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The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson


The first 170 pages of the book are set on a slower pace than the first book The girl with the dragon tattoo and uneventful. Except for the part where we see Listbeth Salander bumming at a Caribbean beach, the Tornado and attempted murder in Grenada is pulsating. Then it moved on to mundane details of how Salander spent her time and money, i.e. moving into a posh apartment, buying IKEA furniture, painstakingly tagging the designer’s name on each piece of furniture, the clothes labels that she bought, shopping list of household items etc. She also visits Palmegran (her former guardian, whom she thought was dead), encounters with her lesbian lover, Miriam Wu, and bumping into Mikhael Blomkvist in all the wrong places and ignoring him (although they had worked closely and Salander saved his life on the 1st book), while perverted Nils Erick Bjurman (her current, incapacitated guardian) seeking a revenge and plotting to finish Salander off for the humiliation she put him through in the first book. 

Lugging around a hardback at 579 pages daily on the train, I was wondering where this book is heading. 

Dag Svensson, an aspiring writer, and girlfriend, Mia Johanssen, a criminologist on her way to earn her doctorate with the final thesis submission, were researching and writing a book about sex trafficking. The research uncovered sources and people that were involved in the trade; three implicated the police forces. And then the couple were shot dead in their apartment in Enskede. Two precise shot with hunting ammunition, no hesitation, in split seconds. Blomkvist was the first to find them dead when he called in to pick up the final manuscript from Dag. He raced to the back door and found a gun abandoned and trace of the culprit escaping through the back door. Many people would want to stop the controversial book from publishing. The prints on the abandoned gun were found to belong to Nils Bjurman and another set to Lisbeth Salander. Bjurman is found dead later in his apartment. The last person who met the Svenssons is Salander, demanding to know what they had to do with Alexander Zala. Zala known by the code name is a big fish of the sex trafficking case. When all three were found dead, Salander became the main suspect of a triple murder. 

For the next 130 pages, all evidences pointed towards Salander as the prime suspect. A troubled teenager, a sociopath, a former prostitute, a bisexual, affiliation with cult rock bands, with assault records and 2 million kroner channelling into her accounts from Gibraltra, Cayman Island etc.; do not bode well to Salanrder’s tarnished reputation as a suspect. None of the favourable Armansky’s and Blomkvist’s accounts of Salander makes any difference. Both men soon use their own resources to locate Salander, Armansky with his investigation source and Blomkvist with the list of camouflaged interviewees’ names from Dag’s research of the sex trafficking trade, to prove Salander’s innocence. 

Salander went into hiding, Svensson’s laptop disappeared from his apartment, one of Svensson’s research was in computer security and hacking, which might implicate Salander (who is a first rate computer hacker) and provide a solid motive for her murder. Salander dropped the hint Zala while replying to Blomkvist’s correspondence via Blomkvist’s desktop (because Salander hacks it in periodically). 

Jan Bublanski (officer Bubble) and Sonja Modig are two lead inspectors who are working on the case. Faste is a detective who is critical of dykes. Hedström harbours animosity towards Salander at Milton Keynes and is trying to collect evidence that solidify Salander as the murderer, and he is the culprit who leaks internal findings to Tony Scala the journalist. 

One night Miriam Wu was kidnapped by a huge blond giant who happens to contract a genetic disease of not feeling physical pain. Paolo Roberts, a pro boxer who Salander used to spar with, is under the instruction of Blomkvist is asked to track down Wu and followed her to a warehouse at Nykvarn, where Wu and Roberts defeated the giant and escaped. Roberts would have call for the police, had it not his mobile phone battery went dead (aww.. pluzzz. Not again! Refer the story in No time for Goodbyes). The warehouse was later burnt down and the police uncovered two more bodies from the ground. 

Besides the police Blomkvist and Salander is conducting their own investigation. Salander (assuming the identity of Irene Nesser) threatened Per- Åke Sanström to spill the beans about his relationship with Zala. He recalled his first encounter with the sex trafficking trade with Antho and Harry Ranta involved torturing an underage name Ines Hammjårvi and delivering drugs for the Ranta brothers. The case is under the authority of Ekström who crave for publicity and Peter Teleborian psychiatrist who dealt with Salander case and declared her socially incompetent. Blomkvist have also talked to Gunnar Björk (whose earlier identity is Sven Jansson) who works for the security police and Holger Palmgren (Salander’s first guardian), where most of the answers are uncovered. Salander then break into Bjurman’s apartment and went to the Bjurman summer cabin in Stallarholmen and beaten two Svavelsjö Motorcycle club, zala’s men, Carl-Magnus Lundin and Nieminen to the ground and drove away in a Harley-Davidson. 

(Stop here and skip to the last paragraph if you do not want the outcome of the book to be revealed.)


