August 31, 2009

BOOKS: The Girl Who Played With Fire, Stieg Larsson (2006/US 2009)

Second in the Mikael Blomkvist/Lisbeth Salander series.

As in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Larsson seems to take pleasure in keeping his two protagonists as far apart as possible. As the new volume opens, Lisbeth has severed ties with Mikael for reasons that aren't entirely clear to him. He's too busy to worry much about that, though, back at work at his magazine, which is about to expose a sex-trafficking ring that will implicate several important members of Swedish society and government.

When the authors of that expose are murdered, however, Lisbeth once again takes center stage in Mikael's life (though still only from a distance); she is the principal suspect. He turns his investigative skills to proving her innocence, in which he seems to be the only believer. Meanwhile, Lisbeth is hiding from the law and trying to figure out how and why she's being set up; the two exchange occasional e-mails, but Mikael continues to be frustrated that she won't tell him anything that might help him solve the case.

Lisbeth's ties to the actual murderers turn out to be surprisingly close, and we learn a great deal about her past in this book. She continues to be a fascinating character, combining remarkable intelligence with intense misanthropy and lack of trust in the rest of humanity. (Not that she doesn't have reasons for that misanthropy, as we will learn.)

There's a fairly high amount of violence in this one, so it may not be for those who prefer their mysteries on the cozy side. But Lisbeth's backstory is compelling, and in light of the events here, it will be interesting to see how her relationship with Mikael changes in the third and final volume (due in the US in 2010).

No comments: