Larsson is on fire: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

Every bit as gripping and provocative as the first book in the Millennium trilogy, Larsson’s second novel is a resounding success. The story picks up two years after the events depicted in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. We’re brought back into Larsson’s world again by another long, slow opening that carefully sets up the characters and provides just enough intrigue. Then we’re introduced to new and exciting players who are perfect for these books. It’s not long before the page-turning shocks start to emerge.

The development of central character Lisbeth Salander – one of crime fiction’s most startlingly original protagonists ever – is deep, complex and utterly absorbing. She is as layered as the first book led us to believe; Larsson’s intricate knitting of this with his overall plot in this installment is breathtaking.

Nevertheless, this is far from a perfect book. Again, as with the first, this novel suffers from a lack of editing. It is somewhat refreshing to see this in a crime book (which have to be tight) – and it may even be the secret to Larsson’s success – but it is very irritating. Larsson often resorts to cliché to prop up poor character introduction. Too many peripheral players are described forensically the first time they appear when it’s just not necessary. Furthermore, the descriptions are often laboured lists.

The text is also plagued by far too many poor constructions, characteristic of an amateur crime writer (which Larsson was). It’s disconcerting that his editors or publishers didn’t weed these out, and I’d certainly like to have been a fly on the wall in editorial discussions. It’s surprising that this oversight hasn’t tempered the books’ success.

For critics, the public and this reader, there are far too may positives not to rebalance Fire back into favour. It really is a lot of fun reading these books – I’m already looking forward to part three.

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