The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

August 9, 2010

Plot summary (with spoilers): Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist are back in The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second installment of the so-called Millennium Trilogy. It is about a year after the events of the first novel, and in that time there has been no contact between Lisbeth and Mikael. He has tried keeping in touch with her, but she saw him with another woman and ran off in a huff. Lisbeth ended up traveling the world for a year, and is in Grenada when the story begins.

In the meantime, Mikael has been busy trying to get back into the swing of things at Millennium after the Wennestrom affair that nearly ruined his career. The magazine has turned around and is performing fairly well, which is of course good news. Things are expected to get even better as freelancer Dag Svensson and girlfriend Mia Johansson are working on a brilliant piece that will expose the illegal sex trade. The story is sure to be explosive because the two journalists are prepared to name names — a list that includes several cops and other prominent figures.

But then Dag and Mia are found brutally murdered in their apartment. Blomqvist is convinced that the killings are directly related to the article the journalists were about to publish, but the police aren’t so sure. Since Nils Bjurman, Salander’s guardian, was also found murdered on the same night, and since all three were killed with the same murder weapon, the official investigation targets Salander — whose fingerprints happened to be on the gun.

The rest of the story then focuses on how Salander and Blomqvist, working together via messages left on Blomqvist’s computer, work to prove her innocence, while the bumbling cops and real killers do everything they can to prove she is guilty — or eliminate her altogether.

Liked:

  • The pacing really picked up towards the end of the novel. The last 10 percent of the book made for a fairly good read — and showed me that the whole thing might have been decent if an editor had had the sense to use the ‘Delete’ key on scores of pages in the beginning and middle.

Disliked:

  • Larsson sure as hell took his sweet-ass time getting things moving along in this book. The beginning was filled with a holiday in Grenada that didn’t connect with the rest of the story at all, and a bunch of minute details about Lisbeth getting set up in her apartment. What kind of details? Um, like the exact catalog names and descriptions of all the modern sofas, chairs, tables, beds, and other furniture she bought. No, seriously. The double murder didn’t even occur until 34% (Kindle edition, obviously) of the way through the book. Yawn.
  • Why is Lisbeth such a freakin’ caricature? She has no emotions because of “All The Evil” (again, eye-roll at how this phrase popped up over and over) and is like the damn Terminator with the way she takes/unleashes beatings and escapes from dire situations. Need I even mention how she was shot three times (including once in the fucking HEAD), and yet still managed to claw her way out of a shallow grave and kill a full-grown man in that state??? LOL. Her character, while somewhat entertaining, is not the least bit believable.
  • Exposition, exposition, exposition. There is just soooo damn much of it in this book!!! There are long stretches where Larsson TELLS us about Salander rather than SHOWING us through action. Remember when the boxer explained Salander’s past to Blomqvist? Yeah, I literally fell asleep and dropped my precious Kindle in the process!
  • Speaking of the boxer, how effing ridiculous was it that he got involved in the story at all? Yeah, I can really see Manny Pacquiao following a kidnapper and getting his ass beat to protect the friend of someone he “used to spar with”. Whatever.
  • Salander bought a 25,000,000 kroner ($3.4 million) 21-room apartment in cash, and the transaction didn’t raise an eyebrow with authorities? She regularly transfers large amounts of money from overseas with similar ease? Yeah, not likely in the post 9/11 world.
  • God, it was so annoying to have Salander referred to as a “little girl” throughout the whole damn book. She was a 26-year-old woman, ferchrissakes!!
  • “All The Evil” turned out to be the most underwhelming reveal ever. Her father tried to kill her mother, so she firebombed his car? Traumatic for sure, but I personally thought the Bjurman torture/rape was 100x worse.

Rating:
I am truly having a hard time understanding why there is so much fuss being made over Stieg Larsson’s work. Is it because these books were published posthumously? I seriously don’t get it. The writing is mostly awful, the characters are utterly ridiculous, and the plots are extremely thin. What is it we’re supposed to like about this stuff? I give The Girl Who Played With Fire 2 stars out of 5.

10 Responses to “The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson”

  1. I’m so glad to hear someone is as unimpressed with the series as me. I read the first book and skipped through most of it since it was tedious, the interesting story was Lizbeth and the missing girl. I thought the movie would be better and though it didn’t have the tedious stretches the book did had it was hokey for the most part. I wanted to know the backround of Lizbeth for curiosity sake but didn’t want to suffer the books, or the movies so thank-you for suffering for me. I hate how just because someone dies they are hailed as a genius and therefore too good to edit. Even a moderately good story with okay characters can be a good read if its edited right. Look at Twilight, by no means brilliant but entertaining enough to keep reading. Thanks!

