It took me a lot longer to finish this book than it should have, but I’m not sure that’s entirely my fault. It’s a good book, and once it gets going, contains all of the requisite elements of an expert thriller – in fact, it becomes an expert thriller. But boy oh boy, it sure takes a long time to get going. This is a 600-page book that I think would have been much stronger as a 450-page book; perhaps even a 400-page book.
“The Girl Who Played With Fire” is different in tone than “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” and the primary focus shifts from Mikael Blomkvist to Lisbeth Salander, which is only appropriate given that Salander is the character who gives the books their titles. Blomkvist plays a key role, but there’s little doubt that his parts of the book are less interesting, less vital, than those featuring Salander.
There’s a lot going on, but the plot boils down to the following – two of Blomkvist’s colleagues have been murdered, on the eve of publishing a book (him) and a thesis (her) exposing a prostitution trafficking ring, and the prominent men who are a part of that ring. The murder weapon has Salander’s fingerprints on it, and was also used to kill Nils Bjurman, the former “guardian” who will be familiar to everyone who read the trilogy’s first installment.
Thus begins a game of cat-and-mouse, with the police trying to find Salander, Blomkvist trying to prove her innocence, and the real killers also trying to “close the loop.” Along the way we meet several interesting and entertaining characters, including a boxer with a soft spot for Salander, a psychopathic killer who happens to be a giant who can’t feel pain, and the mysterious Zalachenko – the proverbial man with a past behind it all. And of course, the brilliant Salander is almost always one step ahead of everyone.
As with the first book it’s a very entertaining mix, even if it does take a little longer than it needs to in order to reach its destination.