Part blistering espionage thriller, part riveting police procedural, and part piercing exposÃ© on social injustice, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a masterful, endlessly satisfying novel. Mikael Blomkvist, crusading publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation. On the eve of its publication, the two reporters responsible for the article are murdered, and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to his friend, the troubled genius hacker Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, convinced of Salander's innocence, plunges into an investigation. Meanwhile, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous game of cat and mouse, which forces her to face her dark past. From the Paperback edition.
Fans of intelligent page-turners will be more than satisfied by Larsson's second thriller, even though it falls short of the high standard set by its predecessor, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which introduced crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist and punk hacker savant Lisbeth Salander. A few weeks before Dag Svensson, a freelance journalist, plans to publish a story that exposes important people involved in Sweden's sex trafficking business based on research conducted by his girlfriend, Mia Johansson, a criminologist and gender studies scholar, the couple are shot to death in their Stockholm apartment. Salander, who has a history of violent tendencies, becomes the prime suspect after the police find her fingerprints on the murder weapon. While Blomkvist strives to clear Salander of the crime, some far-fetched twists help ensure her survival. Powerful prose and intriguing lead characters will carry most readers along. (Aug.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Showing 21-30 of the 39 most recent reviews
21 . Better than the 1st one
Posted May 12, 2010 by Pam , West LinnI liked this one better than his first book, which I loved. Can't wait for the 3rd one to come out.
22 . Larson at his best
Posted May 11, 2010 by Gerry , Wexford ,Pa.It really doesn't matter which book comes first and that includes the last edition( Hornet Nest). I loved all the characters and plots. Salander will be indelibly marked in my mind, which the author expertly portrays . There are different story lines that coincide to that fateful ending. This was a kind of book that I wish never ended .
23 . Much better than Dragon Tattoo
Posted May 06, 2010 by Valerie Wolkenstein-Moreno , Gilbert, AZI'm looking forward to the last of the trilogy...
Played With Fire moved swiftly and iI enjoyed the characters.
24 . Worthy sequel, great ending
Posted February 28, 2010 by Fan , Los AngelesThe first book is more character driven, but this sequel is more plot driven. The characters are not as well developed here. I think that's why some of the reader reviews are not as good. However, in terms of the plot, this book is better than the first. The beginning was a bit slow, explaining what happened after the first book ended and setting into motion what comes up. The second half of the book contains very fast-paced plotting and some surprises, and the last 100 pages or so had my heart pounding. The ending is terrific. I can't wait to see what happens in the third book.
25 . As good as the first
Posted February 28, 2010 by diane , Los AngelesThis book was as good as the first in the trilogy. I can't wait for the third. It helps if you read the "The Girl with the dragon tatoo" first. The underlying info about the characters helps to understand everything. In this book he explains a lot of the background and history of the characters and further explores their motivation and genetic inclinations.
The suspense is fantastic! Lisbeth continues to be my new heroine! Again...I can't wait for the third book.
26 . Was all the evil necessary?
Posted January 30, 2010 by Spamouflage , ReginaThis book missed the family component I loved so much in the first novel. The plot captured my attention from the get-go and I'd say I was hooked almost all the way until the end. I started losing interest when too many police officers were introduced. I also wondered a few times why the author introduced so many head-scratching, out of this world twists and turns. I'm sure Hollywood will have a blast turning this novel in a Silence of the Lamb-style film.
27 . SLOOOOOW
Posted January 24, 2010 by John , Brookhaven, MSI loved the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, same characters so I thought I would like this book. I made it about a third of the way into the book and "gave UP". I sure the book was going someplace but I was muddling through it hoping for something to happen. What a let down.
28 . Too much filler
Posted January 02, 2010 by Josh , Colorado SpringsTHis book had some good moments, nut they are overshadowed by the fact that this book is mostly filler material. There are entire sections of the book that coud be deleted without hurting the story, and at times it feels like your reading a book by a highschooler. This book needed another edittor
29 . Better than the first!
