Pros: Tight story, fantastic suspense, and those last one hundred or so pages...
Cons: Some writing errors, but not enough to ruin the book.
Not very often do I find a series so compelling that I have to sit down and devour the next book just as soon as I finish the first one. I tried mightily to hold to my custom of reading just one book by a particular author in a month, as so to keep the novelty of them alive in my head. But when I had finished reading Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I itched to get reading the next one, and held out as long as I could, and then just said to hell with it, and downloaded the next book.
Some time has passed since Mikael Blomkvist has cleared his name in the Wennerstrom affair, and returned to his life as the editor and publisher of Millennium, an investigative magazine. His life has improved in many ways, all except for one -- Lisbeth Salander has cut off all contact with him, terminating their intimate relationship in one final blow. Blomkvist is devastated, and tries to get back in touch with her, but all of his attempts are rebuffed. It is as though Lisbeth has vanished into thin air.
At the Millennium, things are going quite well, with the magazine about to publish an expose of the trafficking of women in the sex trade, and a book to accompany it. The two authors, Dag Svensson and Mia Johannsson , are serious professionals, one a journalist, the other working on her doctorate in criminology. Despite all of the controversy that will surround the publication, Blomkvist is enthusiastic over the project.
And Lisbeth is busy rearranging her life, first with several adjustments to her appearance, and finding herself a new place to live. She's hooked back up with her friend and occansional lover, Mimmi, and trying to decide what to do next. Little does she know that she's about to pitched into the fight of her life.
For one, the odious Bjurman is going to be reentering her life. His contempt for her has now become pure hate, and a fearsome determination to destroy her. Luckily for Lisbeth, she spots him in the process of setting up his plans, and manages to set up some protection for herself, but it might not be enough.
Especially when Dag and Mia are brutally murdered on a night when Blomkvist was to pick up some documentation on the forthcoming book, and worst still, it appears that Lisbeth is the one responsible. It becomes even more devastating when the detestable Bjurman is found shot to death in his apartment, and once again, all of the clues are pointing to Lisbeth.
Once again Mikael Blomkvist is caught in the middle of a very tangled plot. Lisbeth has vanished, the press is going crazy proclaiming Lisbeth a psychotic mass murderer, and the police will not or can not listen to his protests that Lisbeth couldn't do anything like that...
I'm going to stop here in revealing the plot. Let's just say that once I picked up this book, and started reading it, I could not put it down, staying up well past dawn to finish it. Swedish author Stieg Larsson, a former journalist, clearly has drawn on his past for this one, giving the story the immediacy of reading a magazine article, and having the ability to develop a tight, very intricate plot that kept me guessing as to what was really happening. Most of all, he makes us care about his protagonists, which are rather interesting people, full of contradictions.
Most interesting is Lisbeth Salander, who is a very complicated person, but very believable. In this one, a great deal of her past and her problems are revealed, which go a long way towards explaining her trust issues and why she's not exactly the friendliest sort of person. Another topic that I found interesting was her growing fascination in mathematics.
While Larsson's writing does go a bit over the top -- he is still making the error of telling the reader what is happening at times -- I was so caught up in the breakneck pace of the story, and the ever growing suspense, that it was something I could overlook. This second novel certainly packs a punch with quite a few of the scenes, and the final third of the story I could not stop reading -- I simply had to know more.
A warning however -- the violence in this is graphic and intense, so if you're squeamish about such things, I would suggest that you may want to reconsider if you want to read this or not. The topics here include abuse, mental illness, corruption and sexual slavery, and they are not prettied up at all. While it is not entirely necessary to have read the previous novel to enjoy this one, I do recommend it, as a great deal of the relationships between the various characters in this one will make more sense.
Sadly, Mr. Larsson passed away soon after the first three books were written, and I've heard rumours that he had originally planned for ten volumes in this series. If the next two books are anything like this one, I will enjoy them very much. This was originally written in Swedish, and was published under the title Flickan som lekte med elden. Translation into English is by Reg Keeland; as I do not speak or read Swedish, I can not comment as to the quality of the translation, but the entire book read very smoothly.
Oh yes, and one final caveat -- make sure you have the next book, The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet's Nest available. I suspect you will be just as avid as I was to find out what happens next.
Five stars overall, highly recommended.
The Millennium Trilogy:
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Girl Who Played With Fire -- you are here
The Girl who Kicked a Hornet's Nest
The Girl Who Played With Fire
Stieg Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland
2006, 2009; Alfred A Knof, Random House Inc.