Stieg Larsson's second installment of the Millennium series, The Girl who Played with Fire, serves up more good Swedish thriller but in distinctly different vein. Whereas The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is set up with a very tangible mystery to tackle--what happened to Harriet Vanger?--Fire's structure leads you through Stockholm more unpredictably. While Tattoo isn't strictly necessary prior reading, it allows you to fully appreciate the title character Lisbeth Salander who more centrally drives this novel. It's a year or so after Tattoo, with Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander's lives moving on. Separately.
Just when you think nothing is happening -- why has Larsson resorted to listing IKEA furniture names like NYC craigslisters?! -- you realize that detailing Salander's current life was the slow drawing of a quiverful of action arrows which rain down at an impressive pace. What's mentioned in the blurb really starts about a third of the way in, but if you've grown to love the eccentric brilliant loner Salander, you would enjoy seeing her emerge out of Larsson's focus on the part-detached Casanova, part-relentless investigator Blomkvist. Lisbeth Salander's past is the missing link between the murders of Blomkvist's new friends working on a sex-trafficking-expose for Millennium, the murder of an attorney, and the manhunt for our anti-heroine. There are new characters, new intriguing side plots featuring lesbian Satanic gangsters, and a most dramatic ending that has me repeating more strenuously my earlier advice: Don't start the series until you get your hands on all three parts!
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