  2. I agree! I got halfway through this book yesterday and I’m so sick of it I decided to find spoilers on the web. The only thing this book made me want to do (other than burn it) is go on a shopping spree at IKEA.

  3. Literary merit aside, it is hard to take your commentary seriously when you’ve missed an obvious fact about the main character, Lisbeth Salander: she is a person with autism! If you had been paying the slightest bit of attention to the characterization, you would see that Salander is hardly portrayed as having “no emotions” – rather, Larsson has done a remarkable job of creating an authentic autistic superheroine. Yes, she survives things no one else could – haven’t you ever heard of suspension of disbelief? I, too, have many issues with these books on the literary level, many of which I’m sure would have been cleaned up in the editing process which tragically never happened due to the author’s sudden and untimely death. Nonetheless, if you consider yourself a fervent reader, I would think you might have developed more perspcicacious reading skills.

  4. You are incorrect in your ASSumption that I wasn’t aware of Lisbeth’s condition. Just because she has Asperger syndrome, that doesn’t make her any more genuine or authentic or “remarkable” in my opinion. And why stoop to insults simply because my take on the character doesn’t mesh with yours? I didn’t like her or find her the least bit believable (and of course I try to suspend my disbelief while reading, but come on…), so as a result, I didn’t like the book. This has nothing to do with perspicacity or reading skills. De gustibus non disputandum est.

  5. Totally agree. I read the all millenium books – and couldn’t really find a reason why is it so popular. Full of cliches, comicbook plain characters, serious plot holes. Its pretty redable – but nothing more. Btw. I found this site by typing in google “Lisbeth Slanader is annoying” phrase 😉 Sry for my english 😉

  6. Wow. Harsh much? Personally, I found the books entertaining. Yes, we could have done without all the details of Lisbeth’s Ikea furniture. But what about the rest of the story? Which, by the way, if you finished reading the series before passing judgment, you would see that Larsson took care of the plot holes in Hornet’s Nest. Plus, the reason no one traced the apartment back to Lisbeth was because she bought it using her P.O box as Wasp Enterprises. Small details are key, and you seem to have missed a few. I understand if you don’t like Larsson’s writing style, but it’s not his fault if you failed to read because you were concentrating on getting to the exciting parts.

    Speaking of which, since when does a story need to be realistic or believable to be considered worth reading? Isn’t that the whole reason it’s a STORY? Or how about the fact that it’s in the “fiction” genre? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t read a Star Trek book and then complain that the story is terrible because the Enterprise doesn’t exist and the events aren’t believable.

  7. Hi Heather,

    Thanks for your opinion. Like you, I’m entitled to one as well. Just because mine differs from yours, that doesn’t mean you’re right and I’m wrong. The Larsson books just weren’t my kind of entertainment.

  8. The character of Salander goes from an interesting, perhaps autistic scale woman- to that of a comic book hero.

    She is not only a computer genius but also a gifted boxer? Who a professional has train with promising men? I have a friend who was a pro boxer – he would spar with heavyweights for similar reasons- but no way they would let a woman/girl Salamander’s size do it.

    The Russian spy/father story is also a little much- another opportunity to attack the West’s defense establishment.

    I also laughed at the “blame America” narrative about Grenada- OK- we invaded when the goons who ran the place started murdering each other (Maurice Bishop’s body has never been found). But- its all America’s fault.

    Of course Larrson/Blomqvist is now bedding the missing woman from book one- give him a break- he had to find her first. Larrson really was living vicariously through his doppleganger creation, wasn’t he? I think Bond has less conquests per book.

  9. I can not wrap my head around the fact that most of the people on here don’t realize how great the Millennium Series is. Even the parts that “should have been edited” are pretty amazing. How is it that you all hate, or should I say, “seriously dislike” a series when you’ve read all of the books? Stieg wrote these books during his downtime, after work and such, and with no help of an editor. If you keep that in mind, these are not only great, but some of the best books of all time. You have to be seriously smart to write what he wrote. Lay off, Internet trolls. He could have fixed all the “plot holes” in the 7 other books he was planning to write in this series.

    *I hope Heather doesn’t feel the need to discredit me. ASSuming she gets the email for this post

  10. Ryan, the reason people on here don’t like the books comes down to one simple fact: tastes. We all have different tastes. Even though I usually like these types of crime/thriller novels, the Millennium Series just doesn’t cut it for me. I didn’t like the characters and that’s a HUGE issue when reading any book.

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