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.
I loved it. At first when it started I thought, oh heck, it's not as good as the first one, but then it got underway and it was really good. It's very violent though. I'm not fond of violence, but the characters are so compelling, that I can overlook the violence. I listened to it almost constantly during a weekend when I was sick. I'm sorry it's over.
Bravo once again to Simon Vance. He's the best in the business. I choose books I ordinarily wouldn't just because he's the narrator. Fabulous voice. Changes tones and accents without it becoming annoying and showy.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This is a wonderful and interesting book, well written and intricate. Although I rated it a 5, I felt there was too much thrid party description to explain the plot, not enough direct action and WAY too many Swedish character names...you need a scorecard to keep them all straight...this being said, it was definitely one of the best books I have listened too all year. I hope there will be more. In addiiton, the narrator is very good and a pleasure to listen to.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Having listened to The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo, I had great expectations for this book. To me, the book waxed and waned in thirds, roughly equivalent to the three downloads. The first third of the book was good, but not great. I began to question as to whether this offering was going to ultimately disappoint. The second third of the book was difficult to get through. My mind often wandered as it seemed like Larsson was simply trying to fill up pages with no literary purpose. Then came the windfall of the third part that simply kicked butt and made up for the tediousness that had preceded it. This book was more difficult to follow that the Dragon Tattoo because of the sheer number of characters wide Swedish names that were sometimes difficult to distinguish from one another especially when listening and not reading. Larsson could have told the same story with half the characters and the result would have made for a more listener-friendly experience. The interaction between Blomkvist and Salander was also limited and largely through electronic means. I'm not sure if I liked this or not. But the story was expertly told and the premises for plot development plausible if not outright believable. There was one twist and the very end that the listener could see coming but still lacked credulity. When it was all over, though, you were glad that the story was written that way. This was not a perfect book and probably not as good as the Dragon Tattoo. Yet The Girl Who Played With Fire ultimately earn every one of its stars with a rousing finish. I look forward to Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest. (One final note - as incongruent as it seems, Lisbeth Salander is starting to remind me of Jack Reacher in the series by Lee Child. Both seem to have super-human powers and listeners might find themselves rapt with anticipation over their encounters with bad guys.)
4 of 5 people found this review helpful
even better and more exciting than the first one in the trilogy..easier to get in to. Have pre-ordered the third book...can not wait! Shame we'll not have any more from this amazing writer/story teller.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
The only reason that this book may be judged better than the first in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is that the main characters were so well developed in the first and are well known to the reader.
This character development continues and we learn more of their history. The characters grow and are changed by their life experiences. As before, the dialogue is strong and the plotting complex, as the story shifts from one character viewpoint to another.
Other authors have tackled similar subjects, but none with originality of Larsson. These books are far from procedural.
Again Simon Vance does an outstanding job with the narration. Moving from one voice to another effortlessly.
Warning - Do not start this book unless you have some free time as you will not be able to put it down.
I can't wait for the third book in the series and wonder what will happen with the fourth, partially completed prior to the authors untimely death.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
What a book! This book held my attention every single minute. It never slowed down and amazingly - with all the Swedish names - I never got lost. I can't wait for the next one. You will not regret this purchase.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
I did not enjoy this book as much as his first one "The Dragon Tatoo." It just didn't have the intense spirit the first one had.
wow!!!! this is an amazing book with great narration. i cannot wait for the next one
Although enjoyable, this sequel was inferior to Girl w/ Dragon Tattoo. The plotline wasn't nearly as gripping, the characters seemed less engaging and somehow flatter.
Still, above the curve, and worth the credit.
My husband and I were captured by this book. The narration is superb, the plot intricate. Characters unusual and fully developed, believable. A great listen.