The Millenium trilogy continues with The Girl Who Played With Fire and as with the first book, the novel takes a while to get going as Larsson puts all the pieces in place. Once they are though, the book moves at a frantic pace. Set some time after The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, we see the fallout of the Wennerstrom affair as Blomvist and Salander revel in their glory. Yet two shocking murders take place and Salander is the suspect….
Lisbeth Salander is a wanted woman. Two Millennium journalists about to expose the truth about sex trafficking in Sweden are murdered, and Salander’s prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and vengeful behaviour makes her an official danger to society – but no-one can find her. Mikael Blomkvist, editor-in-chief of Millennium, does not believe the police. Using all his magazine staff and resources to prove Salander’s innocence, Blomkvist also uncovers her terrible past, spent in criminally corrupt institutions. Yet Salander is more avenging angel than helpless victim. She may be an expert at staying out of sight – but she has ways of tracking down her most elusive enemies.
It begins with an extensive look at Salander as she travels the globe, examining her past, and why she is who she is today. Then the book shifts to its focus to Sweden and events there. Lisbeth becomes a fugitive, hidden away from the investigation as she refuses to be victimised by her ordeal. She becomes determined to find out the identity of the killer and turns the table on them, going on the attack to deal with the situation as her distrust of the police and the law forces her to act on her own. As the investigation continues, events from Salander’s past are gradually revealed, leading to shocking and stunning climax. We are left on a cliffhanger, with little actually resolved as it leads on to the third and final instalment.
As before, women remain a theme as it examines how the state cares for the mentally ill or those that are being abused. Also through Salander, Larsson crusades against the media, as she is exploited and defamed as she remains in hiding. As it delves into Salander’s past, we are exposed to an intricate conspiracy that touches at everything in Swedish life. He asks that if we cannot trust our own governments then who can we trust?As with the previous book, there are flaws in the novel. The villians are rather caricatured, with Niedermann, the blond ‘hulk’ suffering particularly from this as he resembles a James Bond bad guy. There are sections where Salander is not present and the book focusses on the manahunt for her, and while it was enjoyable, you are left waiting for her return. It’s about here that the trilogy itself shifts the focus onto to Salander and while I can’t help thinking that while Larsson would have preferred us to treat Blomvist as the main protagonist, it is Salander’s books from now on.
With an ever expanding plot, The Girl Who Played With Fire lacks the taut plot and the unravelling of the first book. The long section where Salander is in hiding means that the book’s most interesting character is missing, but it remains a thrilling and entertaining read from start to finish.