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Showing 1-10 of 2,389 reviews(5 star)show all reviews
88 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2009
This is the second in the late Steig Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy. I was so hooked by the first in the series, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," that I decided to send away to www.amazon.co.uk for this sequel, because I was not willing to wait until July for the U.S. release of an English-language version. These days, the pound has been kicked around as badly as the dollar, so I ended up paying largely what I'd pay in the U.S., and the shipping fee was minimal.
I really couldn't wait to crack the 700-page volume to revisit the characters: Mikael Blomqvist, the heroic investigative journalist; Lisbeth Salander, a petite powerhouse afflicted (or gifted) with Asperger's syndrome; Erika Berger, the fearless editor and Blomqvist's sometime bedmate; and the intrepid staff of the magazine, "Millennium." Whereas "Dragon Tattoo" was largely about Blomqvist and his search for a presumed-dead heiress, this sequel focuses squarely on Salander and her difficult adjustment with society. At the end of the first book, she abruptly walks away from the faithless lover Blomqvist. She continues her aversion in "The Girl Who Played with Fire," ignoring him, hanging up on his cell phone calls, tossing out letters, and otherwise pretending he doesn't exist. He's broken her heart and Lisbeth Salander is not one to forgive.
However, she soon learns she needs friends--plenty of them--as an ever-tightening noose of danger tightens around her, made up of her evil legal guardian Nils Bjurman, a cadre of nasty social-service doctors and psychiatrists, some rogue cops, members of a Hells-Angels-like motorcycle gang, and a shadowy figure known only as Zala. When one of Blomqvist's best reporters and his wife, are gunned down, police find Salander's fingerprints on the gun and the hunt is on--with the entire police force, plus the host of the other bad guys after her.
Larsson keeps the pace breathless throughout the story, which hinges on a seamy sex trafficking trade. Even when he stops to explain what is at stake and how "Millennium" will cover the story, he never slows the movement. You'd think that in a novel of this length there would be myriad subplots, but there really aren't too many threads to follow. Salander's sad past is deconstructed chapter by chapter, and Blomqvist gets to the bottom of police malfeasance and international espionage. But nothing takes the focus off the chase that Salander eludes so brilliantly.
I'm sure there are things that a savvy editor could do to tighten Larsson's prose. He adds a love affair too many and drags out the tense ending to a breaking point. Also, it may not seem odd to Swedes, but Larsson's habit of using the last name for every character becomes extremely confusing, because everyone is an Andersson or an Ericsson or a Nilsson. The sameness becomes mind-boggling. It's impossible to even know the gender of the character.
I know about this problem personally, for my own grandfather changed his last name because there were too many Nilssons in the army. He chose a name that was a little more distinctive. Larsson could have learned a lesson there. Using a few first names now and then also would solve the problem nicely.
But these are nitpicks. I'll be waiting for any news that an English version of the final version of the "Millennium" trilogy is available. These books are just that good.
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143 of 170 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2008
This is the follow up to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I suggest you read that one first, though this novel is reasonably self-contained.

This book opens with Lisbeth Salander enjoying her newly ripped of wealth lazing in a hotel in Granada. No one knows where she is (as usual), and back in Sweden, Millenium magazine are preparing a an expose of the sex slave business in Sweden. The journalist who is preparing the expose is murdered, along with his partner, and Salander's legal guardian. Salander, now back in Sweden is the prime suspect, and the police hunt is on.

To say things get complicated from this point is an understatement. There are multiple investigations (Salander's of course, the police and Millenium's), multiple suspects, more murders, red herrings galore, and just general mayhem. Dark as all this is, it is actually quite funny in places: the police have no idea at all what is going on, despite a well meaning and competant detective in charge.

This is all tremendous fun for the reader. It is as anything remotely boring (and probably realism suffers) has been left out, yet despite the novels sheer page turning ability, (I read this too fast, I will need to read it again), it still has the power to inform.

So buy it, read it once, and then read it again.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 31, 2009
It's a tragedy for world literature that Stieg Larsson is dead, and we'll never have more than three books with Lisbeth Salander as the heroine. She's an absolutely fascinating creation. This is the second book in the series, and every bit as riveting as The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo.

In the eyes of Sweden's social services system, Salander is a deeply disturbed person who needs a guardian to supervise her and handle all her affairs. But unbeknownst to the authorities, she's a world-class hacker with a photographic memory, brilliant at chess, wildly rich from an Internet coup - and a vicious fighter. For relaxation, she has sex with men or women, as the spirit moves her, and reads books on spherical astronomy and higher mathematics. All this in a very small package: Salander stands less than five feet tall and weighs 90 pounds.

