Posted by: Natalie | July 15, 2010

The Girl Who Read Too Little

So, I took five books with me to Vegas as my initial plan was to get in several hours a day reading while I lounged by the pool. For various reasons, this did not happen – the pool was wonderful, but we ended up being so busy each day that reading became something of an excess! The vast majority occurred during the flights, understandably, but even still, the fact that there were several episodes of House available meant that a visual narrative was enjoyed over the paper back in my hand.

In actual fact, I managed a grand total of . . . . one. But, what a one! Stieg Larsson did not disappoint in his Millennium sequel. Had I been at home and not in wonderland, this novel would have been devoured in a couple of days; I was almost bothered by the fact that I wasn’t able to read it in one sitting.

The story follows on well from the first instalment, so much so that it is not necessary to read the first, but The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo does fill in some of the blanks, enabling a depth and richness to the sequel. But, if it is possible The Girl Who Played With Fire is even darker and traumatic than the first tale focusing on Salander and her horrific past.

The clues and details to ‘All The Evil’ that happened just before her commitment to a psychiatric unit at age 13, unfold through a story that inevitably includes the ‘super’ journalist, Mikael Blomkvist. A colleague of his at Millennium (Dag) is on the brink of publishing a truly damning book about sex trafficking; several high level policemen, judges and other moral superiors are due to be outed by this work (along with a Thesis written by his wife, Mia). But, only a couple of weeks before Millennium Magazine is once again about to set the world alight with a gritty exposé, Dag and Mia are found executed in their apartment. On the same night, Nils Bjurman, Salander’s despicable guardian is also murdered. The weapon that killed all three is found and with one incriminating set of prints, there is only one prime suspect – Lisbeth Salander.

A media fuelled man hunt begins with even the investigating police believing her guilt before any condemning proof is given. Only the faithful Blomkvist seems intent on her innocence, leading him on his own investigation to protect Salander and discover the truth behind the murder of his friends. But as with anything else in Blomkvist’s life, nothing is straight forward, nothing is simple, nothing is safe. Government files on Salander are uncovered that suggest a moment of doubt even in Mikael’s mind, but there is something wrong. There are some files completely missing, hidden away by authorities higher than the imaginable. What was it that happened to Salander as a child? Who is so intent on hiding it from the world? And why?

The answers to these questions are strategically unfolded to create the most amount of shock and suspense. As I have written before, I am usually something of a pain for seeing the end of a book coming from around half way through – not so with The Girl Who Played With Fire. The flipping of character narrative and the twisting and turning of plots and sub-plots really keeps you on your toes. There are moments when you loose your breath and moments where you choke back tears from either fear, anger, anxiety or other. But there are inevitably those interactions within the pages that make you smile too and giggle a little out loud; so much it is that you know the detail of these people and love their every maddening ‘quality’. They are certainly flawed human beings, but you cannot help but indulge in the personalities of Blomkvist and Salander – they are eternally real and everlastingly human; incredibly well written.

Larsson’s roller-coaster of a book is a must read. He has such a gentle lulling style considering how harrowing some of the subject matter can be. It is a rich experience that I have thoroughly enjoyed and will inevitably hold this book as one of my few ‘will read again, often’ books. The sad thing is, I only have one Larsson book left. I am so eager to read The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest, but I know at its end, I will never be able to read something so wonderful again. If you do not already know, Larsson sadly died before his Millennium series was published. He never knew how wide spread his work would become, let alone that in just the UK he would have all three, simultaneously, in  the best sellers list. His popularity is phenomenal, his writing is greater. Pick one up and enjoy.

(If  I have to have one complaint – it’s the cover. I have an image of Salander, so vivid, in my head and it’s not how she is portrayed on this particular cover. Read it and you will understand what I mean!)

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