Sunday Salon – Review of “The Girl Who Played With Fire” by Stieg Larsson

The Sunday

Stieg Larsson, the late Swedish journalist and author, completed three thriller/mystery manuscripts before he died unexpectedly at age 50 in 2004: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. Together, they form The Millenium Trilogy. As soon as I completed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I set it down on the couch, got in the car, and immediately took off to get the second book in the trilogy.


Before starting the review I should note that while the second book can stand alone, you will not understand the characters as well if you don’t start with the first book. I recommend doing so; the first book is very good, and the second book is even better.

Two characters dominate this story. One is Lisbeth Salander, a traumatized 4’11” ninety-pound 24-year-old with a photographic memory and excellent research skills who can take on anybody and come out ahead. The other is Mikael Blomkvist, a doggedly-naive 44-year-old crusading “do-gooder” journalist who publishes the magazine Millenium, specializing in investigative journalism. Blomkvist thinks he can meet injustice head-on through exposés and make a difference in the world. Mikael and Lisbeth became friends in the first book, but suddenly Lisbeth pulls away from him, and Blomkvist can’t figure out why. Yet their lives continue to be entwined.

Early in the second book, two of Mikael’s reporters are executed right before they break a story on the sex trade. Salander’s prints are found on the gun, and she becomes the focus of a national manhunt. Larsson clearly has little sympathy for the sensationalism employed by the press in these instances, and skewers it mercilessly. He also excoriates corruption in public officials – including police – especially those who collude with the sex trade.

Through all the hullabaloo, Salander calmly goes about her business, eating frozen pizzas and working on solving the murders (as well as the mathematical enigma “Fermat’s Last Theorem”) on her own. (Some of the characters speculate that Salander has Asperger’s Syndrome.) She refuses to contact Blomkvist, but he finds a way to communicate with her and convey his belief in her innocence.

Blomkvist, Salander, the police, and Salander’s former employer all work to find out who has committed the murders. As they race to do so, the murderers race to find them first.

Evaluation: This book is much more of a nail-biter than the first of the trilogy. And the marvelous character of Lisbeth is expanded to take over the story. She is punky and spunky and smart and unforgettable. With her thorns always bared to protect her vulnerable core, she will remind you of the rose in Antoine de Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince. And Blomkvist, determined to protect her from wolves in sheeps’ clothing, is her would-be Prince.

Picture 1

I have really enjoyed book 1 and 2 of this series, but Larsson does have a Quentin-Tarintino-like attitude toward violence, and you must be able to endure some graphic passages involving abuse of women. But it’s darn good writing!

Rating: 4.5/5

Published in the U.S. by Alfred A. Knopf, 2009


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23 Responses to Sunday Salon – Review of “The Girl Who Played With Fire” by Stieg Larsson

  1. I am nearing the half-way point through my audiobook (the Simon Vance versions of both books are incredible!) of The Girl Who Played with Fire and I cannot get enough. I would be over the half-way point right now but my MP3 player ran out of juice and I couldn’t find the USB cable until last night before bed. ACK! 🙂 I’m so glad that you loved this book as much as the first. I know I’ll be anxiously awaiting the third installment when I get done. I’m not one for series in general, but this one is incredible – if you have the stomach as you pointed out.

    Great review!

  2. Marie says:

    I’m so excited to start on FIRE. Great review- makes me want to grab it off the shelf right now. I loved Lisbeth in the first book & it’s nice to know there’s more of her here!

  3. Ceri says:

    I keep seeing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in Borders and have always wondered about it. I had no idea there were three of them – and that the author had sadly died 😦

    They really do sound like a good read though. Great review 🙂 Will definitely have to check them out.

  4. Alyce says:

    Yours is the first review I’ve read of this book. I’ve been hesitant to read the first one since I discovered that it has graphic abuse scenes.

    I’m glad to see that you liked this book so much, and that the writing is so good.

  5. bermudaonion says:

    I have The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but haven’t read it yet. I’m really anxious too, but just haven’t found the time. Thanks for the warning about the violence – I can generally read stuff like that, even though I could never watch it in a movie.

  6. Nymeth says:

    I haven’t read this series, but just yesterday I was reading an article about the graphic depictions of violence against women that gave me pause. I worry I’d have horrible nightmares for months :/ I love your Rose in Little Prince analogy, though!

  7. Gavin says:

    Great review. I loved both books and can not wait for the third one. There is graphic violence in both but I never felt it was gratuitous, it seemed to add to the plot and to the characters, particularly Lisbeth.

    As I borrowed both books from the library and they both have a zillion holds on them I broke down and bought the paperback of Tatoo for my husband. He stayed up all night finishing it in one go!

  8. bernadetteinoz says:

    Great review of a great book. I am very excited because No 3 in the trilogy comes out here on 1 October and i shall be buying it early and reading it straight away. i can’t wait to find out what happens to Lisbeth.

  9. Steph says:

    I’ve actually been surprised that I haven’t heard much about this one, given how popular Dragon Tattoo was. I haven’t read DT yet, but I really want to… but you can imagine how hard it is coming across a used copy! I really enjoy Quentin Tarantino films (great analogy, btw!), as for all their violence, I think he puts together really visually interesting a provocative films… I hope I can get to these books sooner rather than later!

  10. Ti says:

    I just bought the first book and hope to start it tonight. I just spent the last few hours taking the wee one to urgent care so I got sidetracked with my reading. I like how you mentioned the Tarintino approach to violence. That tells me exactly what I need to know.

  11. Lisa says:

    By the time I finally get around to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I’ll be able to read the whole trilogy! I’m going to have to cross my fingers for an audio version, I think.

  12. Staci says:

    I laughed as I pictured you running to grab your keys, jumping into your car, windows down, hair blowing, and racing madly to the bookstore!!! What a visual!

    I’ve got to get on the bandwagon with these books!

  13. At some point I’m going to read these books. The fact that you drove immediately to the bookstore to find the second book tells me everything I need to know. Well, except for the info on the graphic violence. I’m with Kathy – I can’t handle it in the movies but I’m okay with it in books. In books I can skim over it whereas in movies I can still hear it. Thanks for such a good review.

  14. Matthew says:

    I thought the cover design resembles that of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I didn’t know it’s a sequel? I have the galley for the first one and I think I should give it a go. 🙂

  15. Rebecca says:

    I was afraid to read your review as you might reveal something about the 1st book! I was 3 discs away from finishing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when I had to return it to the library because someone else requested it! Noooooooo!!! Must. Finish. Mystery. It was taking me forever to get through it since I kept it in my car CD player, but when I get it again I will go through it all in one night! I am to the point where things are getting really juicy!

  16. Thanks for the review. This is on my wish list.

  17. Ann says:

    I’m just hoping that the third is even better. Although I suppose then we will have to mourn even more for the death of an author who was so obviously growing in stature with every book he wrote. I’m already on the lending list for number three at our local library. I think there might be an earlier publication date here.

  18. Jenners says:

    What a wonderful review … I’m pretty much committed to starting this series based on what I’ve heard. And I love the reference to The Little Prince.

  19. Pingback: 2009: #99 – The Girl Who Played With Fire (Stieg Larsson) | Confessions of a Bibliophile

  20. Pingback: Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Played With Fire « Fyrefly's Book Blog

  21. This book was my favorite. I hated the third book because I know it was the last one. Although I have heard the girlfriend of Larsson is going to write the fourth book. I hope so! I love Lisbeth.

  22. Oh man! it looks like I have been here before. I love this series so much I keep leaving comments all over, I guess it was inevitable that this would happen. Sorry!

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