The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

Cover of
Cover of The Girl Who Played with Fire (Vintage)

I’m not into fiction that much, but once in a while I will read books that are recommended by family members, or that I stumble upon at my local book store or Barns & Noble. So far I have not been disappointed. So when I discovered a Steig Larsson book on the back seat of my ex-wife’s car I asked if she was still reading this. She said take it and give it back when I was done. I saw the movie the girl with the Dragon tattoo and decided that I wanted to check out the book. I never got to that point, so when I had a chance to read the sequel I jumped at it.

The book starts out very slow and strange with a new and improved, less punk Lisbeth Salander in the Caribbean.She is living off a pile of money that she apparently embezzled by hacking the secret account of corrupt Billionaire Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. The action at the beginning of the book is incidental, but demonstrates just how crafty and self reliant that Lisbeth is, When she rescues a woman from her murderous husband, in the middle of a hurricane.

Meanwhile back in Sweden Mikael Blomqvist The hero of the first book, wonders and frets over the disappearance of Lisbeth Salander.  After a year of traveling around the world Lisbeth returns home to the apartment bequeathed to her by her mother. We learn about Mikaels new found celebrity after publishing a book about the Wennerstrom affair, and the rise of Millennium magazine where he works. Millennium’s newest project is a series of articles on sex trafficking in Sweden, by a young freelance journalist named Dag Svensson . The series is based on a  yet to be published exposé by Mia Johanssen who is publishing her doctoral thesis on the sexual exploitation of underaged eastern European girls. The research that Mia has done, has unearthed a hot bed of corruption. Government officials, policemen and judges are on a list of Johns who regularly partake of the taboo fruit. Mia and Dag know that they are sitting on a powder keg but decide to go ahead and publish anyway.

Lisbeth being the naughty little hacker that she is gets involved when she hacks into Mikael’s computer and discovers the files which mentions the mysterious Zala, a fearsome underworld figure with seemingly no criminal record. Some time in Lisbeth’s past she had the misfortune to make Zala’s acquaintance. I won’t give away the secret, but the mere mention of his name sets off alarm bells in her head. She goes to Mia and Dag’s house to warn them and maybe ask questions. This is were things start to go south.

Mia and Dag are brutally murdered and all fingers point to Lisbeth Salander.  A third victim Nils Bjurman Lisbeth’s sexually abusive guardian is also found murdered. His weapon is missing and was recovered at the first murder scene. Lisbeth’s finger prints are all over the gun. Rather than do a thorough investigation cheesy journalist run with the circumstantial evidence. Soon Lisbeth’s picture is all over the media. She is branded a psychopath, a satanist,ex-prostitute and a mental defective. The people in her life all know better. Mikael Blomqvist and her former boss Dragan Armansky dig up the dirt to prove her innocence. Two cops are also not convinced of Lisbeth’s guilt, Inspector Jan Bublanski and detective Sonia Modig. The discrepancies in Libeth’s case file as a juvenile do not match the opinions of the people who have a professional or personal relationship with her.

This book is a joy to read just on a technical level. I take it that editors in Sweden aren’t the useless bums that they are in this country. I didn’t find a single typo in the entire book. Who ever translated the book also did a fantastic job it read smooth and flawless. The prose reminded me of my love of fiction and my love of the written word. Stieg Larsson excites me like F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway or modern masters like Neil Gaimen and William Gibson. The plot is full of ups and downs  and twist and turns and literally had me in a state of anxiety at the suspense levels, (I hate suspense). I am not a fan of murder mysteries but I am a fan of Stieg Larsson. I am presently reading the sequel The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s nest That’s how much I loved The Girl who played with Fire and Stieg Larsson. He will be missed by all of his fans, because writers like this only come along once in a life time. I highly recommend the entire Millennium trilogy.

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