Posted December 27, 2009 by TerriRC , BoulderI actually liked this one better than Dragon Tattoo...it had more information about things mentioned in the first book, and I found it an engaging read. The different mysteries are woven together and eventually the plot is brought to resolution. It remains to be seen how Lizbeth will heal, both mentally & physically in the third book. Of course, it is too bad it will be the last...
30 . I got hooked
Posted November 26, 2009 by Tamara , HalifaxLove, suspense, and well written. The best.
July 25, 2009
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Excerpt from The Girl who Played with Fire (Millennium Trilogy: #2) by Stieg Larsson
Thursday, December 16 -- Friday, December 17
Lisbeth Salander pulled her sunglasses down to the tip of her nose and squinted from beneath the brim of her sun hat. She saw the woman from room 32 come out of the hotel side entrance and walk to one of the green-and-white-striped chaises-longues beside the pool. Her gaze was fixed on the ground and her progress seemed unsteady.
Salander had only seen her at a distance. She reckoned the woman was around thirty-five, but she looked as though she could be anything from twenty-five to fifty. She had shoulder-length brown hair, an oval face, and a body that was straight out of a mail-order catalogue for lingerie. She had a black bikini, sandals, and purple-tinted sunglasses. She spoke with a southern American accent. She dropped a yellow sun hat next to the chaise-longue and signalled to the bartender at Ella Carmichael's bar.
Salander put her book down on her lap and sipped her iced coffee before reaching for a pack of cigarettes. Without turning her head she shifted her gaze to the horizon. She could just see the Caribbean through a group of palm trees and the rhododendrons in front of the hotel. A yacht was on its way north towards St Lucia or Dominica. Further out, she could see the outline of a grey freighter heading south in the direction of Guyana. A breeze made the morning heat bearable, but she felt a drop of sweat trickling into her eyebrow. Salander did not care for sunbathing. She had spent her days as far as possible in shade, and even now was under the awning on the terrace. And yet she was as brown as a nut. She had on khaki shorts and a black top.
She listened to the strange music from steel drums flowing out of the speakers at the bar. She could not tell the difference between Sven-Ingvars and Nick Cave, but steel drums fascinated her. It seemed hardly feasible that anyone could tune an oil barrel, and even less credible that the barrel could make music like nothing else in the world. She thought those sounds were like magic.
She suddenly felt irritated and looked again at the woman, who had just been handed a glass of some orange-coloured drink.
It was not Lisbeth Salander's problem, but she could not comprehend why the woman stayed. For four nights, ever since the couple had arrived, Salander had listened to the muted terror being played out in the room next door to hers. She had heard crying and low, excitable voices, and sometimes the unmistakable sound of slaps. The man responsible for the blows -- Salander assumed he was her husband -- had straight dark hair parted down the middle in an old-fashioned style, and he seemed to be in Grenada on business. What kind of business, Salander had no idea, but every morning the man had appeared with his briefcase, in a jacket and tie, and had coffee in the hotel bar before he went outside to look for a taxi.
He would come back to the hotel in the late afternoon, when he took a swim and sat with his wife by the pool. They had dinner together in what on the surface seemed to be a quiet and loving way. The woman may have had a few too many drinks, but her intoxication was not noisome.
Each night the commotion in the next-door room had started just as Salander was going to bed with a book about the mysteries of mathematics. It did not sound like a full-on assault. As far as Salander could tell through the wall, it was one repetitive, tedious argument. The night before, Salander had not been able to contain her curiosity. She had gone on to the balcony to listen through the couple's open balcony door. For more than an hour the man had paced back and forth in the room, going on about what a shit he was, that he did not deserve her. Again and again he said that she must think him a fraud. No, she would answer, she did not, and tried to calm him. He became more intense, and seemed to give her a shake. So at last she gave him the answer he wanted . . . You're right, you are a fraud. And this he at once took as a pretext to berate her. He called her a whore, which was an accusation that Salander would have taken measures to combat if it had been directed at her. It had not been, but nevertheless she thought for a long time about whether she ought to take some sort of action.