The plot of this book is too complex and full of twists and shocks to summarize. But to oversimplify, three people are murdered because of a book two of them are writing about sex trafficking, and Salander, by a quirk of circumstantial evidence, becomes the prime suspect.

Salander is in hiding for much of the book, baffling all the cops, well-wishers and thugs looking for her, while doing her own highly irregular detective work.

In her twenty-five years of life, Salander has come in for a lot of sexual abuse. But she also has a genius for pay back. Her unique display of brains and aggression is utterly satisfying.

The characters in this book are wonderfully drawn, the pace breathtaking and the fight scenes terrific. I can't wait to read the third book in the series.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2009
In the first of the series, originally titled in Swedish "Men Who Hated Women", Larsson did a magnificent job in setting up an absolutely unforgettable literary character -- Salander. Where part one of this trilogy fell short was in the too often sideways plotting, i.e. too many red herrings that added little, too many subplots, plus an inability to avoid multiple endings. However, in "The Girl Who Played With Fire (and I would love to know what the original Swedish title is), Larsson, in addition to layering depth to Salander's incredibly unique character, at once creating backstory and thus motivation, he also writes (yes, even at 649 pages in the British paperback edition I read), a very tight plot where virtually all the clues, surprises, and discoveries are well earned. This one is the masterpiece of the two -- so far -- as there is the third and final book to come. Still, it's necessary -- and no less rewarding -- to read "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo first. You'll not be disappointed in either. You'll even learn a bit about Swedish politics, but most importantly about gender politics in the context of a first class literary thriller.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander electrified the story, even though she had a relatively small part in the plot; here, in the second novel of the series, she is given center stage to Blomkvist's secondary role, making The Girl Who Played With Fire much tauter, more exciting than the first book. Larsson begins to expose what makes Salander tick, and the result gives her character an interesting vulnerability, one that makes her more human and less crazy.

But let's get one thing straight; even with the more humanizing portrait, you would not want to corner Salander in a dark alley. Nor do you want to give her access to your computer. She is every bit as gritty and clever as she was in the first, and her stark determination to live by her own moral code drives the plot. When a journalist working for Blomkvist and Berger and his PhD candidate girlfriend are murdered, it's bad enough, but when those murders are linked to that of Salander's sadomasochistic guardian, Salander becomes the only suspect. On the lam, she seems to make no attempt to clear her name and instead gets in deeper. Throw in a "blond giant" (similar in many ways to the albino monk of The DaVinci Code), the seedy underpinnings of the sex trade, and returning characters, and you've got a suspenseful, likable, satisfying thriller.

As a pure thriller, The Girl Who Played With Fire is stronger than its predecessor because it has fewer meandering subplots, more unrelenting suspense, and more deftly drawn characters, even if Larsson occasionally resorts to types. The author seems to have found his narrative stride with this. If you liked the first, you'll love the second. I just hope Larssen's third manuscript was polished enough before he passed away to build on his already finely-tuned skills as a novelist.

-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2009
Now I say this tentatively, but I do believe this book is better than the first. There is more action, more suspense, and more intellectual scenarios. I loved the first book, and gave it a 5 out of 5, and this book did not fail to impress me as much as I'd hoped. If you enjoyed the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I strongly recommend reading this book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 2, 2010
In lieu of so many reviews, I'll keep the synopsis of _The Girl Who Played With Fire_ short. Picking up a year (or so) after _The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo_, Blomkvist is dealing with the celebrity from his work with the Wenenrstrom affair, and Millenium financially is doing well, planning an issue (concurrent with the publication of a book) about the seedy world of prostitution, sex trafficing and what amounts to "white slavery" - young girls (early teens) brought to Sweden to serve as prostitues. The writers of the story are murdered, dragging Blomkvist and Salander into the mystery of who did the crime and why.

_The Girl Who Played With Fire_ moves at a much faster pace than _Dragon Tattoo_, which was a relief. That readers are given additional background into Salander's past - specifically why she was institutionalized and what "All the Evil" was that contributed to Salander being the intorvert she is, especially held my interest. Apparently some did not care for the way in which Larsson showed events from the perspective of various characters - essentially "rewinding" the scene to provide another angle of the story. I didn't mind the literary device, and in fact thought it provided addtional insight into the characters.

