By Teresa Crasto
‘The Girl Who Played with Fire,” Stieg Larsson’s sequel to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” is just as good as the first book and maybe a little better.
The plot as a whole is more engaging; unlike “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” the mystery being solved takes place during the action of the novel and directly involves both protagonists, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander.
Blomkvist’s magazine, “Millennium,” is publishing a piece about trafficking in Sweden. When two people connected with the article are murdered, Salander quickly become the prime suspect, with her fingerprints on the murder weapon. As the police search for Salander, Blomkvist, believing Salander to be innocent, starts his own investigation to find the real suspect.
The characters continue to develop in this novel. Salander’s past becomes an important subplot in “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” Her back story enhances her character, making her more sympathetic to the reader. Yet at the same time, her character maintains the air of the mystery that made her so appealing in the first book.
Larsson’s female characters are stronger and more engaging than his male characters. Two minor characters, Erika Berger, editor-in-chief of “Millennium” and Blomkvist’s part-time lover, and Sonja Modig, an inspector on the murder case, are the powerful women who often struggle in their male-dominated fields.
Generally, the men in Larsson’s novels, minus Blomkvist and a few other exceptions, are portrayed as cruel and misogynistic; they are often stereotypical, fitting the idea of the big, bad bully.
Like “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played with Fire” addresses serious issues, especially abuse towards several women.
Sexual violence is particularly important in this book; it forms the center of the central plot as well as several of the subplots.
Larsson addresses this topic tactfully and skillfully, addressing the seriousness of the topic. As a sequel, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” is overall successful. It builds upon the characters from the first book, while bringing something new to the table in the plot.
If you haven’t read “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” you could probably follow along pretty well with the plot of “The Girl Who Played with Fire”; however, you would lose the character development from the first book needed in order to fully understand why Blomkvist and Salander act the way they do.
Overall, “The Girl Who Played with Fire” serves as the perfect sequel to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” It is better than the first book in many ways; if you weren’t fully engaged in the series after “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” you will be after this book.