The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second installment in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy. I read the first one – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – last summer and my lovely parents bought me the second book for Christmas. I haven’t read it until now being aware of how much I was going to love it and how addictive Larsson’s prose is.
Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government.
But he has no idea just how explosive the story will be until, on the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander—the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and who now becomes the focus and fierce heart of The Girl Who Played with Fire.
As Blomkvist, alone in his belief in Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation of the slayings, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past in an effort to settle with it once and for all.
First of all, The Girl Who Played with Fire is as addictive as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was. My paperback edition had 800 pages and I read it in barely 10 days which is quite a record of mine, especially considering I was working an average of 5 hours in my dissertation. I think that Larsson creates a perfect combination of human, complex characters and a very realistic plot that can easily resonate with any reader. As a consequence, you find yourself wanting to know more either about the characters or about the plot, so basically you can be up reading at 1 p.m as I was.
Another great thing about Larsson’s novels is that he truly cared about society and our many flaws. Not minor things like everyday thefts or car crashes, he cared about the biggest problems we have, the elephants in the room we do not want to see because we chose so. In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo he cared about domestic violence and offered a gruelling portrait backed up with figures and statistics. In The Girl Who Played with Fire, he deals with human trafficking, to be more precise, female human trafficking. One would think such things do not exist in “our” world. We can easily think: It happens in other countries, but not in ours because it is such a terrible thing to happen in a civilized country! Well, we are all wrong. Human trafficking happens in front of our eyes, in front of the eyes of those who should work to stop it, and no one does anything even to prevent it. In the past years human trafficking within Europe has dangerously increased. Eastern European girls – under 18 most of them – are brought to Western countries with the promise of a better life and a job as nannies and when they arrive, they are actually forced in all the ways you could think of and even worse ones. Larsson cared about this problem and exposed it to the Swedish society in The Girl Who Played with Fire. I applaud him for the precise and humane way in which he deals with the problem and condemns it. It is one of the joys behind crime fiction: it gives both authors and readers the opportunity to locate social flaws, explore them and finally, devote some time to thinking about it that we would have otherwise spent in another thing. Crime fiction denounces and explores social problems in a covert way like no other genre does.
Regarding suggestions, I would say only people accustomed to reading crime fiction will like this book. It gets really tough sometimes, especially as there are underage girls involved. I think it is great that Larsson highlighted the problem of human trafficking because we all need to open our eyes and see how many lives it is destroying, but I understand not every reader finds these kind of plots their cup of tea. On the other hand, die-hard fans of crime fiction will love this novel as I’m sure they loved the previous one.
As you can imagine. I loved this novel. I am now familiar with both Mikael and Lisbeth and it is easier for me to get emotionally involved in their stories. It is also very interesting to see characters developing, especially Erika Berger who I think should play a bigger role in the stories. Now I can’t wait to read the next Millennium novel although at the same time I dread it since it is the last in the series. Would have Larsson survived the fatal heart attack that ended his life, he would have become one of the greatest crime fiction writers in the 21st century.