Spanish cover for
The Girl who Played with Fire
Millennium publisher Mikael Blomkvist has made his reputation exposing corrupt establishment figures. So when a young journalist approaches him with an investigation into sex trafficking, Blomkvist cannot resist waging war on the powerful figures who control this lucrative industry.
When a young couple are found dead in their Stockholm apartment, it's a straightforward job for Inspector Bublanski and his team. The killer left the weapon at the scene - and the fingerprints on the gun point to only one direction.
Another summer vacation has come and gone with a Millenium book by my side. I read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last year for the first time. Somehow, I had avoided spoilers and hadn't got a clue of what was going to happen between the pages. I expected a more-or-less entertaining, more-or-less flawed whodunnit with no heft whatsoever - perfect for a summer read. My surprise was huge when I was presented with a gritty portrait of a country I barely knew, a well-built mystery, fleshed-out characters and the intention of raising awareness of rape culture. I actively disliked the writing, but was sold on the trilogy anyway.
Flash-forward a year and I'm reading the second book, The Girl who Played with Fire. The formula is very similar for both books: journalist Mikael Blomkvist tries to publish an investigation which will shock the country and send very important people to jail when things suddenly complicate beyond measure. However, this time Lisbeth Salander is closely connected to both the investigation and the murder.
Lisbeth is a Sherlock type of character - asocial and ammoral, very intelligent and emotionally disconnected. She has suffered abuse on many levels and she has decided to fight it back. And she is endearing - in fact, she's one of the two reasons I enjoy this trilogy. In The Girl who Played with Fire we finally get to know more about Lisbeth's backstory - her family, her childhood, her stays at foster homes and her love life. And it's every bit as disturbing as I imagined it to be.
The other reason why I like these books is the denouncement of sexual abuse and the defense of women rights. In this trilogy, we are shown that women are often raped, beaten and harassed around the world, even around the corner. We are also shown that women are exposed to sexism in a less gruesome way, too, when they are considered less important and less worthy than their male counterparts. An example of this is the character Sonja Modig, a police officer who is bullied by her colleagues and whose contributions to the police investigation are hardly ever taken into account. The Girl who Played with Fire is sprinkled with sex trafficking data that I guess is taken out from reality and that made physically sick. I'm just glad the Millenium trilogy reached so many people, because I'm sure not everyone who has read the novels had pondered about these issues. There's also room to show a contrast with healthy emotional and sexual relationships of every kind - a woman with two lovers, a lesbian who likes some BDSM (the real thing - not that abusive nonsense featured in 50 Shades of Grey) or a traditional heterosexual couple - and how prejudice makes society identify nontraditional relationships with immorality and perversion.
Unfortunately, Stieg Larsson didn't really improve his writing skills in this book, so the execution is less than okay. I also think the mystery itself is weaker than the one about the Vanger family and was able to foresee the big twist from early on, and as this is the conductive thread of the story, it undermined my enjoyment of the novel. And I didn't particularly like the cliffhanger ending. I'll still be reading the third book next summer, though.