Book: The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson Reviewed by Y. Ananthanarayanan This is more of a murder mystery and brings to light the extensive sex trafficking trade in Sweden. Lisbeth Salanderâ€™s very disturbed early years have an important bearing on the story. It is recommended that the review of the first book is read before reading this review since it provides a lot of insight into the author. This book starts more than a year after the end of the previous one. After solving the complex Vanger family mystery, Blomkvist and Salander go their respective ways. Salander repulses all attempts by Blomkvist to meet her since she does not trust anybody. She uses her extensive computer expertise and swindles more than a billion kroner from the amoral WennerstrĂśm business, a perfectly justified action. She travels all over the world and ends at Grenada. The book begins with the arrival of a ferocious tornado which hits Grenada during which Salander saves a local boy with whom she is having an affair and a Texan heiress who is about to be killed by her husband. In between she has taken an interest in Mathematics and tries to find a solution for Fermat's last theorem. Then she decides to return to Sweden. In the meanwhile Millennium has flourished and has agreed to publish a major expose on the sex trafficking in Sweden from the East European poor countries. The expose is based on a doctoral research by Mia Johansson and a planned book by her partner, Dag Svensson. Salander returns to Sweden unaware of what is in store for her. Her guardian, lawyer, Bjurman, had exploited her sexually taking advantage of her weak position. Salander films the entire episode and brands him as a sexual pervert and now Bjurman wants to take revenge on Salander. Salander's early years when she was ill-
treated by her vicious step father gets drawn into this vortex and all three seemingly unconnected threads entwine together and form the base of the story. Suddenly three murders take place. Johansson, Svensson and the pervert lawyer are all killed within a few hours of each others, with the same gun, owned by the lawyer and with Salanders finger-prints. She suddenly becomes the chief suspect and everyone searches for her. Salander goes off contact with the reader for 200 pages as the police investigation digs deeper and the media takes over ruthlessly branding her and her friends in every possible manner. This is a master class of writing by Larsson since we do not see her but she is featured on every page. Millennium starts a parallel investigation and is also asked by the police to assist them. Bublanski, the policeman who leads the investigation come through as an excellent investigator who is ready to accept that Salander might be innocent despite the mountain of evidence against her. Only Blomkvist believes that she is innocent and even then it takes him multiple indirect contacts through computer systems Salander has hacked successfully before she begins to respond to him. There is the engaging character of Paolo Roberto, the wellknown boxer who trusts her implicitly and comes to her and her friend's rescue. Her previous employer, Armansky, trusts her instinctively and puts in his two-penny worth. The reader makes contact with Salander after a while. The rest of the book is about how Salander and Blomkvist work together and clear the mystery and Salander's name. The piquant thing is that in the entire book they do not even meet once, other than in the last page when Blomkvist rescues Salander from her vicious step-father. There is a violent and horrifying climax which ends quite abruptly. Some threads remain unraveled. Virtually none of the antagonists get their punishment. I have subsequently understood the reason for this. The third book, unlike the second one, starts immediately afterwards and completes Salander's crusade. There are quite a number of differences between the first two books, summarized below. -
Less political comments. More comments especially on the ultra-liberal aspects of Swedish social values. More Salander-oriented, Blomkvist is a secondary character. Lot more sex, possibly also because the theme is the expose. More of a detective story. More related to the overall Swedish malaise than one family (Vanger)'s.
Far more sophisticated computer hacking techniques.
Salander is diagnosed to have had Asperger's Syndrome which had a ring-side view recently through Shah Rukh Khan's "My name is Khan". Even now her mistrust of fellow-humans prevents her from trusting the two or three friends, including Blomkvist who believe her innocence. There is a red herring, I am unsure of the relevance of this until I read the third book completely. This refers to Erica Berger's decision to quit Millennium, her and Blomkvist's creation, in favour of a huge media chain. It is quite unlike Erica to go for the big "kroners" forsaking ideology. Personally I preferred the first book since the plot there was more intricate and the denouement far more acceptable. There was also less emphasis on sex and the story flowed more naturally. It also had Larsson's political imprint. I would probably not recommend this book with the same level of enthusiasm as the first one. Still a very good above-average thriller. I would strongly suggest that the first book be read before reading this one. To know more about The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson and read more reviews, simply logon to Justbooksclc, the best Online book library in Bangalore.