Book Review: The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson is a sequel to The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo. When someone from the book club asked my opinion I described it as a poorly translated, stilted, violent, adventure story with wildly improbably plot turns. But one of the women in my book club loved it. She says that that is just how the Swedish write. So I decided to try the sequel.  One of the early scenes describe a shopping trip to Ikea in three page, including the color of each item purchased for outfitting her new apartment. But I stuck with it, and by the time I was a third of the way through I was hooked.

There are two main characters: Lisbeth, a brilliant yet socially inept young woman with a history of abuse.  An accomplished computer hacker, she has been hurt so badly by the system that she refuses to cooperate with authorities. She is declared mentally unfit and assigned a guardian. The guardian rapes and abuses her, but Lisbeth gets the better of him and manages to escape and live more or less successfully on her own.

Mikael is an established journalist who befriends Lisbeth when they work together solve a serial murder case and uncover the biggest financial scam in Swedish history. When Lisbeth is accused of three murders at the beginning of the second novel, he works to prove her innocence.

I don’t know why it still surprises me when Jews turn up in unexpected places, like Swedish adventure novels. Some characters in the first novel had a Nazi past but I didn’t expect the detective in charge of the mu investigation to be a Jew. He wears a yarmulke on “certain high holy days,” orders vegetarian meals in restaurants, and avoids working on the Sabbath. But I’m not sure how his Jewishness developed the plot.

I’ll warn you that the novel contains graphic descriptions of the Swedish underworld. But if you enjoy a fast-paced novel with unusual, well-developed characters, I recommend both The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played wtih Fire. Unfortunately, Larsson died shortly after delivering the third manuscript in the series.

If you enjoyed this post you might also like:

Review: Through the Narrow Gate by Karen Armstrong

Reading the Little House Books

For Those with Low Housekeeping Standards: She Got Up Off the Couch, by Haven Kimmel


  1. Fern Chasida recommended The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and brought me the sequel all the way from America. I tried, but it wasn’t a page turner for me, so I dropped it. Maybe I’ll try again after your review.

  2. I really enjoyed the series, despite the violence you mention, and blogged about it a while back.

  3. I listened to the first book on audio and really enjoyed it and read the second book before handing it off to Baila. Now I’m waiting for a friend to bring the third book in December and trying to figure out how to get a hold of the [Swedish] movie that was made based on the first book. My husband couldn’t get into the first book either.

    • Chasida, I’ve yet to hear a book on audio. I think it would go so slowly, but it could be good for driving, housework etc. Let me know if you get the movie, maybe we’ll have another get-together and watch it!

  4. I saw the movie too. It’s quite good, considering all the details they ahd to cram in the film.

  5. Mom,several years when I got a job that was about a 40 minute commute, I found the driving difficult. A friend suggested audiobooks and I was very skeptical because I felt like I need to turn the pages of a book. I tried it and was hooked from the first book. It is a different experience reading with your ears that it is with your eyes but it is equally enjoyable. In America I was able to borrow audiobooks from the local library; I haven’t listenedto one since we arrived and I really do miss it. You should try it, and let me know where you are getting the books from if you do.

  6. Mirabelle says

    I think you may like Rutu Modan’s 2 graphic novels “Exil Wounds”, “Jamilti”:
    Especially “Jamilti” because of the personal stories of women.


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