“Larsson has bottled lightning . . . Formally at least, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a muscle car. But a European engine purrs beneath its hood . . . It buzzes with ideas [and] fizzes with fury.”
–Los Angeles Times
“A dynamite thriller.”
–Liz Smith, Variety
“These books grabbed me and kept me reading with eyes wide open with the same force as the best of the series on the TV monitor . . . Move over, Tony Soprano . . . Blomkvist is a wonderfully appealing character. And the girl of the title is one of the most fascinating characters in modern genre fiction.”
–Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle
“A nail-biting tale of murder and cover-ups in which the victims are tantalizingly hard to distinguish from the villains. . . Believe the hype . . . It’s gripping stuff.”
“Another gripping, stay-up-all-night read.”
“Lisbeth Salander [is] one of the most startling, engaging heroines in recent memory . . . Some of the books’ appeal comes from the Swedish setting, but most of it is a result of the author writing from the heart, not from a formula. Larsson clearly loved his brave misfit Lisbeth. And so will you.”
“The Girl Who Played with Fire confirms the impression left by Dragon Tattoo. Here is a writer with two skills useful in entertaining readers royally: creating characters who are complex, believable, and appealing even when they act against their own best interest; and parceling out information in a consistently enthralling way.”
“Lisbeth Salander was one of the most original and memorable heroines to surface in a recent thriller: picture Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft endowed with Mr. Spock’s intense braininess and Scarlett O’Hara’s spunky instinct for survival . . . Now Salander is back in an even more central role . . . The reason it works is the same reason that Dragon Tattoo worked: Salander and Blomkvist transcend their genre and insinuate themselves in the reader’s mind through their oddball individuality, their professional competence and, surprisingly, their emotional vulnerability.”
–Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“A suspenseful, remarkably moving novel . . . This is the best Scandinavian novel to be published in the U.S. since Smilla’s Sense of Snow . . . Salander is one of those characters who come along only rarely in fiction: a complete original, larger than life yet firmly grounded in realistic detail, utterly independent yet at her core a wounded and frightened child . . . One of the most compelling characters to strut the crime-fiction stage in years.”
“This is complex and compelling storytelling at its best, propelled by one of the most fascinating characters in recent crime fiction.”
–Library Journal (starred)
“Fans of intelligent page-turners will be more than satisfied by Larsson’s second thriller . . . [It has] powerful prose and intriguing lead characters.”
“Fans of postmodern mystery will revel in Larsson’s latest . . . also starring journo extraordinaire Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, the Lara Croft of the land of the midnight sun . . . Lisbeth is really a Baltic MacGyver with a highly developed sense of outrage, a sociopathic bent and brand-new breast implants, to say nothing of a well-stuffed bankbook.”
Reviews from abroad:
“As good as crime writing gets . . . Completely absorbing and engaging on both a narrative and a moral level . . . Lisbeth Salander [is] a remarkable heroine.”
–The Times Literary Supplement
“The huge pleasure of these books is Salander, a fascinating creation with a complete and complex psychology . . . Salander is recognisably a Lara Croft for grown-ups–a female Terminator.”
“Addictive . . . We are in the hands of a master . . . Salander and Blomkvist [are] the finest and strangest partnership in crime fiction since Holmes and Watson . . . Stunningly memorable.”
–Scotland on Sunday
“The Girl Who Played with Fire is that rare thing–a sequel that is even better than the book that went before . . . A combination of urgent, multilayered thriller, traditional police procedural and articulate examination of the way a supposedly open-minded country like Sweden treats its vulnerable women and children.”
“With the spiky and sassy Salander, Larsson created the most original heroine to emerge in crime fiction for many years . . . She seizes the book by the scruff of its neck and binds the reader in fetters of fascination.”
“This second novel is even more gripping and astonishing than the first. What makes it outstanding is the author’s ability to handle dozens of characters and parallel narratives without losing tension. Larsson was a fantastic storyteller. This novel will leave readers on the edge of their seats.”
–The Sunday Times (London)
“The best thriller I’ve read in ages . . . If you want a book to take on your lifetime trip on the Trans-Siberian railway, The Girl Who Played With Fire is the one.”