The wanted Alexander Zalachenko is Lisbeth’s father (I really didn’t see this coming). At the day Feb 1991 of “All that evil” in which the part which is missing from Salander file is the day when Salander pour a can of inflammable petrol at her father’s car and set it on fire. Zala is a defect from the GRI (an orgn deadly than the KGB) who defect to Sweden, where the security of Sweden had to protect due to the Cold war with Soviet Union then. He worked for Swedish Säpo to supply all the intelligence from Soviet Union and assumed under the Swedish name K.A. Bodin. Zala was a cruel man who abuses Salander’s mother, Agneta Sofia Sjölander. After the “All that evil” happened, Zala lost his fingers and leg and stayed as an emanciated old man depending on the blond giant, Ronald Niedermann, Salander half-brother, to run their profitable illegal activities. Because Zala worked for Säpo, the whole case was classified as top secret. Gunnar Björk, St. Stefan’s (the institutions for troubled youth) and Peter Teleborian are all accomplice to a conspiracy to declare Salander incompetent so that Zala is not exposed. Bjurman was then a immigration lawyer collaborating in the illegal trafficking trade. Since the humiliation Salander had inflicted on him, he had sought Zala’s help to finish off Salander and to stop from the expose from Dag Svensson’s book, Ronald Niermann shot all three victims in cold blood.

The last scene saw Salander tracking his father down and Niermann, fired 3 shots and buried alive and she crawled her way out from the ground and axed Zala. Blomkvist came into the room saw her sprawled over the sofa and call the emergency services. 

Hedström, Sanström, Ekström, Svensson, Eriksson and Johansson, Niermann, Nieminen by the time you race through the pages you have to backtrack to know and make sure who is who. It feels like some writer’s ailment of Characters Cathartic Confusions (CCC) is happening. Larsson created so many characters, painstakingly developed them, provide superficial details of background which has nothing to do with the case, that you either appreciate it or you get weary of having too many strange names to remember. The last part of Salander coming out from death is so “Terminator 3” that you got to incredibly gullible to believe that a rag doll like 1.52 metre tall Salander can take over two hell angel bikers.

A word of caution, if you could stomach the sexual liberalism, this book has a lot of it. It made me cringed with discomfort. After the gruesome account of the 1st book, I had decided to give Stieg Larsson’s sequels a miss. I suppose a free library loan and curiosity got the better of me. Now I have to read the last instalment to know what is in store, due to publish in English in January 2010.

Verdict : 3 / 5

What I like about it:

The details and intricacies of weaving a complicated crime story is hard to beat by any other writers. Leading the reader off another direction and always caught them at surprise, that is the true mastery of Stieg Larsson. An entertaining read.

What I don’t like about it:

You got to be kidding me, a rag doll like 1.52 metre tall Salander taking over two hell angel bikers??!! Get real. The CCC syndrome and the overdose of sexual innuendos. Bring on the story, not the kinky stuff!


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


10 thoughts on “The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

  1. You are right… so names, so similar, I asked if in Swedish the names started only with letters B (Bublanky, Blomkvist, Bjork, Berger, Bjurman..).

    Another aspect of this book trama: so many coincidences! Even the characters are surprising of that… I walked in a calm evening after dinner and for CHANCE I saw the one year and most lost girl during a tentative of kidnapping?! Naaa.. Unbelievable!



    Posted by Alex | September 22, 2009, 7:47 am
    • and thank you for stopping by Alex. Nice to have someone agree with me. 🙂 I hv a Swedish reader (or a Stieg Larsson fan) who is slightly offended with this entry though. Despite all its flaws, I can’t wait till the final instalment is on the shelf. So, watch out for the “Girl who kicked the hornet’s nest” !, I’m sure it will be equally bizarre. 🙂

      Posted by jovenus | September 22, 2009, 3:48 pm
    • One more interesting thing about this book… everybody is wearing jeans… coincidence????

      Posted by Keshar Mehra | January 21, 2012, 6:23 am
  2. Quite well written, can I learn more about it?

    Posted by Nico Perpre | October 10, 2009, 5:13 pm
  3. Hi there.. There’s something I would like to know about the murderer of Bjurman and Svensson-Johansson. On Chapter 26, it is stated that Per Ake Sandstrom actually murdered them, and then in the end, it was revealed that it was Niedermann?? I read chapter 26 again and again and it seems like no one on the internet has talked about this. Did I just miss something?

    Posted by Czarra | September 1, 2010, 3:46 pm
    • Hi Czarra,
      As far as my faulty memory is concerned, Bjurman was killed by Niedermann. If it is true in Chapter 26 it is said that Sandstrom who did it, I surely missed that big time! Perhaps you have found something that everyone missed!!

      Posted by JoV | September 1, 2010, 9:25 pm
  4. Haha.. Thanks for the reply, JoV! My colleague has insisted that it was indeed Niedermann and told me to read it again til I get it! Lol.. Oh well, so much for my comprehension!

    I’ve yet to read the 3rd one. But I heard there are so many characters still..

    Posted by Czarra | September 2, 2010, 5:39 pm
  5. i have been grappling with this conundrum ever since finishing the book this morning. i read it over carefully and thought what began as sandstrom’s confession ended with mention of facial and neck bruises and a white volvo (clearly reference to niedermann post paolo-roberto encounter) then i went back and realised that sandstrom was being mentioned as a 3rd person and “he” who was confessing was in fact not sandstrom but “he” was talking ABOUT sandstrom. it clears things up once you read it with that distinction in mind. the mention of zala’s loss of rationality once he heard salander’s name also correlates to the last pages when he expresses the same experience.

    Posted by tebogo | September 6, 2011, 6:20 am

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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