In The Girl Who Played with Fire, the sequel in Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth Salander exposes her personal backstory as she investigates another murder case with the journalist Mikael Blomkvist.
Now Salander is back in The Girl Who Played With Fire in an even more central role. This time she is less detective than quarry, as she becomes the chief suspect in three murders ...it boasts an intricate, puzzlelike story line that attests to Mr. Larsson’s improved plotting abilities, a story line that simultaneously moves backward into Salander’s traumatic past, even as it accelerates toward its startling and violent conclusion ...Mr. Larsson builds suspense, while tracking the progress of several simultaneous investigations...precise, reportorial descriptions with lurid melodramatics lifted straight from the stock horror and thriller cupboard ... The ending of The Girl Who Played With Fire — like the revelation about Salander’s past, which gives the book its title — comes straight out of a horror movie: it’s gory, harrowing and operatically over the top.
Readers of Dragon Tattoo will not be surprised to learn that Salander is indeed still withdrawn and irascible — and also highly effective as a computer snoop ... Yet Salander is a rather different person from the brilliant but touchy Goth of Dragon Tattoo ... The Swedish title of Dragon Tattoo is Men Who Hate Women. That motif runs through the new novel like a slushy undercurrent, all the more disturbing in light of Sweden's aforementioned sexual liberalism ... Here is a writer with two skills useful in entertaining readers royally: creating characters who are complex, believable and appealing even when they act against their own best interest; and parceling out information in a consistently enthralling way.
While The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo read like a Nordic Silence of the Lambs, its dynamic, brawny sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, reanimates the tropes of the political thriller ... Like spaghetti westerns, les superproductions of Luc Besson and Mathieu Kassovitz, and British chanteuses from Dusty to Duffy, Larsson's work demonstrates how American popular culture has colonized European art. Especially cinema. The author stages action sequences with the zest of a Hollywood filmmaker...a thriller with moral freight ...buzzes with ideas; even amid the carnage of the Grand Guignol finale, it fizzes with fury. And while Reg Keeland's flat translation preserves folds of fat...it ably indicts a system that empowers the empowered.