In a race to the finish line, I finish The Girl Who Played with Fire…

April 7, 2010 at 1:13 pm (Book review, books)

And what a wild ride that was!

The Girl Who Played with Fire features one of the most deeply shocking, utterly stunning, and completely unanticipated plot twists I have ever encountered in a work of crime fiction. In fiction period, for that matter. i am not supposed to be liking Stieg Larsson’s millenium novels. Too plot driven! Too violent! Too extreme! Too incredible!

I was riveted…And I was angry. I wanted the perp, or perps, well and truly run to ground. And punished, as severely as possible.

Well, okay, I wasn’t riveted every second. With a book that’s just over 500 pages long, there are bound to be some slack passages. But they were few – very few and far between. Yes, there’s a fair amount of geeky computer stuff, but I enjoyed that aspect of the book – I’m not sure why. (Maybe because I actually understood some of it!)

Several people have told me that they thought this book was even better than the first one, the now world-famous (infamous?)  Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I agree with that assessment, though my admiration for Dragon Tattoo as a piece of bravura storytelling remains undiminished.

In The Girl Who Played with Fire, we encounter many of  the same characters we met in the first book. Investigative journalist Mikael Blomqvist, his boss (and sometime lover) at Millennium Magazine, Erika Berger – and of course, the one, the only, the inimitable Lisbeth Salander. This is a woman who knows the meaning of loyalty. She has her own moral code, as Blomqvist is at pains to explain to people – especially to the police, who begin a murder investigation in which Lisbeth is involved by assuming that she is some kind of whacked-out psycho. She isn’t really. But you can’t blame them for the deductions they reach based on her checkered history. One of the gratifying aspects of this sequel is that you there are fascinating revelations about that history and how it came to portray Lisbeth Salander in the way that it does.

At any rate, certain evil people have made of Lisbeth Salander an implacable enemy. Ooh, will they be sorry!

Amazon gives May 25 as the release date for the third novel in the Millennium Trilogy. I was tempted to say, “third and final,” but it would not surprise me if this lucrative franchise were picked up and continued by another author, Stieg Larsson having passed prematurely from the scene. (I find myself thinking of the sad and wistful locution one encounters in the No.1 Ladies’ Detective series: “He is late.”)

This gives me about two months in which to catch my breath – thank goodness.

One of the attractions of this series is the mordant wit of the author. It tends to surface at unexpected times and serves, to a degree, to break the tension. In this regard, Larsson sometimes reminds me of Ruth Rendell and Reginald Hill, although in most ways he could not be more different from these two favorites of mine in the crime-writing pantheon.


Addenda: The Millennium Trilogy in the news:

In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, Frank Rich has an interesting take on Dragon Tattoo.


In his review in The New Yorker of the film Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Anthony Lane makes some provocative observations about the phenomenon of the Millennium Trilogy. And I do love this opening sentence: “If only Miss Marple had been a bisexual biker with multiple piercings, a criminal record, and a long lick of oil-black hair over one eye, she might have solved a few more crimes.”


When my friend Joanne presented her fascinating “double discussion” of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, she referred to an article in which Stieg Larsson’s authorship of the trilogy was questioned. I have been able to find only one allusion to this claim, in an article on the BBC site. I’d be interested to know if anyone  has encountered any similar statements elsewhere, or has any further information about this rather startling, not to mention disturbing, allegation.


  1. Kay said,

    Roberta, I’m glad you enjoyed The Girl Who Played With Fire. I personally think it is the best of the 3. You’ll be happy with the Hornet’s Nest I think. It’s not the same as this one, but it ties things up nicely. I’ve heard many people say that this is not their sort of crime novel, but they were spellbound anyway. And also some say that they couldn’t stomach it.

    I have not heard about allegations that Larsson did not write these books. I hope that this is not some kind of publicity stunt. It seems unnecessary. Hope it’s not true. I would almost not want to know. I’m happy in my ignorance and the man is gone anyway.

  2. Nan said,

    I keep thinking I’ll try the first one, and then I wonder if I can take the story. I’m a bit tender when it comes to ‘shocking’ etc. :<) Interesting about the author situation. More should come out if it is true.

  3. Meredith said,


    I’m proud of you for so boldly proceeding to a a sequel! Obviously, you could hardly have resisted in this case!! Glad you enjoyed #2 so much. Can’t believe you’re willing (able?) to wait until the end of May when there are so many copies of #3 about . . .

    I agree with Kay–the author tied things up very nicely, and made me like/care about the characters even more. Strange to tie things up when there were to have been so many more installments, no?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: