‘The Girl who played with Fire’ is the second instalment in the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is back with his Millennium magazine and is living the good life after a hugely successful book published via the magazine. Lisbeth Salander is getting some rest and relaxation holidaying in the Caribbean. However, for reasons unknown to Blomqvist, she has cut ties with him. Although Salander enjoys her RnR, with a bit of adventure as she deals with a domestic violence perpetrator her way, once she is back in Sweden, she is targeted by thugs sent by her guardian Nils Bjurmann in retaliation for what she did to him the year before.
Meanwhile, Millennium is apprached by journalist Dag Svensson who along with his partner Mia Johannson, is in the process of exposing illegal sex trade operations in Sweden. Mia is in the process of completing her doctoral thesis on the victims of this trade while Dag has focussed on the operators and their profits. It is likely to stir up a lot of controversy given that some of the people he intends on exposing include journalists, police officers, judges, or lawyers among other thugs. Most of the sex trade involves girls who are under age. Hence, those exposed would be facing criminal charges. Millennium agrees to publish Dag’s book but he must polish it up and confirm his sources while they simultaneously edit what he completes.
Things start to go wrong when one night Dag and Mia are found murdered in their apartment by an unknown assailant. Luckily for the police, the murder weapon is found metres away from the crime scene. And it has fingerprints. Those of Lisbeth Salander.
Thus ensues a mass search for Salander. Given that she is in the care of the state, every personal detail about Salander is made public including her stays in psychiatric units and foster homes. However, no one can find Salander despite the fact that her photo is plastered across every newspaper in Sweden. Blomqvist does not however believe that Salander murdered his two friends. After their adventures the previous year, he knows she is not a killer without being provoked. And he doesn’t think his friends provoked her in any way.
Instead, Blomqvist believes that Svensson scared someone through his work and paid for it with his life. He decides to run his own investigation given that the police are busy wasting their time digging up Salander’s past. This involves sifting through all the information Svensson has collected and interviewing the punters again. Moreover, the only way he can communicate with the elusive Salander is via the computer network.
Did Salander kill Svensson and Johansson? If so, why?
If not, how did her fingerprints find their way on the murder weapon?
What is “All the Evil” that Salander has referred to about her past?
Why do the welfare records and psychiatric reports about Salander portray her as a mentally disabled and unstable girl when people who know her think she is smart and possibly even a genius?
Who is Zala? Why does his name crop up in Svensson’s investigations a few times?
All these questions and so many more crop up during the course of the book. How does Salander deal with all of this? Is Blomqvist too late in his quest to help Salander?
The book is yet another exciting instalment in the Millennium series. However, in my opinion, it was not as good as the first one. I think that’s probably because I got a bit confused with the characters and the manner in which it was written. You have to remember the book has been translated from its original Swedish version (like the entire series) and for some reason, this translation seemed to be a bit more clunky than the first one. The first book sent chills down my spine on several occasions but this one failed to do that. On the other hand, it did answer some interesting questions about Salander’s past and shed some light on why she is the way she is. It is still a thrilling ride.
Go on and read it. After you read the first book (which has been reviewed here)
Until next time,
***This has been cross-posted at Bond with Books***