Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson

Last week, Novel Conversations discussed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Since I had read the book a year or so ago and could not bring myself to reread it in preparation for our discussion, I decided to start The Girl Who Played with Fire instead. Unfortunately, by the time we met, I had only read about 200 pages--a mere third of the book and a third in which little of interest happened. Salander, who has been wandering around the world, returns to Stockholm, gets a new apartment, and starts spying on a variety of people. Blomkvist is working with a freelancer on a book on the sex trade. Somehow, Salander and some of the subjects of the inquiry seem to be linked.

Then the freelancer and his girlfriend, who has written her dissertation on the sex trade, are murdered and Salander emerges as the leading suspect. The narrative switches from the police investigation, to Blomkvist's research, to Salander herself, to her former employer's efforts to learn more about the case. Slowly, ever so slowly, the truth emerges. I had to force myself to finish the book and, although the truth of the case is revealed, the ending is clearly a set-up for the third book in the trilogy--but at least this time there aren't 75 pages on a subplot after the main plot wraps up.

I recognize that my boredom with this series puts me in the minority of readers. Most of the members of our book group gave The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo high marks, and several said they liked the second book even better. They found Salander to be an interesting character and thought that Larsson conveyed a sense of place particularly well. The violence against women disturbed some, but others found the intricate plotting to be a plus. For me, none of the pluses raise this book above mediocrity.

Favorite passage:
That's the crux of almost every fight, the moment when the strength drains out of you and the adrenaline pumps so hard that it becomes a burden and surrender appears like a ghost at ringside.

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