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Book Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire (Millennium Trilogy #2)

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Title: The Girl Who Played With Fire
Author: Stieg Larsson
Publisher: Quercus; Film Tie-in edition (29 July 2010)
Genre: Thriller
Price: Rs. 149 on Amazon.
Pages: 576

After reading 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' there is no way you can not read the other two books in the series. The first one was disturbing no doubt, but highly intriguing as well. Lisbeth Salander was an enigma to me when I read the first one. I wanted to know more about her. For the first time ever, I couldn't identify myself with the protagonist of a book. I picked up the second book hoping to find out more about her and also expecting a thrilling story line.

This book too is divided in to fours parts, each of which starts off with Lisbeth's newly found love for mathematics. The prologue opens with the past where Lisbeth is being captured and restrained inside a dark room by an unidentified male. To cope with being captured, she mentally replays a past episode when she threw a milk carton filled with gasoline onto another man inside a car and tossed an ignited match onto him.

She turns thirteen in captivity.

The story begins on the shores of the Caribbean where Lisbeth is seen spending her millions and enjoying her free time with a lot of books on mathematics and occasionally along with Bland, a sixteen year old with whom she develops a sexual relationship. When a storm hits the island, Salander ends up saving Bland and also a certain Mrs Forbes from her abusive husband. This part deals with the care free Lisbeth away from home and free to do anything she wants. With billions (the money she laundered from Wennerstrom) stashed away in her secret account, she is free to do all that she wants.

When she returns to Stockholm after more than a year, not wanting to move back into her old apartment, she allows her friend and occasional sex partner Miriam Wu to stay in her apartment and collect her mails. Lisbeth buys a huge apartment for herself and gets only a few rooms furnished in the classiest way possible. All this while, Nils Bjurman, her current guardian is plotting against her. He wants to get his hands on the video which shows him raping her mercilessly. He spends his time looking through her records and finds a common enemy. Meanwhile, Mikael Blomkvist and Millenium is sitting on a very well researched report all about sex trafficking in Sweden and the abuse of under aged girls by high-ranking political and official figures. The kingpin of this entire racket is someone called Zala. The report also names a few officials being involved in the crime and one in particular, Gunnar Bjorck. This report is written by Dag Svensson and his pregnant girlfriend Mia Johansson who wants Millenium to publish this as a book. Meanwhile, Blomkvist has been trying to get in touch with Lisbeth and is surprised to see her getting attacked by two men one day. He tries to help her and she escapes.

When Lisbeth learns of this report and sees the name Zala, she is shocked. She goes on to meet Dag and Mia and a few minutes later they are both shot dead. Blomkvist happens to be the one who finds their bodies and notifies the cops. Soon, Bjurman is found shot dead at his apartment and the murder weapons is the same revolver that killed both Dag and Mia, which now has Lisbeth's finger prints on it. She is labelled the prime suspect and is put on the most wanted list. As time goes by and Lisbeth remains hidden safe in her new apartment, all old records of her past is published by the media. The media labels her as a 'lesbian satanist' and Miriam Wu is attacked by two guys who wants information about Lisbeth's whereabouts. She is saved in the nick of time by a good samaritan who also happens to be someone who wants to help Lisbeth and clear her name.

Blomkvist is convinced that Lisbeth is not the killer and sets up an investigation of his own to help her. Knowing that she would hack his computer, he leaves out files for her to read and respond. She does respond to him and they begin to discuss the case. Blomkvist realizes that Lisbeth knows Zala although he is unable to come up with the connection. Lisbeth realizes that a particular record of hers which she calls "All that evil" is being withheld and not being published.

When Blomkvist saved her from her attackers, he is left with her bag that contains her keys. Once he finds her apartment, he finds the DVD of the rape and keeps it to himself without letting the police know about it. After confronting Bjork and getting some information from Lisbeth's former guardian Palmgren, Blomkvist pieces together the story. Meanwhile Salander decides to confront Zala herself and goes in search of him. She finds the farmhouse where he is hiding and comes face to face with another giant like man called Neidermann who tends to feel no pain. When she tries to escape, she is shot in the shoulder, hip and head but she still holds on to life. Neidermann buries her alive. Blomkvist makes out her moves and is on the way to the farmhouse.

Will she survive? How is Lisbeth related to Zala? Who killed Dag and Mia? Why is everyone hell bent upon framing Lisbeth? These are a few questions the book answers.

While the first book could be clearly termed as disturbing, this one is thrilling to say the least. The story line is shocking when you think that the people who are expected to protect us are the ones indulging in crime themselves. The story is fast paced and surpasses a lot of characters seamlessly. Lisbeth's picturesque sojourns are described brilliantly still keeping in mind how troubled and eccentric she is. Blomkvist wins as the hero here. He is smart and picks up clues as and when he senses something. His faith in Lisbeth and his quest for finding justice for Dag and Mia keeps the story tight and bound. His relationship with the married Erika Berger is explained better here, but is still something that I did not understand at all. Maybe I'm not the one for such relationships. You cannot help but feel sad for Lisbeth here. Did I feel a connection with her? Well, wanting to lead a normal life and wanting to be left alone is the only connection that I could make with her. Plus, how ruined relationships can make or break a person is something that I shared in common with her.

Though translated from Swedish, the writing is simply brilliant. You do not lose that finesse. Every character is etched well and the protagonists shine through. Multiple investigations on the same case from various sources can confuse the reader, but the difference in the angle of investigation makes it easy. The unsaid relationship between Lisbeth and Blomkvist is interesting and I want to know more about it. It somewhat is described better in the third book, that I will be reviewing soon. The second and the third books are connected. The first book too is loosely connected to the second book thanks to the spill over of a few characters. The story line however is different.

It is a long read but doesn't get tough. Since the mystery begins right at the start, it keeps you glued to every page. Read it and then read the third book. They are absolutely fantastic!

Verdict: Read it now!

Rating: 5 out of 5.


  1. You've given it 5. Leaves no doubt then in deciding to pick this one. Very well structured review by the way.

  2. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has been lying unread in my Kindle for ages now. Your review of the second book has made the decision for me. I am picking up the The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo soon and am keen to read the other 2 books too now. Thanks for the recco, Soumya!

  3. I watched all the three movies long back and I loved the first and liked the second and third. Even the American remake was nice. I always find this book on almost every stall at book fairs, but the thickness has always refrained me from buying them especially because I know the story and the mystery. May be, some day! :D

    1. It is a difficult read, but totally worth it. Try toh karo :P


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