The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson
Plot and action
The Girl Who Played With Fire has two main storylines that gradually intertwine, and that are masterfully integrated by Stieg Larsson. Lisbeth Salander's past, and it's implications for the present, is one of these storylines. The second, and major storyline, has to do with trafficking.
Once again, Michael Blomkvist's journal, Millennium, is about to publish shattering news. In The Girl Who Played with Fire, it is about trafficking, traffic with whores between Eastern Europe and Sweden. It is expected to be a mega-story, as the details are spicy. Furthermore, a number of the customers of these whores are well-known and respected people in high and visible positions in Swedish society. But publishing the story is dangerous as well, as many of those involved, including well-known public figures are willing to do almost anything to hide their dark secrets.
Then, right before the publication of the findings, the journalist writing the story is gunned down and killed together with his girlfriend. The gun used in the shooting is found. On it are the fingerprints of Lisbeth Salander.
Almost everybody is convinced that Lisbeth Salander is guilty. A witch hunt starts. The evicence seems clear. But Mikael Blomkvist does not believe Lisbeth Salander to be guilty of this crime!
The characters in The Girl Who Played With Fire
Once again, we meet the key characters from The Girl with the Dragoon Tattoo: The journalist and editor Mikael "Kalle" Blomkvist and the people in Millennium, as well as the asocial, but brilliant hacker Lisbeth Salander. As well, we meet the somewhat mystical corporation Milton Security. In The Girl Who Played With Fire, we get to know many of them a lot better.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, she was a somewhat remote, albeit resourceful and very intelligent girl with the ability to act quickly. Even so she was placed under guardianship by Swedish society. Obviously, Lisbeth Salander's computer skills are awe-inspiring, her hacking brilliant, but still she is viewed as being without the ability to manage herself and her personal finances. Instead, they have been placed under the administration of a sleazy lawyer, Nils Erik Bjurmann. In a way Lisbeth Salander emerged as a paradox. She was a person I definitely wanted to learn more about.
In The Girl Who Played With Fire, the reasons why Lisbeth Salander was placed under guardianship are becoming more clear. They are surprising as well as interesting reasons. Also, her childhood was special, and makes for extremely interesting reading. Revealed are also seemingly the reasons why the Swedish government is trying to park her on the sidelines. I have to say that as I read more about Lisbeth Salander, I not only understood her better, but also found I liked Lisbeth more and more.
The tension builds quickly in The Girl Who Played With Fire. Moreover, it lasts and intensifies. Stieg Larsson has written another masterful thriller that in my opinion is even better than The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo. The Girl Who Played With Fire is complex, intense, psychologically interesting, intriguing, and has lots and lots of action. Stieg Larsson's style is uncomplicated, engaged, and elegant. You will become even more fascinated with the characters, be intrigued by the mystery, and be excited about the tension! The Girl who Played with Fire is not only a page turner - it is a spellbinding thriller!
The Girl Who Played With Fire is a thick brick of a book - my version is 622 pages. Yet it still feels too short. By far!
Buy The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson from amazon US or order The Girl Who Played with Fire from amazon UK or order The Girl Who Played with Fire from amazon CA. ! (By purchasing it via these links, you support this site as well!)
“The sequel is a cut above last year’s best seller.... Stieg Larsson uses a marvelous language. Not even the most finicky fault finder will detect anything out of place, everything simply flows. ... I am not exaggerating when I say that Stieg Larsson is the best Swedish crime writer of the decade. And naturally I’m already reserving a copy of the third and final part of the Millenniumserien (Millennium Series).”
- Per Erik Tell, Kristianstadbladet
“And when a writer delivers such a complex and fascinating portrayal like that of Lisbeth Salander all we can do is bow down in gratitude. It doesn’t get much better than this.”
- Anders Wennberg, Gefle Dagblad
Stieg Larsson - about the titles of his books in English - commentary
Stieg Larsson's three books in the Millennium series have the following titles in Swedish: Män som hatar kvinnor, Flickan som lekte med elden, and Luftslottet som sprängdes. I do not know whether these were the titles Stieg Larsson himself gave his books or titles that the Swedish publisher came up with - I can't recall ever having seen any information about that.
However, I have been pondering a little the titles given to Stieg Larsson's books in England and the US. The English language titles shift the "meaning" and message about the books quite a lot compared to the original Swedish titles.
Let's first look at the literal translations of the Swedish titles and the English titles: “Män som hatar kvinnor” would, translated directly, become something like “Men who hate women”. In English it is entiteled “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. “Flickan som lekte med elden” translates into “The Girl Who Played With Fire”. And indeed, that is the English title! And “Luftslottet som sprängdes” translates into “The Castle in the sky that was blasted apart” (approximately). The English title is“The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest” (see What is the name of Stieg Larsson's third book and the comment from the translator Reg Keeland), which probably is a better title.
So, one of the books have retained it's original Swedish title - “The Girl Who Played With Fire”. But two books have been given relatively different titles: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest”. These titles signify a considerable shift in focus, in terms of the "marketing message". The focus in all the three books is now on “The Girl .. ”, meaning that Lisbeth Salander is the focal figure for people reading it, and to some extent indicating it's a series of crime fiction books or thrillers with a female main character - possibly a female James Bond - for potential readers looking at the titles.
But in Swedish the titles indicate that the books are about men hating women, a girl mixed up in something possibly too complex to handle, and some elevated structure being exposed or blown apart. That is actually significantly different.
You could, of course, say that names don't matter all that much, and why bother? Well, I happen to think that names matter a lot - that's why artists take on artist names, why corporations spend millions on finding just the right name for their products, and so on. And to my mind, the names chosen for the English translation of the Millennium trilogy reposition and reframe the books in a manner which I think is very unfortunate and probably not at all beneficial for the sales of the books in the English speaking world.