Salander had listened in astonishment to this rancorous bickering, which all of a sudden ended with something that sounded like a slap in the face. She had been on the point of going into the hotel corridor to kick in her neighbours' door when silence descended over the room.
Now, as she scrutinized the woman by the pool, she could see a faint bruise on her shoulder and a scrape on her hip, but no other injury.
Some months earlier Salander had read an article in a Popular Science that someone had left behind at Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome, and she developed a vague fascination with the obscure topic of spherical astronomy. On impulse she had made her way to the university bookshop in Rome to buy some of the key works on the subject. To be able to get a grasp of spherical astronomy, however, she had had to immerse herself in the deeper mysteries of mathematics. In the course of her travels in recent months she had been to other university bookshops to seek out more books.
Her studies had been unsystematic and without any real objective, at least until she wandered into the university bookshop in Miami and came out with Dimensions in Mathematics, by Dr L. C. Parnault (Harvard University Press, 1999). That was just before she went down to the Florida Keys and began island-hopping through the Caribbean.
She had been to Guadeloupe (two nights in a hideous dump), Dominica (fun and relaxed, five nights), Barbados (one night at an American hotel where she felt terribly unwelcome), and St Lucia (nine nights). She would have considered staying longer had she not made an enemy of a slow-witted young hoodlum who haunted the bar of her backstreet hotel. Finally she lost patience and whacked him on the head with a brick, checked out of the hotel, and took a ferry to St George's, the capital of Grenada. This was a country she had never heard of before she bought her ticket for the boat.
She had come ashore on Grenada in a tropical rainstorm at 10.00 one November morning. From The Caribbean Traveller she learned that Grenada was known as Spice Island and was one of the world's leading producers of nutmeg. The island had a population of 120,000, but another 200,000 Grenadians lived in the United States, Canada, or Britain, which gave some indication of the employment market in their homeland. The terrain was mountainous around a dormant volcano, Grand Etang.
Grenada was one of many small, former-British colonies. In 1795, Julian Fedon, a black planter of mixed French ancestry, led an uprising inspired by the French Revolution. Troops were sent to shoot, hang or maim a considerable number of the rebels. What had shaken the colonial regime was that even poor whites, so-called petits blancs, had joined Fedon's rebellion without the least regard for racial boundaries. The uprising was crushed, but Fedon was never captured; he vanished into the mountainous Grand Etang and became a Robin Hood-like legend.
Some two hundred years later, in 1979, a lawyer called Maurice Bishop started a new revolution which the guidebook said was inspired by the Communist dictatorships in Cuba and Nicaragua. But Salander was given a different picture of things when she met Philip Campbell -- teacher, librarian, and Baptist preacher. She had taken a room in his guesthouse for the first few days. The gist of it was that Bishop was a popular folk leader who had deposed an insane dictator, a U.F.O. nutcase who had devoted part of the meagre national budget to chasing flying saucers. Bishop had lobbied for economic democracy and introduced the country's first legislation for sexual equality. And then in 1983 he was assassinated.
There followed a massacre of more than a hundred people, including the Foreign Minister, the Minister for Women's Affairs, and some senior trade union leaders. Then the United States invaded the country and set up a democracy. As far as Grenada was concerned, this meant that unemployment rose from around 6 per cent to almost 50 per cent, and that the cocaine trade once more became the largest single source of income. Campbell shook his head in dismay at the description in Salander's guidebook and gave her some tips on the kinds of people and the neighbourhoods she should avoid after dark.