I was bothered, however, by the intentional witholding of information regarding signficant plot points. For example, Salander meets with the murder victims before they are found, leaving readers to suspect (perhaps) Salander is guilty of the crime, as the story does not provide any details of what she was doing there. I understand that this was done to "build suspense" (and perhaps to put readers in the shoes of Blomkvist and others investigating the crime), but I found it trite. This reservation aside, I really enjoyed the story and "getting to know" Salander better.

As with so many book in a series, if you enjoyed _Dragon Tattoo_, you will absolutely love _Played With Fire_. If you struggled with the pacing of the first, I would recommend this installment of the trilogy, as the "first act" (so to speak) is much more brief (the assumption being, I suppose, that we already are familiar with the protagonists). If, on the other hand, you were among those who were bewildered at the buzz around Larsson's books, don't bother - there is nothing new here that would dissuade you otherwise.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 28, 2009
Book 2 in Larsson's trilogy was even better than the first. Book 1 was slow to start while book 2 throws readers into the action in the first pages and then it never slows down. I cannot wait to sink my teeth into book 3! This is a must read if you like thrilling mysteries, strong, intelligent and mysterious female protagonists and characters who continually fight the corruption that invisibly permeates the most powerful institution in the world!
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 29, 2009
This book did not draw me in at first. Having just finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I wondered how someone who had not read Tattoo could feel any empathy for Lisbeth Salander, clearly the main character in Stieg Larsson's The Girl Who Played With Fire. As the book begins, Salander, 26, is filthy rich (literally, because she stole a fortune from a very dirty man), and she has an affair with a sixteen year old boy. Larsson bores us with details of her IKEA shopping spree and purchase of a luxury apartment. So, for the first hundred pages or so, I though of tossing the book. But it picked up. The last four hundred pages made it all worthwhile.

The book pivots off of Salander's involvement in a triple murder. Just how dirty is she? Strong evidence points to her guilt. The police think she is guilty and launch a massive hunt for her. The media spreads stories all over Sweden about her bizarre past.

But Salander has friends. There's the resourceful Mikael Blomkvist, star of Tattoo. There's a champion boxer who punches his way into the mix. There's a former guardian who grew to respect her. There's Miriam Wu, Salander's (part-time) lover.

Salander is one of the most intriguing fictional characters that I have encountered. She's a "waif," very short and thin. She's brilliant. She's fierce. She must have total revenge, and she is cold and tough enough to get it. And, at least according to the title, she plays with fire.

Other key characters include an evil Russian defector who is shielded by top Swedish officials and a malevolent "blond giant" who can feel no pain. A key plot element is the imminent publication of an exposé of sex-trafficking and the johns involved.

So, there's a lot going on. Lesser authors could not have drawn it all together. But Larsson does, in a skillful and exciting manner.

This book, combined with Tattoo, make it clear to me that the world lost a master wordsmith with Larsson's early death.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 19, 2010
All this buzz is swirling around about Stieg Larsson and his Millenium series. Not going into the details of how or why it's so popular, I can comment and review the books themselves. Having read the first one, and believing it to be a pretty good thriller, I found the second one on Amazon and decided to give it a go. Whereas in the first one I found the plot to be interesting and rather titillating I felt that it was missing something. Sure Blomkvist was a likable hero and his journey to uncover a family mystery was interesting to read. It was perhaps Larson's creation of Lisbeth Salander that really got me interested in the book. She is one of the most exciting characters to come along in a while possessing similarities of Lara Croft, 007, Jason Bourne and a whole slew of other action heroes. She made the first book exciting, but I still felt the first one lacked something, or maybe I was just let down that it wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. The second one, however, packed a punch that left me craving to read it at work, at school, and deep in the night. What makes the second one so good is the slow unraveling of Lisbeth Salander. In the second one we find her a changed person from the first novel. In The Girl Who Played with Fire she is a lot more grown up and the mysteries that surrounded her in the first novel begin to reveal themselves. My pulse was pounding to find out what was going to happen next. I also felt the character development was solid. All our old friends from the first one our back and each is given their own time to reveal themselves. The plot I also felt was stronger in The Girl Who Played with Fire. Trying to sum up this story to a friend is difficult because the plot is so tightly bound with mysteries being uncovered left and right. It's a thrilling murder mystery, family drama, government cover up, and feminist fable of power. I highly recommend this novel and look forward to the third one.
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