As good as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was, The Girl Who Played with Fire is even better.
In the first book of the series, the story was at least as much about Mikael Blomkvist as it was about Lisbeth Salandar, the actual girl with the dragon tattoo. She is a fascinating character, and a lot of hints are dropped about her life, but we don’t learn much other than that she is a genius with computers, a great researcher, fearless, socially inept, and that she had a very troubled childhood and young adulthood.
In The Girl Who Played with Fire, Salander is right in the middle of everything, accused of murdering three people: the lawyer assigned to be her guardian by the government and two journalists who were working on a story and book for Mikael Blomkvist’s magazine, Millennium, about the importing of girls for the purpose of prostitution.
At first, it seems obvious to almost everyone that she must be guilty. The newspaper stories about her life make her sound like a psychopath and there is circumstantial evidence. She does not seem to have any friends other than Blomkvist. But then things get complicated, and it turns out that while Salander does not have many friends, the ones she does have are very loyal, unusual, and resourceful indeed.
Larsson was a product of Sweden, and his books are cold and dark and mysterious like his homeland. Yet the plot could have taken place in any developed country so that international readers do not find it hard to believe.
Another way in which Larsson showed his great skill as a writer was in depicting every character in a completely believable way, whether that character is a police officer, a prize fighter, or a lesbian writer and performer who sometimes shares Salander’s bed.
Is Salander guilty? And if not, who is? The book is full of intrigue and mystery, action and one astonishing revelation after another. Once again, you will be enthralled, and once again, you will find it very hard to put this book down until you finish it.