Book #3

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

Lisbeth Salander is a wanted woman. Two Millennium journalists about to expose the truth about sex trafficking in Sweden are murdered, and Salander's prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and vengeful behaviour makes her an official danger to society - but no-one can find her. Mikael Blomkvist, editor-in-chief of Millennium, does not believe the police. Using all his magazine staff and resources to prove Salander's innocence, Blomkvist also uncovers her terrible past, spent in criminally corrupt institutions. Yet Salander is more avenging angel than helpless victim. She may be an expert at staying out of sight - but she has ways of tracking down her most elusive enemies.

Oh dear. We have fallen to the plight of the sequel novel. It tries so hard to trump its predecessor, and at times it seems as though it might just manage. But eventually, as is normally the case, the sequel flops into a heap and cries, tormented by the pain of never being as good as its older sibling. Poor wee thing.

This novel focuses more on Lisbeth Salander and her past. We are given explanations on why she's such a prickly cow, and a general badass. She does, however, get herself a boob job at the beginning of the book, which didn't seem right. Larsson paints her as a secure woman with a 'don't give a fuck' attitude, and I certainly hadn't realised she had insecurities in this department. The pleasure and attractiveness she felt after the operation was over was incredibly out of character as she had certainly come across to me as someone who didn't care what others, particularly men, thought of her appearance. It seemed very, very strange and out of place for an outspoken novel on misogyny and gender norms.

The problem for me with Salander's characterisation is that I like to see my characters hung drawn and quartered before me. I like to see every fear, worry, hope and dream. I need to know them; to know how they tick. Larsson doesn't give this up easily, and hasn't done two books into the series. I don't like it. I don't know this girl, have caught small glimpses of her true character, and to be honest I don't like it. I appreciate her morals, and share many of them, but I would not invite her to my birthday party.

I also developed a newfound hatred for Blomkvist. No one, and I mean no one, likes a goody goody. There were times where I wanted to physically hurt this man. He behaved like such a simpering martyr, "I am your friend, I won't tell on you." UGH.

It's definitely a page-turner with a steamrolling plot, but it's not as gripping as the previous installment. I can see how those who appreciate a good crime/mystery novel would appreciate this, but there was a lot of depth lacking for me.

Again, I like the message that the media and certain social or cultural aspects are digging into our perception of gender. Boys are strong, girls are weak; that sort of thing. Larsson weaves us into situations where we have to recognise size and appearance, whether male or female, to be minor details, and that they do not entirely shape who we are.

Larsson again gives us a great deal of minute detail, which again was absolutely dull. If you plan to read this book, please skip the part where Salander buys her new apartment, as I'm sure the entire catalogue of Ikea was named and priced in this section. We are also treated to shopping lists (I could live without seeing the name Billy's Pan Pizza every few pages), and tedious habits like having a sandwich and going to bed. This must have been central to the plot, but I completely missed the connection.

Don't get me wrong; this is a decent read, and a good one for crime or mystery lovers. If you're looking for something a bit more profound, and perhaps slightly deeper, I'd give the whole series a miss. Now for the final chapter.