Saturday, September 04, 2010

Book 24 – The Girl Who Played With Fire

By Stieg Larsson

Even though Chainon had $1 books out on the street for August Main Madness, I went inside for the non-discounted books anyway. At the end of the month, you never know if someone moving house will be offloading some books or what. My instincts proved right – I hit pay dirt – before my eyes lay a pristine paperback of The Girl Who Played With Fire as well as a hardbound of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Since I wasn’t interested in owning a hardcover, I just got the former. I would later regret this and become The Girl Who Kicked Herself For Not Getting The $4 Hardcover When She Coulda!

While still inside the thrift shop, two old ladies saw TGWPWF in my hand and had to comment on the fact that they have read all three Millenium books and how much they enjoyed them. The first was a francophone lady who worked there and she told me the books are “so much better than the movies” and the latter was an English visitor: “I love it when a book keeps me up all night!”

I mean, I liked The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo well enough, in a gripping and page-turning way, and enjoyed the parts where Lisbeth kicks some men-hatin' ass. But it was also at times cheesy and fantastical, and the themes too simplistically tied together. I guess I like my suspense to be more subtle and grounded in reality. That was part of the reason why I held off on getting the hardcover. Maybe I was in a better frame of mind, but TGWPWF proved to be ass-kickingly awesome! It helped that the 2nd book focuses on mysterious Lisbeth Salander instead of “Mikael fucking Blomkvist”, who thankfully beds only one new conquest this time instead of every frackin' female character that makes an appearance in the storyline.

Anyway, in the 2nd book, Larsson really fleshes out the character of Lisbeth as well as her entire back story. The novel starts off about a year later with Lisbeth vacationing in the Carribbean - alone of course. Larsson really takes his time describing Lisbeth’s almost day-to-day activities and has her involved in a murder-mystery side story that is not directly connected to any later events in the novel. In fact, that section could well be its own short story. When Lisbeth returns to Stockholm, there is a lot of detail about her apartment hunting and shopping for furniture and new car (since she’s now armed with Wennerström’s billions) in her methodical, calculated way. This may be deadweight to some, but I found this “Lisbeth makes a life for herself” section quite fascinating and in fact, this may be my favourite part of the book! I wonder if the two old ladies I met thought the same?

Soon enough, Lisbeth gets herself into trouble. Big Trouble with a capital T! I won’t say anything more, except that Larsson does a great job juggling the other characters and storylines to make it all mesh. And of course, he makes attacks on his favourite hot button issues, including the media machine à la Season 5 of The Wire.

I will repeat again the manner in which the novel ends really left me with bitter regret that I did not buy the 3rd book when I could have. Unlike the first book where everything was tied up neatly, the ending of TGWPWF really left my hanging! Damn I should’ve just gotten the hardcover!

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