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The Girl who played with Fire
by Stieg Larsson

Wow! Finally i’ve managed to sit down and read the sequel to “The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo”. It has been almost a year, or more since I read the first of Larsson’s trilogy. I remember enjoying the first book exceedingly and went out and bought the second quickly thereafter, but had set it down on top of a pile of other unread books and hoped to a different genre to keep me going. I’m sure many of you other readers have done the same thing.

Finally after a few fantasies, science fiction and comics later I stared at my bookcase and brought down the paper back with the bright red and gold cover. Now, I am ready to dig into the dark world of Sweden, mystery and scandal again.

Larsson did not disappoint. Whatever excitement, pleasure and intrigue i remember from the first book has now paled in comparison with the second. There was so much going on in the Girl Who Played With Fire, that I completely lost myself in the pages. I would look up and notice two hours have gone by, then three, then six. (I basically read half the book in one day.)

The story follows Lisbeth Salander as she returns home to Stockolm after a year’s voyage paid by money she had stolen from a corrupt company at the end of the first book. But she is still the same Lisbeth, aggressive and vindictive if you ever get on her bad side, or find your name on her list. Whereas the first book seemed to focus on Mikel Blomkvist and his troubles with Lisbeth as the mysterious secondary character, this book sets her on centre stage where we begin to learn more about this young woman and the terror she had gone through as a child.

Now, I don’t want to give much away, so i’ll leave most of the plot and ending alone and try to refer to it only when I need to. Basically Lisbeth ends up being a prime suspect in a murder plot that involves a journalist that had been working for Blomkvist. Blomkvist is certain of her innocence and tries to help clear her name while Lisbeth herself gets to the bottom of it first hand.

When I compare the two novels I remember being shocked and appalled by Lasson’s descriptions and details of some pretty nasty acts and characters in the book. Mostly about Lisbeth’s character. She has always been strong-willed and violent with no care for authorities. You do get some examples why in the first book, but much of her character is explained in the second. It is also intriguing that her character stays the same during the first book, but now with the Girl who plays with Fire, we start to see a small change in her behavior.

Not only does she begin to act more mature, dress more appropriately and remove the wasp tattoo on her neck, but for the first time we see her caring about other people. Friends, her past employer and even Blomkvist. Something Lisbeth has never shown previously. But like I said, it’s a small character development, which makes it all the more believable. There is even a point near the end where she cries, which is something she has also never done until that point.

Now comes the political angle. In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo there are a number of moments were the details of a sex act come into light, Larsson does a fantastic job I think in his writing capabilities that had startled me when i read them, as I have never experienced, or witnessed anything along those lines before and it was disturbing, but at the same time fascinating. There almost seems to be a political ploy behind his novels, which comes out more in The Girl Who Played with Fire.

For starters, the journalist who dies was working on the Sex Trade in Swedon, about how girls were being transported from Russia to Swedon. Now, besides the obvious, Larsson seems to give insight into how woman are treated, and this is not an old novel, this is not set in the 1800s or early 1900s but in just about modern day Swedon and the world.

I guess since I’ve begun to watch more documentaries about woman rights, feminists and how females are portrayed in pop culture I immediately was drawn to the very rude way men spoke in the book against female characters. The insults, the ignorance and extremely rude behaviour that made my jaw drop and swear at the pages of the book. And some of these characters were police officers!

I know our world is no perfect, but Larsson seems to capture the disrespect and inhumane habits the male culture still has against females. It is appalling and I can only hope that eventually something will be done about it. But then again… I know it will take time, and strength from the female communities of the world to take action and make it a reality.

There were a few set backs I had with this novel, some I think i’ve only caught now since i’ve began to write myself and take advice from other writers. The one thing Larsson does is go on for a number of pages about a topic that seems out of place on in the book. In the first place he goes on and on about a mathematical problem Lisbeth goes through while reading a mathematic book. I’m not a mathematician, so did not understand half of it. Another instant this happens is when he methodically goes through Lisbeth days… her shopping at ikea where he writes down almost every article that she purchases by name. To me some of this seems to be filler, and i’m curious if because of his death the publishers did not edit his book as much as they could have done. That or there’s something lost in the translation.

Yet besides these slow periods, i’m still unable to stop reading. There is a flow to it, and there is some insights into Lisbeth’s frame of mind when we do go on these tangents, so I guess they do have their purpose.

My other issue is the ending. It is a good ending, don’t get me wrong… it’s just I wish I had the third book on hand ready to grab after I read the last page. To me the ending was fit for a chapter ending with and epilogue to follow. I didn’t get that. There are still a few unanswered questions and situations that I want to see cleaned up. But that is probably all in the third novel… which I do not own yet. I am therefore stuck in a state of limbo until I get my hands on The Girl who Kicked the Hornets Nest.

In the end, this has been a fantastic book, one I would even state was better than the first. (Though you would have to read the first to understand the second lol). It was compelling, intriguing and exciting. It would have to be as I finished it all in two weeks!

Do I recommend it? Only to those who could handle the graphic nature. It is definitely not a book for everyone but the themes, characters and plot are memorable and really makes you second guess the world we live in.

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