In Salander's case, such advice normally fell on deaf ears. However, she had avoided making the acquaintance of the criminal element on Grenada by falling in love with Grand Anse Beach, just south of St George's, a sparsely populated beach that went on for miles. There she could walk for hours without having to talk to or even encounter another living soul. She moved to the Keys, one of the few American hotels on Grand Anse, and stayed for seven weeks, doing little more than walking on the beach and eating the local fruit, called chin-ups, which reminded her of sour Swedish gooseberries -- she found them delightful.
It was the off season, and barely a third of the rooms at the Keys Hotel were occupied. The only problem was that both her peace and quiet and her preoccupation with mathematical studies had been disturbed by the subdued terror in the room next door.
Mikael Blomkvist rang the doorbell of Salander's apartment on Lundagatan. He did not expect her to open the door, but he had fallen into the habit of calling at her apartment every week or so to see whether anything had changed. He lifted the flap on the letterbox and could see the same heap of junk mail. It was late, and too dark to make out how much the pile might have grown since his last visit.
He stood on the landing for a moment before turning on his heel in frustration. He returned unhurriedly to his own apartment on Bellmansgatan, put on some coffee and looked through the evening papers before the late T.V. news Rapport came on. He was irritated and depressed not to know where Salander was. He felt stirrings of unease and wondered for the thousandth time what had happened.
He had invited Salander to his cabin in Sandhamn for the Christmas holidays. They had gone for long walks and calmly discussed the repercussions of the dramatic events in which they had both been involved over the past year, when Blomkvist went through what he came to think of as an early mid-life crisis. He had been convicted of libel and spent two months in prison, his professional career as a journalist had been in the gutter, and he had resigned from his position as publisher of the magazine Millennium more or less in disgrace. But at that point everything had turned around. A commission to write a biography of the industrialist Henrik Vanger -- which he had regarded as an absurdly well-paid form of therapy -- had turned into a terrifying hunt for a serial killer.
During this manhunt he had met Salander. Blomkvist unconsciously stroked the faint scar that the noose had left beneath his left ear. Salander had not only helped him to track down the killer -- she had saved his life.
Time and again she had amazed him with her odd talents -- she had a photographic memory and phenomenal computer skills. Blomkvist considered himself virtually computer illiterate, but Salander handled computers as if she had made a pact with the Devil. He had come to realize that she was a world-class hacker, and within an exclusive international community devoted to computer crime at the highest level -- and not only to combating it -- she was a legend. She was known online only as Wasp.
It was her ability to pass freely into other people's computers that had given him the material which transformed his professional humiliation into what was to be "the Wennerstr?m affair" -- a scoop that a year later was still the subject of international police investigations into unsolved financial crimes. And Blomkvist was still being invited to appear on T.V. talk shows.
At the time, a year ago, he had thought of the scoop with colossal satisfaction -- as vengeance and as rehabilitation. But the satisfaction had soon ebbed. Within a few weeks he was sick and tired of answering the same questions from journalists and the financial police. I am sorry, but I am not able to reveal my sources. When a reporter from the English-language Azerbaijan Times had come all the way to Stockholm to ask him the same questions, it was the last straw. Blomkvist cut the interviews to a minimum, and in recent months he relented only when the woman from She on T.V.4 talked him into it, and that had happened only because the investigation had apparently moved into a new phase.
Blomkvist's cooperation with the woman from T.V.4 had another dimension. She had been the first journalist to pounce on the story, and without her programme on the evening that Millennium released the scoop, it might not have made the impact it did. Only later did Blomkvist find out that she had had to fight tooth and nail to convince her editor to run it. There had been massive resistance to giving any prominence to "that clown" at Millennium, and right up to the moment she went on air, it was far from certain that the battery of company lawyers would give the story the all-clear. Several of her more senior colleagues had given it the thumbs down and told her that if she was wrong, her career was over. She stood her ground, and it became the story of the year.
