Book review of ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’

If you play with fire, you get burnt but if you mess with Fröken Salander, you are dealing with someone worse than fire.

The second novel in the Millennium Trilogy

Stieg Larsson has written ‘The Girl who Played with Fire’ (Swedish title: Flickan som lekte med elden) with an attempt to have it as a stand alone novel so that even readers who haven’t read the first book can enjoy. Well, the readers who have picked this book after having read ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ will have to patiently breeze through the re-establishment of characters they are already acquainted with in the initial pages (personally, it wasn’t a big deal for me to get re-acquainted with the characters once again).

This book starts as a continuity from the events concluded in the first book with Blomkvist now portrayed as a famous ‘celebrity’ publisher of Millennium magazine after having successfully exposed the corrupt practices of Wennerström and Salander as a rich, aah well, super-rich punk-like, lone traveler possessing ready at hand passports of different identities specific for each travel …To add to that there’s also a vivid description of how with her newly-acquired wealth, she buys a grand house, decorates it with Ikea furniture and invests in a super-expensive coffee-maker but lives on Billy Pan Pizzas on days at a stretch (and still manages to look anorexic 🙂 – I wish the author had explained ‘How?’).

Now the plot with ‘potential’ spoilers:

The story initially revolves around the issue of sex trafficking operation in Sweden that Millennium is planning to expose with the help of its newly hired journalist Dag Svensson and his girlfriend Mia Johansson who is writing a thesis on sex trafficking for her doctorate. Parallely, the story describes a lot of events surrounding Lisbeth Salander, her newly acquired lifestyle, her reunion with Miriam Wu, Armansky & her former guardian, Holger Palmgren, and Blomkvist’s desparate attempts to re-connect with Lisbeth.

The plot twists when Dag and Mia are discovered to be murdered in their apartment by Blomkvist one night. The investigation further unfolds into discovering a murdered body of Lisbeth’s guardian, Bjurman, in his apartment by the police. Quite predictably (since a plot would be absent otherwise 🙂), the person that falls under suspicion for having committed all these three murders is Lisbeth Salander – as her finger prints are found on the gun used to kill the couple while the gun apparently belongs to Bjurman.

While the drama for tracking Salander continues by the police, Blomkvist and Armansky set up their own investigation to figure a way out for Salander and prove her innocent. In that quest, Blomkvist works out that a certain ‘Zala’ who is untraceable and most people including the sex trade punters and the exploited prostitutes dread to talk about or squirm at the mention of his name has a key role in the foul play of both sex trafficking in Sweden and all the injustice suffered by Salander. He then sets off to track down ‘Zala’ as he’s somehow sure that Salander’s searching for him too.

Meanwhile, with the turn of multiple events, what the police believe is a simple open-and-shut case with Lisbeth Salander as the suspected murderer becomes more and more complex as the investigation proceeds and the truth of Lisbeth emerges. This book reveals the dark secrets of Lisbeth’s past and explains why she is what she is today.

The book’s climax projects Lisbeth as a Superwoman who manages to attack ‘Zala’ and his tamed gorilla-sized flunky after surviving bullets in her hip, shoulder and head and being buried alive… To top it all she manages to dig herself out of a grave with a cigarette case :D. It was a little too much to take but the character and the story is written so beautifully that you wouldn’t mind believing that too.

I rate the book 4/5 … there are people I know who felt this book couldn’t match up the excitement of the first one but I disagree… this book brings along an equal amount of excitement and curiosity.

And yes, the book also kind of gives you a tutorial on different mathematical equations :D… well, to figure what this means, just read the book.


Book review of ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’

Read rave reviews about the book… picked it up and became almost incapable of getting distracted from it.

‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ is written by Stieg Larsson, the late Swedish author who left behind an unpublished crime fiction trilogy when he died of a heart attack in November 2004 at a young age of 50 years.

Stieg Larsson - The man behind Lisbeth Salander

(An interview of his can be referred on

The original title of this first book in the trilogy is Män som hatar kvinnor – “Men Who Hate Women”. As hinted from it’s original title this crime fiction does cover the aspect of negative attitude towards women, especially sexual violence. Infact, it even shares some statistical figures related to injustice / atrocities on women in Sweden (though they seem a little unrelated to the novel) before every new chapter in his book. A Google search about Larsson tells us that when Larsson was in his early teens, he witnessed his friends gang-rape a girl named Lisbeth and he never forgave himself for not helping the girl. The incident made Larsson a feminist in a way and he abhorred violence and abuse against women. Perhaps, his disgust for sexual violence inspired the story of this book and building its super-hero character Lisbeth Salander or ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’.

The original title

The story of this crime-fiction revolves around two main characters – Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist or rather a unique, punk-like, flawed, unbelievably intelligent, skinny girl and a middle-aged intellectual journalist who’s quite a womaniser with morals.

The first 30 pages or so were pretty slow-paced for me, making me re-think if it was right to have picked up the book but once Lisbeth Salander entered the scene, the book transformed into a complete page-turner which I irresistibly felt like finishing in one go… it’s a different story that completing 554 pages at one go wasn’t gonna happen 🙂

The English version

This first part of the trilogy deals with unravelling the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Vanger Corporation’s CEO – Henrik Vanger’s niece and nailing her killer. Henrik Vanger proposes to hire Blomkvist more as a sleuth rather than a journalist to investigate the disappearance of  his daughter-like niece. Blomkvist agrees on taking up the task after some apprehensions as in any case he has ruined his career by losing a libel case involving damaging allegations about billionaire Swedish industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström. Moreover, the old Vanger lures him to take up the case by assuring him that he would be rewarded with some solid evidence that would prove Wennerström as the scoundrel Blomkvist suspects him to be. A major acquaintance with a number of Vanger family members begins along with an an in-depth analysis of every detail that occurred around the day Henrik’s niece, Harriet, disappeared. This is where Lisbeth Salander who’s been discovered as an extremely intelligent researcher is persuaded by him to join him in the investigation. The story explodes at the point when these two lead characters team up, making it move at an incredibly exciting pace.

Then of course, there are many other interesting key characters involved like Dragan Armansky and Erika Berger who not only play a brilliant supporting role but help us understand the distinct personas of Lisbeth and Blomkvist.

All in all, it’s a great read if one likes crime fiction or merely just fiction, for all it matters.  The book also ends up tutoring us with some Swedish terms like Herr (Mr.) and Fröken (Miss) and introduces a hell lot of tongue-twisting Swedish names that effortlessly and endlessly confuse you. The book also gives you an impression that there’s a lot going on in Sweden regarding sexual violence on women. But one thing that’s left me amused is the insane amount of coffee the Swedish have… I wonder if they ever really get sleep after filling themselves with litres of caffeine 🙂

A movie on this book was already out in Sweden in 2009 and a Hollywood version starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara is being discussed to be released in 2011

So, it’s a good idea to catch on the book first before watching it’s adaptation in film… have finished reading the second in tri-series “The Girl Who Played With Fire” too and will put up a review about it soon.

For now, my rating for this book: 4/5 suggest just go, pick it up.