Review #5 – The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larrson

The second novel in the Lisbeth Salander trilogy, starts with an extended prologue of our protagonist on vacation in the Caribbean island of Grenada. It has been a year since the final events on Hedeby Island, where Lisbeth and Mikael Blomkvist unraveled the mystery of the Vander family, and where Lisbeth saved Mikael’s life. Since these events, Lisbeth has become a millionairess by using her hacking skills to steal billions of Kronor from Wennerström (as seen in the final pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and has been traveling around the world. Lisbeth’s trip to Grenada reads like a stand-alone short story, as the events that take place here do not carry into the rest of the story. I’m from the Caribbean so I enjoyed reading about her adventures in Grenada, but I do hope there is some follow-through with this storyline in the third novel.
As Lisbeth returns to Sweden, Millenium magazine is working with a free-lance journalist and his girlfriend (a doctoral student in criminology) to write an expose on the illegal sex-trade. From here, the events come fast and furious (unlike the first novel which took quite a while to buildup). Two murders occur and Lisbeth Salander is quickly targeted as a suspect, and so begins the police investigation, as well as Mikael’s personal investigation.
Possible spoilers follow (no details, but general info): The first novel alluded to Lisbeth’s (messed-up) background, and I was very intrigued to get more information on her. Somehow, though, the revelations provided in this novel fell flat for me. There were too many characters to keep track of, as well as too many coincidences (later revealed to be a major cover-up). This storyline felt overly plotted to me, and lacked the organic unfolding of the first book. Of course, the mysteries are totally different, but I preferred the tight focus on the Vanger family in the first novel over the focus on the criminal underground and political cover-ups in this novel. The net in this novel was thrown too wide for my tastes. Also, Lisbeth disappeared for a couple hundred pages, leaving us to wonder about her role in the murders, and I found her return (and where she was during this time) somewhat disappointing. The ending is exciting, and there is a ton of strongly written action throughout the novel.
Overall, I did enjoy the book because I am invested in the characters and the mystery at-hand, but I did not feel quite the level of intensity as I did while I was reading the first book. I am excited to read the third one to see what adventures Lisbeth and Mikael get into next.

P.S. Can anyone explain why the cover of this book appears to be swirling blonde hair?