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Not as thrilling as the first book
on 5 September 2010
Set a year after the first novel finished and things are starting to look up for Salander. Thanks to some adept financial maneuvers at the end of the first book, she is now independently wealthy and is settling herself into a plush, new apartment in the centre of Stockholm. For Mikael Blomqvist, everything has returned to normal back at the Millennium office as new reporter Dag Svensson along with his girlfriend prepare to publish an explosive report on sex trafficking which threatens to bring down quite a few prominent men, including lawyers and top policemen. But of course things don't run smoothly for long. When two horrific crimes are committed quickly after one another, Mikael finds himself in the middle of a deadly chase to the truth, not knowing who he can trust. And for Salander, her freedom and autonomy - the very things she has fought her whole life for - seem certain to be snatched from her.
The best thing about the story here is that we get to fill in the 'blanks' about Lisbeth Salander's character from the first book. We come to fully comprehend her mistrust and hatred for the authorities and the often all-too-powerful men behind them. Her past, which was only hinted at in the first novel, is fully exploited here and what emerges is a rounder, more sympathetic view of Salander. She is by far one of the most intriguing characters to crop up in a thriller for a long time and it's great to see that she plays the lead role here although personally I felt the twists and turns of the plot didn't allow her as free a rein as I would have liked.
I have to be honest though and say that, in my opinion, this isn't as good a novel as the first one. There is a large section at the beginning which seems to bear little relevance to the rest of the book. It does help to provide the reader with the motivation behind some of Salander's seemingly irrational behaviour but this could have been shown in a much more concise way. Additionally, it seemed to me there was too much exposition of what was going on behind the scenes. We are given reams of detail on the in-fighting between the different police and justice teams and for me this slowed the action down considerably and just was secondary to the main thrust of the novel. Maybe any unncessary additional police characters would have been removed in a final edit if the author had lived. Sadly we will never know.
Like its predecessor, 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' is a thriller which doesn't shy away from shining a light on the less savoury scenes of Swedish/Western society. As you would expect given the subject matter, some of the scenes are pretty hard-hitting and it does builds to a brilliant, claustrophobic finish, leaving you wanting more. Just a shame that some of the unnecessary detail hadn't been removed though as I think it could have been so much better.