Book Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

Title: The Girl Who Played With Fire
Author: Stieg Larsson
Pages: 724
Genre: Crime/Suspense Thriller
Publication Date:  July 28, 2009
Publisher: Vintage
Source: Personal Copy

So, this really isn’t going to be much of a review – rather more of a rambling session on Larsson’s Millennium trilogy.  (Note: I just realized that I had no clue how to spell millennium – who knew there were so many ‘n’s.)  Anyway, I read Dragon Tattoo this summer after listening to my co-workers rave about these stories.  How could I be the only one sitting silently in a corner during a book discussion?  To be honest, I should have stayed in that corner.

Dragon Tattoo was a huge disappointment.  The writing was poor, the first 100 or so pages completely pointless, and the plot poorly paced.  However, the central mystery, once we got around to it, was fairly interesting and kept me turning the pages.  When I had finished, nothing enticed me to read the second novel so I moved on to a re-read of Harry Potter without any reservations.  Flash-forward six months and I succumbed to short-term memory lapse – I finally had a hankering to read the second book.

Fire, at least for me, is the superior novel in that the suspense, surprises, and overall un-put-down-able quality of any good crime thriller was amplified.  The writing still leaves much to be desired – why do we need mundane descriptions of everything Lisbeth buys at IKEA?  Why write several pages of what Mikael does with his random afternoon – shave, shower, dress, sleep, microwave dinner…blah, blah, blah.  None of this adds to characterization or furthers the plot – it’s just mindless drivel.  Plus, the plot holes – the whole of Sweden is looking for Lisbeth, her picture on the cover of every newspaper, every prime time news show – and the police don’t consider for a second that she could be disguising her appearance, really?

The biggest problem with these books is the lack of editing.  At 724 pages, Fire could have easily been whittled down to 400 or so pages of tightly compacted plot – instead the first 100 pages, yet again, have very little, if anything, to do with the actual story told throughout the rest of the novel.  The murder mystery doesn’t start until around page 200 – what kind of editor lets this happen?  Is it just because no one wants to get accused of butchering a dead man’s manuscript?

Despite all the negativity, I do enjoy the characters.  Lisbeth is fascinating and I loved learning about her past.  Larsson does kind of jump the shark a bit with her, however, as she is hardly a believable real world being.  Regardless, she becomes this almost supernatural ghost – you can’t help but love her as she singlehandedly takes on all the men who hate women in Sweden.  I appreciate that for once a heroine is a bit out there – piercings, tattoos, wacky hair – I’m so sick of prissy, blonde model types getting all the love.

I won’t be rushing out to buy the final book in the series, but I figure I’ll eventually read it.  I am looking forward to the new movie adaptation coming out in a couple of weeks.  I’m fairly certain these are novels that will benefit from the cuts and slashes of  movie production – all the fat will be gone and we’ll be left with a succinct and exciting story.  The Swedish version was ok, but the actors that were cast didn’t match my mind’s eye very much which left me feeling very disconnected – especially with the character of Mikael.

Feel free to disagree with me in the comments!



2 thoughts on “Book Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

  1. I sort of enjoyed the mundane IKEA list, but that’s just me. LOL.

    I loved this series but my love for them lessened with each installment. By the third book, I was not as wowed as I was by the first. However, I loved the movies and cannot wait to see the US version on opening night!

    • I’ll definitely be there on opening night as well! I think I’m too harsh on these novels because I don’t normally read crime/suspense thrillers so I have no real foundation or body of work to judge them by. Maybe the third novel will be the one that finally wins me over!

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