Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played with Fire

I actually studied Swedish Social Democracy but until I read Stieg Larsson (and to some degree, Henning Mankell) I never realized that Sweden was such a hotbed of sexual perversion and international conspiracy. I found some of Henning Mankell’s Wallander books were a bit far-fetched in this regard, but compared to Stieg Larsson, they now seem eminently reasonable. I could sort of buy the premise of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but The Girl Who Played with Fire is starting to stretch into more comic book territory than any kind of even tenuously realistic fiction.

Go no further if you haven’t read the novel, though, because there are some major spoilers below!!

First of all, my favorite character from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander, ended up not being nearly as great in a book that contained a lot more of her story. There’s a lengthy digression at the beginning of the novel that has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the story, and in addition to Lisbeth’s having gotten breast-implants (UGH!), now she’s not only a computer genius but also a hand-to-hand combat expert. Now, I can certainly see how and why she’d want to carry mace around with her, given her diminutive size, but that’s not enough for Larsson – now she can can take out heavy metal biker dudes, and it takes a giant who doesn’t feel pain to actually take her down, and even then she manages to exert herself with a bullet in her brain. OH PLEASE!!

So compared to the eyerolling I did with Lisbeth’s newly acquired powers, Blomkvist was actually slightly less annoying to me by the end of the book, even though he might as well have a sign painted on him that says “Dear Reader, Blomkvist is me, the author. Am I not the epitome of awesomeness? Love, Stieg Larsson.” Because again, just as in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, despite the fact that a team of police officers AND a team of people from the security firm that Salander works for being on the case, it’s Blomkvist who discovers evidence that no one else has recognized for years, and puts together all the connections.

Also, attention, editors of the world: just because the author tragically died before his time does not mean that his every word is holy writ and cannot be altered. Excising some of the endless, mind-numbing stream of irrelevant information might have trimmed this book down to a manageable size (e. g. (it’s enough to say that Lisbeth bought some furniture at IKEA, OK? We don’t need to know the color and model of every single thing she bought and how she positioned it in her apartment, just as we don’t need to know what Blomkvist ate for lunch or how many sugars he put in his coffee!)

All that said, the last 100 pages or so were quite a thrill ride and so I am propelled relentlessly forward into the next book because I want to know what happens! I also want to know if Lisbeth will now develop superpowers!!

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