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The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
Stieg Larsson’s second novel in his “The Girl” trilogy is 630 pages of mystery and intrigue. Like, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire follows the social misfit, Lisbeth Salander as she solves cases others can’t.
The Back Story
At the end of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, 25 year old Lisbeth is surprised to discover that she is falling in love with Mikael Blomkist, a reporter in his 40’s with whom she was working a case. When she realizes that regardless of what their relationship has meant to her, Blomkist will continue his affair with his newspaper partner, Erika Berger, once they’re home again, she reverts to her antisocial ways and locks Blomkist out of her heart and life without telling him why. Because part of the research she had done for Blomkist helped him nail a mobster who sued him for libel and won, she exacted her own justice on him by hacking into his bank accounts and stealing all the money he had stolen, which made her wealthy enough to quit working and travel to several countries around the world. Her intention is to get away from Blomkist.
Connecting to Two Plots
The new novel is set two years later upon Lisbeth's return to Sweden. To connect the two plots and to lay the ground work for readers' acceptance of the "new" Lisbeth, Larsson takes readers to several of the locations Lisbeth has visited. It seems he wants us to understand why Lisbeth comes back having grown a little. He lets us see her "seeing" herself and not liking the fact that she has only a few friends, and those she has not treated well.
Getting to Know Lisbeth
Larsson’s goal in The Girl Who Played With Fire seems to be to let readers get a more personal glimpse into Lisbeth’s psyche. Afterall, since the antagonist ends up being someone biologically close to her, this becomes her personal story . We discover more of her gifts: along with her photographic memory and her genius computer skills, she is strangely gifted and has taught herself since age 12. We also discover she has an estranged twin sister who is her polar opposite. The two lived through a horrible ordeal which authorities covered up. That secret is the foundation for all that happens in this sequel.
The plot pits Lisbeth against the world since she is accused of three murders that she did not commit. Though the evidence points only to Lisbeth, Blomkist, along with Lisbeth's former employer, her former guardian, and her former boxing coach believe that she is innocent. In the end, fearing the Lisbeth will do something that will get her killed, Blomkist puts all of his efforts into saving her and proving her innocence.
Because Larsson focuses on what happens daily in the Salander case, readers get no clues as to who actually committed the murders or why until over 500 pages have been read. It probably will frustrate non-mystery lovers that Larsson only finally starts to unravel the case with 100 pages to go--and even then the resolution seems far-fetched because the connection between the three victims is thin. For die-hard mystery lovers this may not be an issue. The Girl Who Played With Fire is not equal in plot structure or premise to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but I mildly recommend it becuase once the plot hooks the reader, he/she really does want to know "Who done it?".