Todd and I are back to review Stieg Larsson’s second novel in his critically acclaimed series, The Millennium Trilogy: The Girl Who Played With Fire. We decided that to continue with the tradition started with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (check out the review here), we should listen to this novel as an audiobook. Again we had the pleasure of listening to Simon Vance’s melodic voice as he impersonated all the characters and make us feel more involved with the storyline. As expected, Larsson’s work definitely did not disappoint, as this novel was more harrowing and nail-biting as the first.
Mikael Blomkvist, now restored to his rightful position as editor of the magazine Millennium, is excited to publish an expose on sex trafficking by a young journalist named Dag Svensson. Mia, Svensson’s girlfriend, recently finished writing a thesis for her doctoral program much along the lines of Dag’s work, as she outlines the plight of prostitution and the exploitation of women in Sweden for sexual purposes. Together, they provide enough information for Millennium to publish a bombshell of an article, yet just a few weeks before going to press Mikael finds them dead in their apartment, shot by an unknown assassin. Later, Mikael finds out that Lisbeth Salander, his love interest and partner from the first book, has been named the main suspect in the murders, as well as the murder of her state-appointed guardian. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as Mikael must work tirelessly to prove his innocence in the affair as well as Lisbeth’s. He must also undercover the real source of the killing, and work to stop this force from acting again before it’s too late. Can he accomplish this in time? What will become of Lisbeth?
Kim: I have to start out by saying that Larsson is a genius when it comes to weaving story-lines. In both Tattoo and Fire he has a wide array of characters that ultimately all play an important role in the story. Whether they’re there to help move another characters development along or play a role in the “crime plot” of the novel, he gives them each a time to share their story and for the reader to get to know them. There aren’t many authors (at least in my opinion) that can do this well and keep the reader from being confused. It’s even more difficult to achieve all of the above and STILL accomplish a shock ending.
Todd: I definitely agree. It was a bit overwhelming at first to be introduced to so many characters in this story. It was almost as if you had to keep a family tree in your head to keep all their different relations to each other straight, but once this was accomplished, the multitude of background characters only added to the complexity and texture of Larsson’s work. I know when most people think of this series they immediately think of Mikael and Lisbeth, especially since the commercials for the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo have exploded onto the scene recently, but really this series highlights how others perceive them, and how they must work to change preconceived notions of themselves in order to find the real killer.
Kim: Good point, Todd, about the preconceived notions. In relation to this I enjoyed how Larsson essentially mocked the media and how ridiculous and false the stories in it can be. When it’s found out that Lisbeth is the main suspect in the case, the media starts digging into her past and trying to find out as much as they can about her. Suddenly her face is on every newspaper with headlines that she’s a lesbian and part of a Satanist cult, all because she is friends with an all girl rock group with a questionable name. I like how Larsson uses things like this to make statements about the social and political climate of Sweden. It’s the little details like this that give Larsson’s work texture and deeper meaning.
Todd: That’s true. Larsson’s work existed to be more than just a story, he wanted it to be part of a greater commentary on the plight of women and the political obstacles that they and other working class people had to overcome to achieve any change in Sweden. It’s no wonder than Larsson himself was a journalist, and worked as an editor of a magazine called Expo, which shares some similarities with Millennium. I give Larsson a ton of credit for tackling these difficult issues and standing up against the status quo. I can see a lot of him in Lisbeth, as she does whatever it takes to achieve her goals, and doesn’t let anything get in her way to stop her. We could all use a little Lisbeth in our own lives!
Kim: Very true Todd. Lisbeth is one of the most kick-ass lead characters I’ve had the pleasure of reading. She tells it like she sees it, sticks up for herself and the ones she cares for, and makes sure that those who do wrong get their fair comeuppance.
Kim: 5 out of 5 Stars
Todd: 5 out of 5 Stars
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2009)
Paperback 752 pages