The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

untitledJust in case you thought the late Stieg Larsson’s first book in the Millennium series— The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—was a fluke, back he comes with this explosive sequel. Larsson pulls no punches in The Girl Who Played with Fire, which is every bit as good as—or arguably better than—its predecessor.

This time, there’s none of the slow build up that was, on reflection, perhaps necessary in the first instalment. Our main players on the stage are set—and we’re ready to dive straight in. Larsson plays on our—and indeed the character—familiarity, as Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist quickly become embroiled in a double murder investigation—and it is difficult to know who to trust.

A year on from the Wennerström success and everyone at Millennium magazine is still on a high: publically, their reputation is through the roof, with circulation going well and themed articles in the pipeline. However, perhaps inevitably, they won’t stop there: a young, ambitious couple—Dag Svensson, a journalist that reminds Mikael of his younger, hungrier self; and his girlfriend Mia Johansson—have come to the magazine with some key information.

Together, they have put together a detailed, revealing exploration of the effects of sex-trafficking in Sweden, including a comprehensive expose of high-ranking figures—in the police, media and government—involved in abusing young girls. Once again, Sweden is set for some explosive headlines, and certain people will not want that information coming to the public attention.

Salander, not one to miss out on something she feels strongly about, begins to investigate the material herself. This time, the desire to remain anonymous and not tell anyone of her actions backfires horrendously, and it isn’t long before she is the subject of everyone’s attention: Dragan Armansky, her one-time boss; Mikael Blomkvist, with whom she has cut off all contact; and the police, who are ready to bring her in, and are out for her arrest.

The media attention has exploded; Salander’s face is all over the news, details of her personal life and tortured childhood printed across the internet for all to see. As she goes into hiding she realises that there’s more to this than meets the eye; her past has come back to haunt her in the worst possible way. Even for a woman of Salander’s means and talents, there may not be a way out. After working all her life to remain anonymous, Lisbeth’s story has begun to leak out.

The action in The Girl Who Played with Fire is relentless. Larsson unravels the mystery one page at a time, but it never feels slow—there’s enough high-octane car chases and fights to keep us thoroughly engaged. The book races towards its furious denoument and the reader is left breathless and stunned. There is no other choice: Larsson’s finale— The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest—awaits.

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