Monday, December 7, 2009

Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson


I had trouble getting into the first book in Steig Larsson's Millenium series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but after the first hundred pages, I couldn't put the book down. The Girl Who Played With Fire is the second installment, and from page one, I was completely engrossed. Where the first book took a lot of time to build up the storyline, FIRE hits the ground running.

I am completely fascinated by Lisbath Salander, "the Girl" in these books. I couldn't wait to read more about her. The book picks up two years after the last one leaves off. In that time, Lisbeth has matured, settled some debts, and starts to find a quiet place for herself in the world. Meanwhile, Mikael Blomkvist and his business partners at Millenium magazine are investigating the seedy underground world of sex trafficking.

The two don't seem to have anything to do with one another at all, and even I couldn't conceive of how Larsson was going to bring these two characters together again. Then, the bomb drops. Two of Blomkvists's friends are murdered the same night as Salander's pig of a guardian, and Lisbeth is the solitary prime suspect in all three murders.

I will not give too much away, but my fascination with the character of Lisbeth Salander is satisfied by learning a lot more about her, her past, and her motivations. There is lots of action, tons of suspense, and a pace that leaves you awake at 2 AM turning the pages -- don't say I didn't warn you!

I must say that there are good writers out there that write mediocre dialogue. Sometimes you can look past it, but it reminds me of how hard it is to write great dialogue. Larsson was a genius at writing great dialogue. The cast of characters in his two books so far could fill a small cruiseliner, but they each have their own voice that is so distinct from the others. I won't lie. I can't pronounce all of the characters' names, and this would have bugged me in any other novel. But I found that I didn't need to know their names. Their voices were enough to distinguish them from one another. A true master. If you're a writer, you need to read his dialogue and take notes.

Larsson never fails to twist and turn his plots, completely surprising his readers. More than once, I gasped out loud, and on one occassion toward the end of the novel, I actually yelled, "NO WAY!"

I think the best review of this book I can give is something "the Man" said to me as I was reading one night. As he was watching Monday Night Football, I sat on the other side of the couch reading FIRE. At one point, he said, "Do you realize your hands are clenched into fists?" I was so engrossed in this book, I hadn't even noticed.

AMAZING book. Just as good as the first.

A NOTE: The Girl Who Played With Fire could be read as a stand alone book, although reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is worth every page. That being said, after reading the synopsis for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, you will have to have read at least the second book before diving into the third. Do yourself a favor, read them all.

The only thing truly disappointing is that Stieg Larsson died in 2004, at age 50, shortly after turning in three manuscripts for his Millenium Series. He never got to see the success of his novels, nor did he finish the series. According to what I can learn from the Stieg Larsson website, as well as other news sources, there were outlines for seven installments, and at least part of the fourth book was written. Unfortunately, only the trilogy will be published, unless a dispute is settled over his estate. Larsson died unexpectedly without a will. He lived with his girlfriend for 32 years, yet in Swedish law, his estate is passed to his father and brother (sounds like New Jersey). They have full rights at this point, but his girlfriend has possession of the laptop which contains the unfinished fourth book. She has agreed to release the book if the father and brother give her administrative rights over his literary property. As recently as November 2, 2009, Larsson's father offered her $2 million, which she refused, stating it was not about money but about his literary legacy. They remain at a stalemate.

To read a synopsis of the third book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, (Due out: May 25, 2010) you can visit the Random House website.

A few days ago, in an article in the Wall Street Journal, I learned that a new movie version of The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo is set for release in the US. To see the exclusive trailer, visit the WSJ link.

Watch the Book Trailer:

About The Book:

Hardcover: 512 pages
Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (July 28, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307269981
ISBN-13: 978-0307269980

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.


Amy said...

I just started this, and I appreciate the candor of your review. Some of the reviews I have read are far too unrealistic...too much cheerleading sometimes turns me off the book. I have this and the second book as ARC's and can't wait to do both!

Alison said...

Amy, even months later, I love Stieg Larsson's books. They are among my favorites, and I haven't quite been able to find another of the genre that measures up. Enjoy The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and let me know what you think when you're done!

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