She had covered the story herself that first week -- after all, she was the only reporter who had thoroughly researched the subject -- but some time before Christmas Blomkvist noticed that all the new angles in the story had been handed over to male colleagues. Around New Year Blomkvist heard through the grapevine that she had been elbowed out, with the excuse that such an important story should be handled by experienced financial reporters, and not some little girl from Gotland or Bergslagen or wherever the hell she was from. The next time T.V.4 called, Blomkvist explained frankly that he would talk to them only if "she" asked the questions. Days of sullen silence went by before the boys at T.V.4 capitulated.
Blomkvist's waning interest in the Wennerstr?m affair coincided with Salander's disappearance from his life. He still could not understand what had happened.
They had parted two days after Christmas and he had not seen her for the rest of the week. On the day before New Year's Eve he telephoned her, but there was no answer.
On New Year's Eve he went twice to her apartment and rang the bell. The first time there had been lights on, but she had not answered the door. The second time there were no lights. On New Year's Day he called her again, and still there was no answer, but he did get a message from the telephone company saying that the subscriber could not be reached.
He had seen her twice in the next few days. When he could not get hold of her on the telephone, he went to her apartment in early January and sat down to wait on the steps beside her front door. He had brought a book with him, and he waited stubbornly for four hours before she appeared through the main entrance, just before 11.00 at night. She was carrying a brown box and stopped short when she saw him.
"Hello, Lisbeth," he said, closing his book.
She looked at him without expression, no sign of warmth or even friendship in her gaze. Then she walked past him and stuck her key in the door.
"Aren't you going to offer me a cup of coffee?" he said.
She turned and said in a low voice: "Get out of here. I don't want to see you ever again."
Then she shut the door in his face, and he heard her lock it from the inside. He was bewildered.
Three days later, he had taken the tunnelbana from Slussen to T-Centralen, and when the train stopped in Gamla Stan he looked out of the window and she was standing on the platform not two metres away. He caught sight of her at the exact moment the doors closed. For five seconds she stared right through him, as though he were nothing but air, before she turned and walked out of his field of vision as the train began to move.
The implication was unmistakable. She wanted nothing to do with him. She had cut him out of her life as surgically and decisively as she deleted files from her computer, and without explanation. She had changed her mobile phone number and did not answer her email.
Blomkvist sighed, switched off the T.V., and went to the window to gaze out at City Hall.
Perhaps he was making a mistake in going to her apartment from time to time. Blomkvist's attitude had always been that if a woman clearly indicated that she did not want anything more to do with him, then he would go on his way. Not respecting such a message would, in his eyes, show a lack of respect for her.
Blomkvist and Salander had slept together. It had been at her initiative, and it had gone on for half a year. If it were her decision to end the affair -- as surprisingly as she had started it -- then that was O.K. with Blomkvist. It was her decision to make. He had no difficulty with the role of ex-boyfriend -- if that is what he was -- but Salander's total repudiation of him was astonishing.
He was not in love with her -- they were about as unlike as two people could possibly be -- but he was very fond of her and really missed her, as exasperating as she sometimes was. He had thought their liking was mutual. In short, he felt like an idiot.
He stood at the window a long time.
Finally he decided. If Salander thought so little of him that she could not even bring herself to greet him when they saw each other in the tunnelbana, then their friendship was apparently over and the damage irreparable. He would make no attempt to contact her again.
Salander looked at her watch and realized that although she was sitting, perfectly still, in the shade, she was drenched with sweat. It was 10.30. She memorized a mathematical formula three lines long and closed her book, Dimensions in Mathematics. Then she picked up her key and the pack of cigarettes on the table.
Her room was on the third floor, which was also the top floor of the hotel. She stripped off her clothes and got into the shower.
A green lizard twenty centimetres long was staring at her from the wall just below the ceiling. Salander stared back but made no move to shoo it away. There were lizards everywhere on the island. They came through the blinds at the open window, under the door, or through the vent in the bathroom. She liked having company that left her alone. The water was almost ice-cold, and she stayed under the shower for five minutes to cool off.
