The Girl Who Played With Fire: Review

So, it appears to be turning into a Larsson month. I will be honest, I never expected to be gripped as much by these books as I am. As you will guess by how quickly I’m reviewing this novel after its prequel, I enjoyed this one quite a lot.

The problem I tend to find with a lot of authors (again often crime authors) is that they find a formula that works and never deviate from it. Jodi Picoult is a prime example. I love her work but she is literally once you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. I’ll be reviewing her book ‘my sister’s keeper’ in the coming weeks. Often, its not always the novelists fault. After all if your lead character is a homicide detective you are pretty boxed when it comes to what kind of crime you are writing about.

The first thing I noticed about Larsson’s sequel is how different it was from the first. Don’t get me wrong, it still has his clever prose, his brilliant characters and his fantastic ability to twist the ordinary into something so dark you aren’t altogether sure you want to know what happens next, but the premise of the novel is completely different. Arguably both books, at their core, are based around a murder plot but that is where the similarities end. Whereas the first was very much a who-done-it, this one is much more about conspiracy and, at least my impression, a damning examination of the press and police in Sweden.

I won’t say much more about the plot other than its brilliantly clever and the final twist is so left-field it leaves you gasping. Indeed, the less you know about the plot going in, I think the more enjoyable the ride is.

I accused the previous book of being Salander’s story through the vessel of Blomkvist. This book is Salander’s story. Blomkvist is just a convenient method of exploring it. A lot of the questions left hanging in the first book are answered here. What’s cleverer still, is that for a long section, there is minimal narration from Salander herself. And I absolutely adore the way Larsson has crafted the relationship between Salander and Blomkvist. Its so unique and real that it pulls you even further into the story.

Once again, he has adopted the same style of switching between characters in narrative. It is here that I put my first negative against this series. Last review, I joked of a pen and paper to keep track of everyone. This time I ended up taking my own advice. There are just so many characters, often with very similar names. And for a long time, at least into the second third of the novel, I found the police sections tedious and frustrating. Not that they are badly written but just that I felt no sympathy for their characters and so had little interesting in their personal plots, only what they revealed of the main story. I also found it hard to swallow, reading from a British Criminologist perspective, that a police department could be that incompetent.

Of course, this is Larsson so he draws all the lines together neatly and in the end, you understand why so many people are involved but for me, I’d have cut the police group down. Officer Bubble is an interesting character. I do admit to adoring Modig. But all together it did feel like too many characters.

On a random note, I adore the title. It is only as you get to the end that you understand just how clever it is. And in some ways that describes the whole book. It is only in its conclusion that you can truly understand its brilliance.

In conclusion, this book is very different to its sister, but just as brilliant. Personally, despite its negatives, I actually preferred it and think anyone who loves Salander as a character will feel the same way. It is clever, thoughtful and, true to Larsson’s form, shocking and controversial. I’d be interested to know how it went down in Sweden. I should think if a similar plot were released in England, several heads would roll. And as always, this is a book that leaves you reaching for the next one in sequence.

Rating: 8-10 – this time marked down for sheer number of characters that sometimes slow the story and sometimes muddy the plot.

Favourite (2) Quotes: “There are no innocents. There are, however, different degrees of responsibility.”

“She only had one style, which we called Terminator Mode.”

Favourite Character(s): Lisbeth Salander and Paolo Roberto.