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The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Millennium Series, Book 2
Narrated by: Simon Vance
Series: Millennium Series, Book 2
Length: 18 hrs and 35 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (28,677 ratings)

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Editorial Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

The electrifying follow-up to the phenomenal best seller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ("An intelligent, ingeniously plotted, utterly engrossing thriller" The Washington Post), and this time it is Lisbeth Salander, the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker, who is the focus and fierce heart of the story.

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

Critic Reviews

“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)

What members say

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    5 out of 5 stars
  • David
  • Houston, TX, United States
  • 03-16-10

irritatingly engrossing

I live in Beijing. I drive or take the subway several times a week and that is when I listen to Audible books. I do not listen to them at home. If I did, I would go through my Audible library much too quickly and my credit card balance would, all too soon, reflect the damage. I am highly disciplined about this. When I get to the door of my apartment, the book clicks off, and podcasts or music must suffice during housework or down time. I know that this is a slippery slope, so I am far too wise to make exceptions.

I listened to the last four or five hours of this book while baking, taking a bath and, finally, lying on my bed, transfixed. Unacceptable!

It breaks my heart that Stieg Larsson is no longer with us. On the other hand, it is going to make it a lot easier for me to return to a regime of no books at home.

Some readers have found the detail in the book overwhelming. For me they were an important part of the texture of the story which moves like real life. When the author puts so much at stake for the characters, the realistic details become loaded--which of them will prove to be crucial, life changing? Which of them are simply part of the unimportant background? If Larsson had not created such engaging and fascinating characters or a situation so charged with danger and dark possibility, they would be tiresome. Instead, I found myself picking my way through them as through a mine field.

In addition, the plot works like a well oiled machine, a very complex machine. In the end you must just give yourself up to it and live it out to the end with Salander, Blomkvist and the fifteen or twenty other memorable characters in the book. Brilliant work!

134 of 143 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

If Only to be Half as Smart or Tough!

I am as bummed as a person can get! I have finished The Girl Who Played with Fire. It is 18 hours long and I could have listened for another 18 easily. Lizbeth is smart, savvy, tough and cool and I would give my iPhone and all the apps to be like her! She is a computer genius and math wiz and the author, Stieg Larsson, must have been as well, because I envision a wall full of character equations to keep track of everyone and all of the plot twists and turns. If you haven't listened to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I envy you because you have it to look forward to and I have in my past, but listen to it first or you will be lost by all of the characters. In Played with Fire, the author will keep you absolutely tuned in because it feels like if you miss a name, or location, or computer file title you may miss a major story line. I found myself skipping back to catch details because I didn't want to miss anything. I can't wait till the next book comes out but then I will go into mourning because it is the last from this author. It is a loss.

39 of 42 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Cynthia
  • West palm beach, FL, USA
  • 05-12-10


Missed work and ignored the phone for two days. Larsson was a consummate story teller. I am totally hooked. Vance brought to life a slew of Interesting and well developed characters that took me from "the girl with the dragon tattoo" immediately into the sequel. Looking forward to the next (and sadly, Last) of the trilogy. I'll probably get fired this month!

38 of 41 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Even better than Tattoo

I didn't think an audiobook could be more interesting and gripping than Tattoo (although the first half hour was a little slow because it was introducing three different characters and branches of the story). The marvelous actor/narrator is back and his use of different pitches and accents helps keep the various characters identifiable in dialogue. This is one of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to. So sorry there is apparently only one more in the hopper by this gifted, late author.

26 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Debi
  • The Dalles , OR, USA
  • 08-05-09

Super story, remarkable reader!

My personal rule for audiobooks is that I only listen while I'm doing something constructive. Thanks to Mikail and Lisbeth, my house is now clean, the weeds are pulled in my yard, and my dog has had more walks and runs than he ever thought possible. I could not stop listening! I slowly came to appreciate Lisbeth in Tatoo, but I was in her corner from the start in Fire. Steig Larsson's incredible literary talents are wonderfully complemented by Simon Vance's fabulous narration. This book made me squirm in places, but over things we all need to squirm about.

78 of 87 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tom
  • Portland, OR, United States
  • 08-29-09


What a thrilling book. But you must read 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' first to get the full story. These are the best books I have ever purchased from Audible. Simply AMAZING!

38 of 42 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Ruth
  • Colorado Springs, CO, USA
  • 08-03-09

Excellent Entertainment

True to his first novel The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo-Steig Larsson wrote a higly entertaining book with memorable characters. Just when you think you know where the plot is heading there are twists and turns that will leave you enthralled and wanting more. I did not want this book to end. Loved the narration-it was right on the mark.

29 of 32 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Bob
  • Maryland, USA
  • 10-17-09

Outstanding book, Great Narrator

If you like mysteries and Convoluted stories , this is a book for you. It is 18 hrs of great writing. The story is Swedish, all of the names are Swedish. The story is translated. It is great and the narrator reads so well and puts different voices to all of the characters. This is a must read.
I rate the story 5 stars, if I could rate the narrator 6 stars I would.

20 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ruy
  • Wolfenbuettel, Germany
  • 09-04-09

excellent thriller

I am rather new in this genre, but I find that Larsson is a master storyteller. Indeed, the story starts a bit slow, with background info and descriptions of the people involved without nothing really striking happening, but this works well to build the scaffold of the story, and once this is ready it shoots out like a rocket. I could not stop listening to the third part and heard it in one single sit (into an untimely hour). Kudos for Larsson.
Simon Vance delivers a decent job, he is not my favourite reader, but he never bothered me or distracted my attention from the story, so I take him as successful.
The very end of the book is one of the best closures I have read.
All in all, full marks for this audiobook.

41 of 47 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joseph
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 10-04-09

Better than the first book.

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.

15 of 17 people found this review helpful