Stieg Larsson was a crusading Swedish journalist, committed to the fight against political extremism and racism in his home country. In his spare time he completed a trilogy of striking crime novels, which he delivered to his publishers just before his untimely death in 2004. The first novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, centred on Mikhail Blomkvist, a crusading journalist with a social conscience; its sequel, The Girl Who Played with Fire, shifts focus onto the socially awkward computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, who becomes entangled in an investigation into sex trafficking, murder, and establishment corruption. This unusual central character is the story's main strength, allowing it to stand apart from the raft of contemporary and classic crime novels which Larsson fondly draws on. An expert hacker and mathematics-obsessive, Salander is a clenched fist of a character; difficult, psychologically traumatised, and capable of extreme violence.
Simon Vance endows her with the accent of an East London street urchin, a fitting voice for this embattled woman. While his narration is crisp, Vance's other characters range from working-class Northern English accents for Blomkvist, assorted police, and journalists, while others are given accents somewhere between Scandinavian and Bela Lugosi. However, as the plot thickens, such incongruities are forgotten, and a compelling social reality is created by Vance's skilled performance, which includes a sensitive rendition of a stroke victim's voice. Vance's cool delivery also suits the reportage feel of much of the writing; characters are introduced through their occupation, address, and educational background, while a mass of tiny observations (such as coffee mugs decorated with the logo of the civil service union) at times convey the tone of a police report. It is a tribute to Vance's delivery that the narrative thrust carries the accumulation of detail effortlessly from one action-packed set-piece to the next.
Larsson's published books have been a European phenomenon, due less, perhaps, to any narrative or thematic innovations as to the author's visceral anger at social injustice and the mistreatment of the vulnerable, particularly women. Violence against women is the work's central motif: the Swedish title of the first book in the series translates as Men Who Hate Women, and Salander is "the woman who hates men who hate women". In fact, there is an element of salacious revenge fantasy to much of her actions as she fights fire with fire; the story treads a fine line between condemning sadism and revelling in sadistic imagery. The real enemy of the tale is institutionalised machismo: policemen are loutish, rape is endemic, and villains enjoy guns, motorbikes, and magazines about motorbikes. Everyone, meanwhile, summers in wood shacks in the Swedish countryside.
While very much part of a larger whole (there are numerous references to events that occurred in the first part of the trilogy), The Girl Who Played with Fire stands alone as a highly enjoyable, if not always smooth - and often disquieting - mixture of classic crime tropes, searing violence, and vivid characterization. Dafydd Phillips
Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to publish a story exposing an extensive sex trafficking operation between Eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government.
On the eve of publication, the two reporters responsible for the story are brutally murdered. But perhaps more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander.
Now, as Blomkvist, alone in his belief in her innocence, plunges into his own investigation of the slayings, Salander is drawn into a murderous hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past in an effort to settle with it once and for all.
Listen to the rest of The Millennium Trilogy.
©2009 Stieg Larsson; (P)2009 Random House
“Boasts an intricate, puzzle-like story line . . . even as it accelerates toward its startling and violent conclusion.” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
“[A] gripping, stay-up-all-night read.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“Gripping stuff. . . . A nail-biting tale of murder and cover-ups.” (People)
This is an exciting continuation of the characters and settings started in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." The writer has gotten better (or better editors), and the mystery is more engaging and, well, mysterious, than the first. The characters are stronger, too, so overall it's a better novel.
The novel is set in Sweden and deals with Swedish issues of government, health care, and law as the background for the mysteries propelling the story. It, like it's predecessor, doesn't completely follow the normal plot arc of a novel, which just means the story seems to go in random directions at times. The main characters become more individual and more heroic in this novel, not always believable, but still intriguing.
Overall, I really loved the story, the background feel of the novel, and the smart way in which the writer wrote it. He assumes his audience is smart, and though he still overexplains or overdramatizes at times, the story is smart enough to overcome that. By the end I was completely engaged with the characters, and felt the writer actually had something to say, beyond just telling a story.
Good read/listen. One of my favorites.
A thoroughly satisfying book in the second part of a fantastic trilogy. As usual Simon Vance is a genius. Only he could pull off reading this. Bravo! My only complaint is the third installment (here in Audible) is the abridged version. I will sit tight and wait for the unabridged one.
Once again I could not put this audio down! The book continues the main characters of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but this time the action starts earlier and is more intense. The crimes in this (and the first) novel are so horrific yet instead of tossing it aside for something more mild I had to keep listening. I enjoyed how the author portrays that these crimes happen whether we want them to happen or not, and focuses on people trying to put the world right. I think these novels have the potential to bring awareness to how vulnerable women are even with strict laws. And how it is important not to judge someone because its nearly impossible to know their whole story. This book is brilliant and left me hanging at every turn!
While I really enjoyed the first book, this second takes all the first book's strengths and eliminates the weaknesses to create a true "page turner!"
As with the first book, characters are fascinating and very well developed but I just find this story more interesting than the first and there isn't so much boring background. Where the first book spent time going into the history of companies and families, this book is much more direct and, in turn, interesting. I still feel the first book was a solid 4 star book but this one is worthy of a 5 star rating.
While it is a way different genre, if you like this book check out Peter F. Hamilton's work for more excellent character development and engrossing plots.
Dragon Tattoo was a great book and Larsson did a wonderful job in that book of not only telling a story, but creating wonderfully vivid characters. Played With Fire takes that foundation and builds on it incredibly well. Reg Keeland (Steven T. Murray) again does a masterful job with the translation and Simon Vance does another great job reading. I now look forward (and also dread) Hornet's Nest when it's released next spring. I'm looking forward to the continuation of Larsson's storytelling world, but also regret that Hornet's Nest will be the last glimpse we get into it.
Lisbeth Salander is the most intriguing and fascinating lead character I've come across in a long time. She reminded me of a tiny female Charles Bronson, and the revenge she extracted from the various evildoers who crossed her path was always inventive and hideously delicious. Enough cannot be said of the skill of the narrator, who made it twice as compelling in his competent hands. While the narrative fall apart a little for me at the end (I had several "Yeah, right!" moments) by then I was so completely absorbed that it didn't matter. I think I'll go back and listen to Tattoo again.
Occasionally a book is so good that rather than not being able to put it down, you slow down the read, or the listen, and hope it goes on and on. This is one of those books!
Im a machinist. Listening to audiobooks at work get me thru my day. I listen mostly to mysteries but also like sci-fi and spy thrillers
I listened to the first book and enjoyed it. It was a good story and was well written and spoken. The first half of the first book took long time to get going and in the end the 5 stars seemed more hype then reality. But this book is a different story a you are already emotionally attached to the characters and from the beginning to end the book has its hooks in you. BETTER STORY, BETTER PACE, BETTER CHARACTERS. Just all around a much better book. I know some will find that hard to believe since so many people thought the first book was the best thing since sliced bread but you people will see it can get better.
I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?
I agree with many of the other reviewers who have much praise for this book.
So instead of repeating, I will add the following: The only detraction I found was because the numerous charcters that, to my ear, have similar sounding names, I often became a bit confused who was who.
So instead of going back in the story and trying to sort this out, I just figured out to which group the charcter belonged.
Basically there are the good guys, the bad guys, the cops, the Millennium staff, and the 2 guardians.
This worked for me and maybe it will help you out too. Good luck and enjoy
The plot and characters are totally engrossing. I couldn't wait for my next workout/drive to work (the two times I listen to audio books) ...
I did not read the first book -- I saw the film. But this one was so good, I absolutely will read the third in the series, and will likely go back and read the first one as well.
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