Wednesday, 16 February 2011

[020] The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

What the Back of the Book Has to Say:

SPECIAL REPORT: Mikael Blomvkist

The Millennium publisher has [obscured by price sticker] explosive and far-reaching expose of the multi-billion kronor sex-trafficking industry in Sweden, and its international links.

Double killing in Stockholm apartment

Two found dead. Suspected murder weapon recovered close to the scene. Police are baffled by this apparently professional killing.

Lisbeth Salander sought by every police force in Sweden

The chief suspect in three killings, former security analyst Salander eludes nationwide search. Inspector Bublanski leads the Stockholm team.

Crusading author and liberal journalist Stieg Larsson died after delivering to his Swedish publisher the novels that are the Millennium Trilogy. Tragically, he did not live to enjoy the phenomenon that his work has become.

Why I Picked It Up:

The first book had been a good thriller, if the characters left me dry. I wanted to read it. Plus, when you start a trilogy, you really have to end it, don't you?

What I Think:

If you remember anything about what I wrote about the previous book in this series, then it should be that, while I thought the plot was very interesting, I found myself not really liking the characters all that much. To be honest, that thing happens more often than I would hope but a lot of times I find at least one character that seems redeemable and I can anchor myself to them for the majority of the novel. The Millennium Trilogy, to me, doesn't have one.

Now, it's fine to have horrible (in my opinion) characters as long as you have an intriguing storyline. The first novel had that down pat; although I didn't much care for the detectives getting to the bottom of it, the mystery of the disappearance of Harriet Vanger was interesting, with enough twists, turns and just suspects in general to keep me on my toes and interested. Surely, the second book would be able to pull through with that?

The problem I have with Fire is that it couldn't decide how it wanted to tell its story. Although we didn't need much exposition (as that's what the first novel in a trilogy is typically for), the first one hundred or so pages were devoted to what Lisbeth and Mikael had been up to since the first novel ended. Fine, whatever -- as long as we got a big, juicy mystery for them to solve pretty soon. 

It takes a few hundred pages before the murder described on the back cover occurs and even then, I wasn't entirely sure what was going on. The problem is that the novel creates a bunch of narrative threads that it really doesn't even try to weave together. Although they will eventually create a picture later on, it won't be for about five hundred more pages. While I normally enjoy a story that seems haphazard but later is fully fleshed out, in this case it seems to be more sudden realization than forward planning. 

Let me put it like this: if you asked me to tell you what the main plot of this novel was, I wouldn't be able to tell you. I might tell you it's about sex trafficking and it kind of is. I might mention a gangster and I wouldn't be wrong. I could talk about Lisbeth Salander's backstory and there's a bit of that in there, too. Plus, there's this whole side story about the police and the security company working together and another murder that seems important but ultimately isn't. In short, the plot seems more like a bunch of random stories thrown together to make a book. It doesn't have the underlying mystery to keep it neatly wrapped together, like the first novel.

Not to mention that this book keeps the characters separated and not talking to each other for most of it. Normally this wouldn't be a problem as that usually establishes dramatic tension and escalates plot but in this case, it just made us repeat the same facts over and over again as new characters discover things we had already known. It became truly annoying after awhile.

This isn't to say that there wasn't anything interesting about this book. Lisbeth's backstory is very intriguing, especially as they had shrouded it in mystery for so long. The murder of the couple is a good read, as you really don't find out what happened until the very end of the novel. But ultimately, it just seems thrown together and out of place. I'll read the next novel, if only to finish the series but I'm starting to wonder if this trilogy peaked with Dragon Tattoo. I suppose we shall see.

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