Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire – Stieg Larsson

the girl who played with fire cover

Millennium II

Lisbeth Salander is hopping the globe on her own little mission after embezzling millions of kronor from Hans-Erik Wennerström a year ago. After cutting Millennium journalist Mikael Blomkvist off completely when she felt she may be in love with him, she is putting her life together. Spending millions on a massive apartment, Lisbeth continues to live her life. She moves her friend and sexual partner Miriam “Mimmi” Wu into her old apartment. Lisbeth is intent on ensuring that her privacy is the top of all food chains. Upon her return to Sweden after a year abroad, she realizes that her sadistic guardian, Nils Bjurman, may be up to something. What she does not realize, however, is that it is going to cause a major stir like never seen before. Naturally, Lisbeth begins checking up on him, and the more she looks into the matter, the more suspicious she becomes. An attack outside her old apartment by a massive giant and a potbellied biker do nothing to assuage the situation.

Journalist Dag Svensson approaches Millennium in hopes that they will publish his book in which he is intent on exposing a vicious sex trade in Sweden. He has sources, he has proof and he has the passion with which to do it. His girlfriend, Mia Johansson, is about to take her doctorate and her thesis deals with the underage and incredibly young prostitutes being brought into the country and brutalized. Together the couple plans to expose some very powerful people, and bring a terrible issue to the fore. With her skills as a hacker, Lisbeth accesses Svensson’s work and starts to look into his story herself. Blomkvist and his magazine partners Erika Berger and Christer Malm are on board for a themed issue and a book sale. One night, while at a dinner party at his sister, Svensson telephones Blomkvist to let him know that he is checking out a new lead, and that he will deliver some materials to Blomkvist by courier. Blomkvist offers to pick it up on the way home, and when he arrives it is to a scene of carnage. His friends have been shot to death, though by who and for what purpose are as of yet unknown.

Criminal Inspector Jan Bublanski is put on the case, and soon they have a suspect – prints in the apartment and on the weapon found at the scene match those of Lisbeth Salander. As though this was not damning enough, the gun used belonged to Nils Bjurman, who has also been murdered. Soon a nationwide manhunt ensues, and the more that the press and the police dig into Lisbeth’s past, the more frenzy is whipped up, and the less the authorities understand. What her file and professionals say about her and what her friends and acquaintances are saying about her are two completely different things. The investigative team is divided. Time passes and Lisbeth is still eluding capture, leading some to think along other lines than her being guilty of a triple murder, while others steadfastly believe she is guilty. Lisbeth has a strong grouping of people intent on proving her innocence that she did not expect to have backing her. Blomkvist wishes to help and is using Svensson’s materials to dig deeper into an alternative theory, Dragan Armansky, her ex-boss and head of Milton Security, has opened his own private investigation into the matter and is assisted by her retired guardian, Holger Palmgren.

The more all of them dig, the more they discover. A mysterious entity named Zala features in Svensson’s work, and it was the last lead that he was chasing down. Mikael snatches up the mantle, and continues the questioning search. Lisbeth’s past is whipping out of the darkness to catch up with her, and soon. Will they be able to help her? Will the digging drag out some unwanted and hidden secrets, secrets of which the explanation may cost too much?

GRADE 8.5The story was slick, fast, detailed and easy to read. I think Stieg Larsson truly was a phenomenally talented writer, and executed his story and characters so well. Sexual preferences and what not were highlighted quite a lot in this book, but upon reflection it is not that he is aiming to shock, it is just a very core and integral part of the story that needs to be carried – preferences, right, wrong, brutality, choices, etc. Lisbeth Salander is truly one complex character, and a wonderful one at that. The story was interesting, and the genetic deficit that the giant suffers from, too. The air of mystery was palpable in this one, and the media frenzy that is experienced in the book manages to spread with just the headlines. Not in that “oh my soul she really is a psychopath” kind of way, just that total thing about something can be phrased in such a way it can become the most untoward of things. Mikael Blomkvist is ever the detective, and relentless in his mission to establish or absolve guilt, as well to uncover a truth that seems to be so hidden behind obscurity. The presentation and execution of this book is great. When it starts, the pace is very slow, though it is still pleasant to read. It just has no real feeling of truly going anywhere, and before you know it, everything just catches and takes you on one hell of a rollercoaster ride. Finding out more about Lisbeth’s past is not an easy journey. The book features a vast array of characters, but not once does it become overbearing or impossible to follow, which is a gift for a writer to achieve. Stieg Larsson wrote about battles he was waging with society, and it gives them a very credible feel. Another great read, definitely worth it.

Millennium Trilogy

This is one of the true beauties of the modern age. Stieg Larsson blew my mind to shreds with this series, and I am so sad that we will never really know how it ends. The literary genius has passed, but not before we got three of some of the greatest novels I have ever read.

When I first saw the rage hitting the shelves, I will admit, I did judge a book by its cover. I was not impressed with the designs (below) and the titles did not ring brilliance to me. I was convinced they were some cheap cock and bull romance novels, and gave it a skip. But then my friend’s grandmother pointed out that I would be a fool to miss out on something so amazing if I did not take the books from her. Oh well, what could I lose?

I borrowed the book from her exclusively to use as a break between studying for the weekend I was working at the guest house. I don’t really watch television, so when I take a break, it is to fictitious pages totally non-related to the studies. I gradually came to that part in the road where I desperately needed a break. Grudgingly I brought out The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and opened to the initial pages in the book. I read that it was penned by a Swede (definitely not the issue), and that the book was translated. This for me is a really big no-no. Not only did the books not look appealing, it was a translated works. I prefer to read in native English, as meaning and description often gets misconstrued and lost when one tries to translate.

This time, I was wrong on so many fronts. I sat down, and read the book that day, finished it, every glorious morsel that was presented to me. I totally forgot about my studies (good thing I had awhile to go before the paper, and no more books to distract me the following day!). I rushed to get hold of the two remaining parts to what I thought was a trilogy (and now, sadly, will only ever be such). I read the The Girl Who Played With Fire like a demon, lapping up the stunning prose, the intensity of the characters and the story, the twists that came, the danger that was almost tangible. This man wrote with a flair I had not encountered in an exceptionally long time. He wrote with passion. I was impressed. I then found that Stieg Larsson had passed a few years before, and I was shocked. How could such a great author lie dormant and then pass, before his peak? His work only caught on overseas when it was translated, obviously, and a lifetime to spread in my country (dammit, we really are so behind). But I do not regret finding the Millennium Trilogy, it was one of the more ingenious works I have encountered in a long time.

Upon my discovery of such a great loss, I read the final installment, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest, painfully slowly. I wanted to savour it, stretch it out for as long as was humanly possible. That lasted me a week. I caved, eventually, and just had to know what was coming.

If you have not indulged in these novels, I suggest you do. I believe that everyone should experience this story at least once in their lives, whether you are into this genre or not.

What were your thoughts on the Millennium Trilogy?