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)
I really enjoyed this sequel. I was a bit hesitant at first because of the sadistic sex and violence. I was relieved to find that it was not overly graphic in that regard. I definitely recommend this book. Especially, if you liked the first one.
It is a great follow-up to the first book. It is not so mesmerizing as the first one but still a nice listen. Surprisingly, the narrator pronounces some names differently, almost unrecognizably. With some hindsight it seems a bit unrealistic in some parts, but hey, nothing is perfect. I'll gladly buy the next and last of the trilogy (when it becomes available) since I wasn't disappointed with two previous installments.
I just finished listening to this book. I listened to "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" about 2 weeks ago and I couldn't wait to listen to this book. Steig Larsson has one of the best prose to come along in a long time. His style of writing is very similar to James Lee Burke with very descriptive prose. The plot twists and turns kept me sitting in my car listening to the story long after I arrived at my destination. I would recommend this book highly and without reservations.
Excellent book, but not for the faint of heart. I remember the first one had some slow parts, but I don't remember that in this book. Looking forward to the third (and sadly final) book.
I enjoyed the first book but found the that the extensive detail on financial matters distracting. Reading this book, I almost feel that the first one was just laying the ground work for this. It is much more character driven and therefore much more interesting.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire are among my favorite book series. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo left me wanting more and The Girl Who Played with Fire didn't just deliver ... but hit it clear out of the park. Lizbeth Salendar is an unforgettable contemporary character / superhero. I hear there is 1 additional sequel completed and 2 others that were partially finished prior to the author's passing. I will be the first pre-order. Simon Vance is perfect in his narration.
At first, I was very disapointed and almost gave it up. It was quite tedious-so much detail. But, I enjoyed the first book so much that I kept on going. And it was definitely worth it! It really picks up after a while-lots of action, unique characters and wonderful narration. Love this series!
Begins well enough but regrettably, hits a wall during the second download and ends up going around and around --- repeating the same details from every conceivable (and rather silly) angle. I often found myself thinking - wait, haven't we covered this already? We already know this -- why is this being repeated all over again? Every single character's reaction to the same not-so-interesting-to-begin-with incident is given far too much attention. It's almost like the author was given a challenge to add 100 extra pages to a much shorter version of the story. Exasperating to wade through.
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