When she came back into the room she stood naked in front of the mirror on the wardrobe door and examined her body with amazement. She still weighed only forty kilos and stood one metre twenty-four centimetres tall. Well, there was not much she could do about that. She had doll-like, almost delicate limbs, small hands, and hardly any hips.
But now she had breasts.
All her life she had been flat-chested, as if she had never reached puberty. She thought it had looked ridiculous, and she was always uncomfortable showing herself naked.
Now, all of a sudden, she had breasts. They were by no means gigantic -- that was not what she had wanted, and they would have looked ridiculous on her otherwise skinny body -- but they were two solid, round breasts of medium size. The enlargement had been well done, and the proportions were reasonable. But the difference was dramatic, both for her looks and for her self-confidence.
She had spent five weeks in a clinic outside Genoa getting the implants that formed the structure of her new breasts. The clinic and the doctors there had absolutely the best reputation in all of Europe. Her own doctor, a charmingly hard-boiled woman named Alessandra Perrini, had told her that her breasts were abnormally underdeveloped, and that the enlargement could therefore be performed for medical reasons.
Recovery from the operation had not been painless, but her breasts looked and felt completely natural, and by now the scars were almost invisible. She had not regretted her decision for a second. She was pleased. Even six months later she could not walk past a mirror with her top off without stopping and feeling glad that she had improved her quality of life.
During her time at the clinic in Genoa she had also had one of her nine tattoos removed -- a 25-centimetre-long wasp -- from the right side of her neck. She liked her tattoos, especially the dragon on her left shoulder blade. But the wasp was too conspicuous and it made her too easy to remember and identify. Salander did not want to be remembered or identified. The tattoo had been removed by laser treatment, and when she ran her index finger over her neck she could feel the slight scarring. Closer inspection would reveal that her suntanned skin was a shade lighter where the tattoo had been, but at a glance nothing was noticeable. Her stay in Genoa had cost her 190,000 kronor.1
Which she could afford.
She stopped dreaming in front of the mirror and put on her knickers and bra. Two days after she had left the clinic in Genoa she had for the first time in her twenty-five years gone to a lingerie boutique and bought the garments she had never needed before. Since then she had turned twenty-six, and now she wore a bra with a certain amount of satisfaction.
She put on jeans and a black T-shirt with the slogan: "Consider this a fair warning." She found her sandals and sun hat and slung a black bag over her shoulder.
Crossing the lobby, she heard a murmur from a small group of hotel guests at the front desk. She slowed down and pricked up her ears.
"Just how dangerous is she?" said a black woman with a loud voice and a European accent. Salander recognized her as one of a charter group from London who had been there for ten days.
Freddy McBain, the greying reception manager who always greeted Salander with a friendly smile, looked worried. He was telling them that instructions would be issued to all guests and that there was no reason to worry as long as they followed all the instructions to the letter. He was met by a hail of questions.
Salander frowned and went out to the bar, where she found Ella Carmichael behind the counter.
"What's all that about?" she said, motioning with her thumb towards the front desk.
"Matilda is threatening to visit us."
"Matilda is a hurricane that formed off Brazil a few weeks ago and tore straight through Paramaribo yesterday, that's the capital of Surinam. No-one's quite sure what direction it's going to take -- probably further north towards the States. But if it goes on following the coast to the west, then Trinidad and Grenada will be smack in its path. So it might get a bit windy."
"I thought the hurricane season was over."
"It is. It's usually September and October. But these days you never can tell, because there's so much trouble with the climate and the greenhouse effect and all that."
"O.K. But when's Matilda supposed to arrive?"
"Is there something I should do?"
"Lisbeth, hurricanes are not for playing around with. We had one in the seventies that caused a lot of destruction here on Grenada. I was eleven years old and lived in a town up in the Grand Etang on the way to Grenville, and I will never forget that night."