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R&R 088 | The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium #2)

If you haven't read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo yet, stay clear from this review; my review mentions things that happened in part 1.

Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium #2)
First published in: 2006
This edition: Quercus, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-906695-15-9
Genre: crime
649 pages
Cover photography by Andy Vella

R&R 088 | The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium #2)
I felt Lisbeth matured some more in part 2, and this showed in her style of dress and her new"found" femininity. So I dropped the nose ring and other stuff for this photo.

After finishing the phenomenal success that is THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, I decided to get on with the rest of the Millennium Trilogy as well, and committed to reading them all before summer. (This seems to be going well; as I'm publishing this review, I'm reading the final book.)

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE doesn't pick up where the previous novel left off; a new plot line is introduced.
Whereas TATTOO dealt with corporate corruption and the hunt for a serial killer, FIRE rather focuses its attention on one of Millennium's main characters: Lisbeth Salander and the injustice she has had to endure, the injustice she is about to endure. This book explains a lot about her. Questions raised from reading TATTOO are dealt with for a large part.

It takes a while before we get there, but in my experience the pace of this book was just fine. FIRE starts with Salander's "break" from Sweden; she travels around under a false identity in order to clear her mind, to escape. Already this beginning is infinitely more interesting than the start of TATTOO, because it's about Lisbeth (TATTOO focused mostly on Blomkvist) – and she's just got that thing to keep you intrigued. Okay, she goes shopping at IKEA and details of these purchases and other activities are described ad nauseam. The plot doesn't move much at first. But you know, it still interested me.

Lisbeth's in quite a lot of turmoil, having her heart broken, not knowing how to deal with it. She's going through the motions while trying to find out who she wants to be. She's just very insecure and awkward. Without being overly emotional, Stieg Larsson made Lisbeth understandable to me, and evoked an eagerness to keep learning more. So plot was virtually non-exisitent at first, but I sure did enjoy learning more about Lisbeth.

Blomkvist, on the other hand, I find him to be a complete snoozer. Larsson tries to make up for it by allowing Blomkvist to plunge in to as many women…'s beds as possible. Sex sells, of course. But at some point Larsson devotes a few pages to Berger (Blomkvist's regular – and married, but wait, her husband approves – booty call) and her thoughts on threesomes, and there is some gratuitous lesbian loving. Oh, brother.

A lot of readers weren't too fond of the fact that there was barely any interaction between Blomkvist and Salander.
I personally liked this. Don't get me wrong – I liked them as a team in the first book; they worked because they are so different. But Larsson quickly turned "working together" into something else, and a break was welcome for me. I do hope, however, that the road has been paved for Blomkvist and Salander to have a better mutual understanding (and trust) in the third book, which I cannot wait – by the way – to read more of.

I do have to admit that I found FIRE to be inferior to its predecessor, specifically when looking at the writing itself. TATTOO has a far better build-up and the plot has a more natural progress to it. TATTOO is atmospheric, intriguing and has more natural character interactions. The book struck me as very intelligent and it is one of the better crime novels I've ever read because it is unique.
FIRE almost seems to be written by a different author with a different goal in mind. There's more action and sensationalism. Some elements were over the top even, and unrealistic, but to be fair I definitely felt more entertained by this volume. FIRE's a little more mainstream – but that's not meant negatively. It's just very readable. It's thrilling. It's a good book for the genre.

Admittedly one of the major mysteries wasn't such a big mystery after all; one and one were easily put together. Then again, perhaps I was relieved that my instincts were correct when they were confirmed. (Instead of having weird twist after weird twist thrown at me, it all still made sense to me.)
Other things about FIRE surprised me and left me hanging on Larsson's every word.

A big downside in my opinion is the abundance of "men who hate women" in this book. It's funny, because that's the original Swedish title of the first book, but it seems a lot more apt for the second volume, where every possible nasty word to describe women is used all too regularly.
Knowing Larsson didn't hate women (his male characters did), I still can't help but feel a bit miffed. It didn't sit well with me when, for the umpteenth time and at a completely random moment, the words "dyke" and "whore" flashed by. There was no point to having police officers react in such a hostile manner to any woman (suspects, but also collegues and witnesses).
I don't feel offended, that's not it, but I am irritated because it bordered on the extreme: most men in this book hated women, and they really hated women. And why? To make the book more edgy?

But generally speaking for a moment, I couldn't put this book down. Another important tidbit is that I didn't own volume 3 yet. So when FIRE ended, for a moment I a) was incredulous and b) didn't know what to do with myself. This volume ended abruptly, and you'll want to keep going immediately by starting with the last book. Now that's a good sign.

Basically, there's always a favorite volume in any series; my conclusion is simply that THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE so far are just very different; FIRE has gone its own way. I liked both books for very different reasons, one more than the other, but on the whole I'm a happy reader. The trilogy has been worth it for me so far.

I can't resist wordplay for this one; THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE misses the icy cool atmosphere and style of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, but it does offer something else: a plot that's on fire, leaving you with a burning desire to read the series' concluding volume: THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST.

R&R series © Karin E. Lips 2008-2010 (and beyond)

Karin Elizabeth
1 Comment
  • Mondenkind

    Wow, your pictures are more than stunning!
    I'm sure people who don't give a hoot about books might change their opinion after having seen these pictures…and having read your reviews, of course.
    It's so lovely!
    Kind regards, Anne

    May 31, 2010 at 10:43 pm

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