15 July 2009

Review: THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, Stieg Larsson

Originally published in Sweden in 2006, published in Great Britain in 2009, translated from the Swedish by Reg Keeland 2009, ISBN 978-1-84724-557-1, 569 pages.

The second in the Millenium series. The first was THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO.

Some time has elapsed since the end of the previous novel. Lisbeth Salander is holidaying in the Caribbean. She has been on the move for months. Mikael Blomkvist can't work out why, over ten months before, Lisbeth chose to disappear. Was it something he did? She had cut him out of her life, their friendship apparently over. Since then she has had some tattoos removed, done a lot of travelling, and had some plastic surgery.

A close encounter with death in the form of Hurricane Matilda prompts Salander to return to Sweden in early January. Meanwhile Mikael Blomkvist and Millenium Publishing are preparing to publish an expose of a rampant multi-billion kronor sex trafficking industry. The publication of the book will be preceded by a teaser article in Millenium Magazine. And then in late March, when the new book is nearly ready for the printers, the writers are murdered and all the evidence points to Lisbeth Salander as the perpetrator.

There is so much in THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE that it is hard to know where to begin to analyse it. I'm inclined to say that, if you haven't read it, you should read THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO first. But that may be just because I have. You may manage very well without. It seems to me there are lots of references in "FIRE" that may be conundrums without the background of "DRAGON". Whereas much of the focus of the earlier book was on Mikael Blomkvist, in "FIRE" much of the focus is necessarily on Lisbeth Salander, what sort of person she is, and what created her.

One of the criticisms of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO was its length, and people said that at over 530 pages it was far too long, and needed better editing. That is certainly a criticism that could be levelled at THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. It took me an extra-ordinarily long time to read, but then I don't think it is a book that is meant to be read quickly. There's a lot to absorb, and for me some of it needed to jell. And above all, it is a good read. As with "DRAGON", "FIRE" has many story threads, but what pulls them together is Lisbeth Salander.

At the end of "FIRE" we are left in no doubt that there is another in the series.

Like THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE has been shortlisted for a number of awards, among them the CWA International Dagger and it does seem to be the "sentimental" favourite. Doubtless it will be shortlisted for many more before the end of 2010.

My rating 4.7

Other reviews to check - some will tell you more of the story than I have, if that is what you are after.
I am reminded by Lisbeth Salander's closing remarks in THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE Kalle Bastard Blomkvist that those of us who read the series in translation may not necessarily "get" all the meaning. Puzzled? See these posts over at DJs krimiblog.

23 comments:

Dorte H said...

A fine and fair review. I especially like the elegant way you get around the ending without spoiling anything:
"At the end of "FIRE" we are left in no doubt that there is another in the series."

It is sad that Larsson died far too early, but at least, seen from a reader´s point of view, it makes much more sense to end with volume three.

Kerrie said...

I often think I don't say enough Dorte. I am looking forward to reading the next though.

Louise said...

I really liked the third one. In my opinion it was much better than the second one, which is my least fave of the three Millenium-books. I think you have a lot to look forward to :-)

Bernadette in Australia said...

What a shame we can't know if these books would have been better edited if Larsson had not died (although I love the two I've read I do agree that they could both have done with a red pen).

Very jealous of Lou who has read it already (if only I were multilingual) and looking forward to October for #3

Kenneth said...

I found "Fire" to be clearly inferior to "Shoulder". (I was so anxious for "Fire" that I bought it from a London shop 6 months ago and had it shipped to the USA, so my recollections are a tad vague.)"Fire" struck me as more of a thriller or fantasy work - Salander as Supergirl - whereas "Shoulder" was more of a family history cum crime saga, and for me a lot more enjoyable. "Fire" seemed to follow the formula of the first book and I'm not as excited about #3 but will read it based on my enjoyment of "Shoulder" and despite "Fire".

Kerrie said...

I'm assuming that by "Shoulder" you mean THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO Kenneth. Reviewers have been divided on which one they enjoyed more.

Reg said...

On the phrase "Kalle Bastard Blomkvist" -- original Swedish "Kalle Jävla Blomkvist", which I translated to American English as "Kalle Fucking Blomkvist". I don't believe "bastard" is an adjective. For some reason it was prissified by the UK editor (as were many other phrases in the book, which I could not read past page 140). Hence my pseudonym since I didn't want to be blamed personally for these infelicities among the thousands of changes that were made.

And Bernadette, Stieg did live long enough to approve the editing done by his Swedish publisher on the first book.

The whole saga will be revealed in an upcoming book by his partner, Eva Gabrielsson, tentatively titled "The Year After Stieg."

--Steven T. Murray, aka Reg

Dorte H said...

Reg, it is really interesting to hear about the process. Your information about the translating process is fascinating.
And as a Danish reader I agree that ´bastard´ is not the right word.

Reg said...

Tak ska du ha, Dorte! As well as interesting it was infuriating, as you can well imagine.

Jeanne said...

I wouldn't wish these books any shorter, and if I miss some nuances of meaning, then how great must they be to withstand the translation!

Kerrie said...

Reg and Dorte, I can only hope you are not swearing at each other! Mig Dansk er ikke artig og afhænger af en oversætter.

Kerrie said...

Reg, I think you can use "bastard" as an adjective - e.g. the "bastard son"

Kerrie said...

Jeanne, I think we've somehow lost the art (or is it the patience) to read books that take us weeks even months. Good to hear from you.

Kerrie said...

Louise, I am looking forward to the next. The first two do have a bit of a saga-ish feel about them.

Dorte H said...

Kerrie, you can rest assured that Reg is kind and polite towards me as always LOL

Reg said...

Kerrie, I just told Dorte "thanks". Anyway, no way can the word "jävla" (an adjective derived from djävul, "devil") mean "bastard," which is in a whole different realm of swearing.

From the dictionary:
djävla adj & adv
bloody;
damn[ed];
US also goddamn[ed], goddam
[«» Expressions]
[din] djävla drulle
you bloody (damn[ed], US goddamned) fool;
vulg. you fucking idiot

(Not you, Kerrie!)

Table Talk said...

I've also just finished 'The Girl who Played with Fire' and I'm sure you need to read the first one to really get the best out of it. I'm also sure that to get the best out of either of them they need a re-reading- there is so much there. I'll wait until the third one is available and then go back and read the first two as a prelude to the last one.

Reg said...

TableTalk, I certainly agree with that plan. By the time I finished translating all three in a row, I could hardly remember which episode was in which book. It really is one big epic. Too bad we'll never see the other 7.

Kerrie said...

Thanks for confirming my thinking TableTalk. Do you find you re-read faster than you read a book originally?

Kerrie said...

There would have been 10 Reg? Does it feel "unfinished" after you've read #3?

Reg said...

Not really, I think that was a good midway point to stop for a breather.

Gav said...

loving the girl with the dragon tattoo and looking forward to this one!

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who noticed the "FART" noise in the movie? Its in the beginning of the movie after Lisbeth makes love to her girlfriend. After her girlfriend gives her the cigarette holder gift....the girlfriend moves a little bit then farts...they immediately cut to the next scene but Lisbeth had a smirk on her face. I rewinded it like 3x to make sure it was a fart and it definitely was....LOL!!!!!!

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