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April 12, 2009 / schulerbooks

The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Stieg Larsson


Lisbeth Salander is a maze of contradictions: officially ruled incompetent, she is a master-class hacker and formidable strategic thinker; insane, possibly psychopathic, she retains a strong code of personal conduct that gets her through life; and suddenly rich (at the end of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), she has no idea what to do with all that money, other than leave Sweden and lay low for a while, both to escape attention from her past actions and figure out what to do next.

Unfortunately there is no escaping from certain things she has done, and the people she’s done them to – however much they may have deserved them – so her return home is fraught with complications. As she navigates blackmail, revenge, sex and the building of a new life she unwittingly unleashes certain forces, just by her presence. And this eventually leads to a sensationalistic exposure of her life as she’s accused of a very ill-timed pair of murders – murders with a direct connection to her former “partner,” Mikael Blomkvist, and the exposé on Sweden’s sex trade his magazine, Millennium, was in the final stages of fact-checking and publishing.

What happens next is a dense, nerve-wracking mystery of old conspiracies, crossed intentions, new infractions and damnable coincidence, as those who have cause to hate Salander work to crucify her, and those few who believe her innocence – at least in this matter – try to find out what actually happened, and more importantly why.

Stieg Larsson’s writing, discovered posthumously, is thick and multi-layered, with many things and people coming in and out from novel to novel, and relationships so complex that a reader might need to make a chart to figure out who fits in with whom. Indeed, a genealogical table was included with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in order to do just that!

However, there is rewarding richness in that density, and much to recommend in the spellbinding character of Lisbeth Salander, whose fierce, maddened heart provides the drumbeat for these novels. Readers can rejoice that a third novel exists that will, one hopes, tie up loose ends from the roughly-cut end of this story, much as this novel has tied up the ends from the previous one. Unfortunately, the 3rd installment will be the last fully-written Millennium novel that exists, meaning there will only be one more chance to totally experience Salander, as envisioned by the late Mr. Larsson.

The Girl Who Played with Fire will be available from Knopf in July, 2009.

– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood


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