Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire - Book Review

The 2nd book in the Lisbeth Salander trilogy opens with Lisbeth still abroad after leaving Sweden with a broken heart at the end of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.  After allowing her emotions to get the best of her, as much as she is capable anyway, Lisbeth realizes that she has been a fool and closes herself off even more completely than before from those who care about her the most, without so much as a goodbye, information of her whereabouts or even if she is dead or alive. 

In true Salander style she finds herself right in the middle of the attempted murder of a battered wife (an heiress of course) by a selfish, sick, abusive husband.  In the middle of a hurricane, Lisbeth and her newfound island friend risk their own lives making sure the wife survives and the husband never harms anyone again.

Back in Sweden, while trying daily to contact Lisbeth, Mikael Bloomkvist is working on a new project with researcher Mia Johannsen and journalist Dag Svennson, a project with epic consequences for quite a few high ranking politicians, policemen, judges, etc...a media storm about to hit.  Despite laws specifically created to control sex trafficking, the problem is out of control in Sweden, and many of its high profile "johns" are about to be exposed.  As Dag continues to dig deeper and confront several of the "johns" who are going to be exposed, he hits a nerve when he gets too close to the monster behind all of it and stumbles upon a connection to Lisbeth and a known Russian spy named Zala. 

After returning to Sweden, Lisbeth reviews information provided to her through her hacked networks and realizes just how close Dag is to discovering the secrets of her entire existence and the man behind All That Evil.  She decides to visit Dag and Mia one night.  Less than an hour later Dag and Mia are murdered execution style.

Thus begins the hunt of a lifetime for Lisbeth Salander, branded a psychotic serial killer with a violent background who has finally lost it.  Lisbeth hides in plain sight using her wits and incredible aptitude for surviving even in the most dire and dangerous circumstances.  Except this time she must also prove herself innocent to a country that has already convicted her.  She must also learn again to trust those who have shown themselves trustworthy and loyal to her in the past and who still believe in her despite her past and despite evidence to the contrary.  Finally, Lisbeth must finally put to rest the terrible secret behind All That Evil and the man who has held the strings of her life from the beginning. She peacefully decides to end his hold over her once and for all or die trying.

My Thoughts:
I am, without a doubt, a Lisbeth Salander fan.  She is tough, damaged, vulnerable, incredibly smart, and a survivor, all at the same time.  What a gal!  The level of violence escalates in this book, but it never feels fortuitous.   Violence against women is the theme of the 2nd book and it plays out in the main story as well as in Lisbeth's past.  Once again Larsson handed me a shocker about 3/4 of the way through the book and I actually gasped out loud.  Never would have guessed it...

I was not a fan of the Mikael Bloomkvist/Lisbeth Salander romance.  A relationship between two consenting adults with no strings attached would have been fine and would have, in my opinion, been more Lisbeth's style.  But, Larsson had Lisbeth fall for Bloomkvist...I just didn't see it...while Lisbeth is vulnerable, it was unbelievable to me that she would be that vulnerable, that quickly, so I didn't like thinking of her off somewhere licking her wounds.  It was more like Lisbeth's character to return to Sweden and cut herself off from everyone, not ask for help, count on herself and herself only for her own survival and be perfectly fine by save herself.

In this book, we learn about All That Evil, an experience from Lisbeth's childhood that was her breaking point.  I do not see Lisbeth as an adult ever being able to have a "normal" relationship with anyone given her childhood experiences as well as those she endured as a ward of the court.  There is no better end for this book than the one Larsson wrote.  While I wished Lisbeth did not have to fulfill her ultimate destiny, at the same time, I knew it was necessary for her to have some kind of closure.  I'm not proponent of murder...but adults who take advantage and hurt defenseless others deserve some kind of punishment.  In a perfect world, their victims would get to carry out that punishment.

I'm ready to begin the 3rd and final Larsson/Lisbeth Salander book.  I'm axious but at the same time sad because I know that when I reach the end, it's really the end.


  1. I still haven't gotten around to reading this series but it sounds incredibly good.

  2. I'm a big Lisbeth fan too ... though I loved the Mikael/Lisbeth relationship and was sad to see it go by the wayside. I think you'll feel good about the third book. Despite his early death, I think Larsson ended it in a satisfying way.

  3. Have you seen the foreign film version of the first book? Whoa, was it intense. I watched it last month while on a business trip and I really liked it...that being with the understanding that the events of the first book, some of which are brutal, were very unsettling and hard to watch. But I did really like both main characters and look forward to the next film in the series. I'm disappointed that they are making an American version of it. I often get annoyed when I find foreign films that I enjoy that later come out redone, American style. I have yet to find one that I like as much as I like the foreign verison.

  4. Thanks for posting your link to this review on my blog! It's always fun to read what others think about books you've read :) I'm the same as you-putting off the last book because it's going to end!! I hate ending a great series!