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 resisted listening to these books because I had the mistaken impression that they would be too weird for my taste. Was I ever wrong--they are wonderful thrillers and difficult to put down. I also hesitate to read or listen to series because I'm often bored by the second book but not so in this case. I can't wait to listen to book number 3 although I'm also reluctant to start it because I don't want it be be over. If you like thrillers and like cheering for those who are oppressed, you will like these books.
I had seen the movie for this book and had also read the first book, but listening to this book was a wonderful experience. The narrator does an excellent job of bringing the story home. I highly reccomend this book to anybody who, like myself, enjoyed "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo."
This book is a simply wonderful gift for commuters. I would often find reasons to go to the store, just so I could listen some more in my car before calling it a night. You will stay on the edge of your seat...never a dull moment here!
This narrator is AWESOME! He keeps you really engaged in the story even when the story is taking a while to develop. This story is fantastic except sometimes it takes a little while to get to the point. Love this series!
Loved it, couldn't wait to listen to the next in the trilogy. I was glad I didn't have to learn to say the town's names!
I LOVE this trilogy and Lisbeth's character. Stieg's all 3 books are great, however I think his books should be read and not listed to because the stories can get complicated (esp his first book- girl with a dragon tatoo). You want to be able to go back and forth to refer to characters and their backgrounds.
Give me a spy novel, mystery, history, and a little science and I'm totally happy
I couldn't put the book down. Where's Sallinger? What's she up to now? My curiosity and imagination were in constant motion. I loved it.
Stieg Larsson's Trilogy would have been a page turner had I been actually turning pages. I looked forward to my walks with my iPod and driving in my car just to listen. I loved the character of Lisabeth Salander who is plucky, very smart (an understatement), and a real survivor. I only wish there could have been more books featuring her and Blomkvist.
"The Girl" trilogy had a lot to prove given all the hype surrounding it. I almost expected to be disappointed and after the first couple hours I thought I might be right. I stuck with it and as the story developed I became hooked and couldn't download the other two books quick enough. Of the three great books I feel "plays with fire" was phenomenal. It was far more centered around one of the most intriguing characters ever developed, Lizabeth Salander.
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