The Girl who Played with Fire

So, I’ve been looking for the first book in the trilogy for awhile.  Looking on my kindle that is.  But the Stieg Larsson trilogy isn’t available on Canadian Kindles for some reason.

So I was in Safeway on Friday and saw the 2nd book on the store shelves and couldn’t resist.

The titular girl is Lisbeth Saladar and she is also the protagonist.  The plot is fairly convoluted and resists summary without significant spoilers.  The events on the cover blurb don’t occur until over a third of the way through the book.

Mikael Blomkvist has partnered his news magazine with an independent writer and researcher.  The article will be about sex trafficking in Sweden.  Lisbeth is trying to make a new life for herself: a new house, new car, new job and new boobs.  But she can’t escape her past including her failed relationship with Blomkvist and more sinister elements that might connect her with the magazine’s research.

That summary sounds like a psychological drama, but The Girl who Played with Fire is first and foremost a crime thriller.  The plot takes a while to start tensing up, but once it does the book captivates the attention.  But the suspense likely isn’t the greatest strength – that would be the well drawn characters.  Saladar and Blomkvist get the most attention, but the bad guys, the police and most minor characters are quickly and interestingly sketched out.

I haven’t read the first book, so the second did a good job of introducing its characters.  I still think I can go and read the first and that the plot hasn’t been spoiled.  That is neat.  And while the novel resolves its central plot thread, it also ends on a cliff hanger.  The third book will follow directly and deal with unties plot threads from this book.

There are some aspects some folks might not like, but that didn’t bother me.  It is a healthy tome – 700 pages for the edition I have.  Still shorter than some of the fantasy doorstops I read.  It has graphic descriptions of violence.  There is a fair amount of cursing.  The protagonist cannot be fairly described as sympathetic.  Although she is certainly interesting and captivating.  Finally there are some interesting lifestyle choices from the main characters that could be described as alternative.

That would likely be one of my only two complaints with the story.  Any character that questions the odd choices made by the characters is then pilloried by the author as a bigot, misogynist and villain.  That isn’t clear.  The minor characters that question the main characters turn out to be horrendous people with no redeeming qualities.    It may not be the author’s intention, but it seems to be a way of protecting the choices the main characters make.

The other drawback is that the plot is held together by some giant coincidences.  The plot is revealed very skillfully so the coincidences don’t seem so obvious.  In fact, the plot points them out and then explains them through research into the characters past and their particular quirks.  But they are still GIANT coincidences.  Big ones. 🙂

The plot moves quickly.  The characters are very interesting.  The mystery is pursued in three separate investigations that uncover information in different stages and cleverly feed into one another.   And there is a tenuous tie to mathematical theories which I find neat.

I would highly recommend the book to anyone that like crime thrillers.

Now I wish I could just get the other two on my kindle!

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2 thoughts on “The Girl who Played with Fire

  1. jeffpruett says:

    Just read the third and final book. I think the author was trying to make some social points. Interesting to me because I don’t know much about Sweden…

    • I think so as well. Certainly the hypocrisy of the state and of individuals was well outlined. So were the underlying social ills of intolerance and bigotry. And it was never done without also being in service to the story. Sometimes it may have been a bit heavy handed though.

      Some other interesting social aspects would be the tension between journalism and the police force. And the government conspiracy angle, while certainly a common element in crime thrillers, also had a certain aspect that seemed authentic as well.

      But, like you, I am almost completely unaware of the politics or social issues in Sweden.

      Thanks for your comment.

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