Gripping. The second instalment of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire, is not just a worthy successor to the first, it is even better!
Why is it better?
This novel is where the reader is properly introduced to the feisty heroine Lisbeth Salander. In The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Larsson gave readers enough to barrack for Salander on instinct, but she remained somewhat of an enigma, kept at arm’s length so to speak.
As in the first novel, The Girl Who Played With Fire is told from numerous characters perspectives, however the narrator in the spotlight this time is Salander rather than investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Larsson’s male protagonist Blomkvist plays the supporting role to Salander in this outing, investigating Salander’s past and the events that changed the course of her life and shaped her values. Through this exploration of the past and Salander’s thoughts through narration we truly learn what makes Salander tick and what her motives are. Salander’s interaction with Palmgren, stroke victim and Salander advocate, adds real and memorable depth to the story also.
I am in awe of Stieg Larsson’s ability as an author of fiction – I think he was truly gifted.
The complexity of his plot, sub-plots and whatever one calls ‘the plots below sub-plots’ stands apart from other novels I have read, save perhaps David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (although Mitchell’s are more philosophical or cryptic connections while Larsson’s are steeped in the novel’s fact pool and world he has created). How did he keep track of all these characters and interdependencies? I can only imagine a wall with a character map that looked like a bowl of spaghetti.
The only constructive observation I can really make about The Girl Who Played With Fire is that in a few places the prose did not seem quite as slick as its predecessor. This by no means detracted from the very gritty story though. It could simply have been a symptom of the translation or perhaps slightly less editing by the author before his death prior to even the first novel in the trilogy being published.
I cannot wait to read the final novel in this Millenium Trilogy, but I also know that as soon as I turn that final page I will be disappointed that there will be no more opportunities to read about these wonderful characters Salander and Blomkvist.
BOOK RATING: The Story 5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5
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Update: I have since loved Book 3 The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.