Friday, June 09, 2017

The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Millennium, #2)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unlike the first book – Dragon Tattoo – The Girl Who Played With Fire started slow. Remember how book one had started with the mysterious gifts Henrik Vanger had been receiving that set the pace for a compelling mystery, this book didn’t start off with anything similar. Literally it was wallowing on the beach holding glasses with umbrellas kind of slow.

Lisbeth Salander’s vacation spree was meant to be continuance from the previous book; a fact that I needed constant reminding of in the first few chapters. If Lisbeth and Blomkvist countries apart it didn’t feel like a story.

She was running away as well as taking a break. Blomkvist was more into Erika Berger, and Lisbeth didn’t know how to handle that especially after developing some feelings for Mikael. 

So what’s Lisbeth to do but make use of the pot of gold that she came into while going after Hans-Erik Wennerström, and it was good. What would a hacker who comes into good fortune do with her money? What systems would she set up using it?

The slowness of the earlier chapters was also meant to add texture, giving the story, most of all Lisbeth’s life, highs and lows. It was meant for the readers to get into her head when she is all relaxed. Once the double murder happened the story went negative – a killer being chased, reputations destroyed, friendships strained. In that light I am happy for Lisbeth having fun with the money she had pocketed.

The Girl Who Played With Fire fleshes out the life of Lisbeth Salander; from origins to character to what she would do if life had been perfect – like possessing large sums of money. Now that you’ve mentioned it, Dragon Tattoo feels more about Blomkvist helped by a mysterious hacker; here it’s the other way around.

One of the things you’ll find out is the background of her fascination for wasps. You’ll also know why she doesn’t like talking – the reason is more than having a condition. Finishing Played With Fire has made me more fascinated with Lisbeth Salander. She feels more solid and real than just a very capable and lethal weirdo in book one.

As far as action goes – if you can say that of a book – The Girl Who Played with Fire is faster and better than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. When the attraction of book one is more about the meticulousness of the Lisbeth-Mikael tandem in searching for a killer of long ago, book two is a manhunt. A manhunt gives more urgency to this story which I loved compared to the historical investigation however beautiful was it to uncover long buried detail. Plus it is personal too Salander is the one under police cross hairs.

Millennium although ever present feels a little subdued here compared to book one which started prominently with a libel suit and magazine suffering afterwards. This is more about journalism and ethics in relation to criminal investigations. Book one was more about investigative journalism that went wrong until it got things right albeit with the use of a hacker.

Curiously Stieg Larsson has kept to the theme of abused women. I wonder what life experiences or cultural realities have led him to this point because the problems that he outlined in book one as well as this feels endemic and deep set in society – the historical and then the present; always there are men who hate women.

Lisbeth Salander, for her history and capabilities, is Larsson’s perfect heroine for precisely those problems.