larsson has the uncanny ability to get under your skin, forcing you to read on well past your bedtime many nights in a row.
The Scandinavian setting continues to be refreshing. Though most readers know next to nothing about Sweden and its institutions, the author's narrative contains all the information required to keep the story accessible to any readers looking for a multilayered crime/mystery/thriller novel. Indeed, you never feel like some nuances seem to be lost on you.
The Girl Who Played With Fire features a smaller cast than its predecessor, which allows the author to flesh out the characters even more. Understandably, we learn more about Blomkvist, as well as the truth about the past of Lisbeth Salander. That, in itself, is without a doubt one of the highlights of the book. But secondary characters get the same treatment, which permits us to see that the series resounds with even more depth than we first believed. Erika Berger, Nils Erik Bjurman, inspector Jan Bublanski, and Sonja Modig, especially. But also Armansky and Palmgreen. On the other hand, considering how impeccable Larsson's characterization habitually is, I found the sexist and stupid cops leaving something to be desired. They weren't handled as well as the other characters.
The mystery regarding the sex trafficking network doesn't have the appeal of the one surrounding the mysterious death of Harriet Vanger in the first book, but it's pretty damn close! The Girl Who Played With Fire features an intricate and convoluted plot that will keep you begging for more, as everyone tries to figure out who the enigmatic Zalachenko truly is. Sadly, my hunch proved to be true, and I sort of guessed it before it was revealed. I hate it when that happens. . .
All in all, Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played With Fire is another page-turning rollercoaster ride of a novel. Highly recommended.
If you haven't read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, put it at the very top of your reading list! With The Girl Who Played With Fire not far behind!