–Evening Herald (Ireland)
From the Hardcover edition. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
About the Author
Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) was the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Expo from 1999, and had previously worked at a major news agency for many years. He was one of the world’s leading experts on anti-democratic, right-wing extremist and Nazi organisations, and he was often consulted on that account. He passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in November 2004, some time before the publication of his debut crime novel and first part of the Millennium Trilogy.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Thursday, December 16 — Friday, December 17
Lisbeth Salander pulled her sunglasses down to the tip of her nose and squinted from beneath the brim of her sun hat. She saw the woman from room 32 come out of the hotel side entrance and walk to one of the green-and-white-striped chaises-longues beside the pool. Her gaze was fixed on the ground and her progress seemed unsteady.
Salander had only seen her at a distance. She reckoned the woman was around thirty-five, but she looked as though she could be anything from twenty-five to fifty. She had shoulder-length brown hair, an oval face, and a body that was straight out of a mail-order catalogue for lingerie. She had a black bikini, sandals, and purple-tinted sunglasses. She spoke with a southern American accent. She dropped a yellow sun hat next to the chaise-longue and signalled to the bartender at Ella Carmichael’s bar.
Salander put her book down on her lap and sipped her iced coffee before reaching for a pack of cigarettes. Without turning her head she shifted her gaze to the horizon. She could just see the Caribbean through a group of palm trees and the rhododendrons in front of the hotel. A yacht was on its way north towards St Lucia or Dominica. Further out, she could see the outline of a grey freighter heading south in the direction of Guyana. A breeze made the morning heat bearable, but she felt a drop of sweat trickling into her eyebrow. Salander did not care for sunbathing. She had spent her days as far as possible in shade, and even now was under the awning on the terrace. And yet she was as brown as a nut. She had on khaki shorts and a black top.
She listened to the strange music from steel drums flowing out of the speakers at the bar. She could not tell the difference between Sven-Ingvars and Nick Cave, but steel drums fascinated her. It seemed hardly feasible that anyone could tune an oil barrel, and even less credible that the barrel could make music like nothing else in the world. She thought those sounds were like magic.
She suddenly felt irritated and looked again at the woman, who had just been handed a glass of some orange-coloured drink.
It was not Lisbeth Salander’s problem, but she could not comprehend why the woman stayed. For four nights, ever since the couple had arrived, Salander had listened to the muted terror being played out in the room next door to hers. She had heard crying and low, excitable voices, and sometimes the unmistakable sound of slaps. The man responsible for the blows — Salander assumed he was her husband — had straight dark hair parted down the middle in an old-fashioned style, and he seemed to be in Grenada on business. What kind of business, Salander had no idea, but every morning the man had appeared with his briefcase, in a jacket and tie, and had coffee in the hotel bar before he went outside to look for a taxi.
He would come back to the hotel in the late afternoon, when he took a swim and sat with his wife by the pool. They had dinner together in what on the surface seemed to be a quiet and loving way. The woman may have had a few too many drinks, but her intoxication was not noisome.
Each night the commotion in the next-door room had started just as Salander was going to bed with a book about the mysteries of mathematics. It did not sound like a full-on assault. As far as Salander could tell through the wall, it was one repetitive, tedious argument. The night before, Salander had not been able to contain her curiosity. She had gone on to the balcony to listen through the couple’s open balcony door. For more than an hour the man had paced back and forth in the room, going on about what a shit he was, that he did not deserve her. Again and again he said that she must think him a fraud. No, she would answer, she did not, and tried to calm him. He became more intense, and seemed to give her a shake. So at last she gave him the answer he wanted . . . You’re right, you are a fraud. And this he at once took as a pretext to berate her. He called her a whore, which was an accusation that Salander would have taken measures to combat if it had been directed at her. It had not been, but nevertheless she thought for a long time about whether she ought to take some sort of action.
Salander had listened in astonishment to this rancorous bickering, which all of a sudden ended with something that sounded like a slap in the face. She had been on the point of going into the hotel corridor to kick in her neighbours’ door when silence descended over the room.
Now, as she scrutinized the woman by the pool, she could see a faint bruise on her shoulder and a scrape on her hip, but no other injury.
Some months earlier Salander had read an article in a Popular Science that someone had left behind at Leonardo da Vinci Airport in Rome, and she developed a vague fascination with the obscure topic of spherical astronomy. On impulse she had made her way to the university bookshop in Rome to buy some of the key works on the subject. To be able to get a grasp of spherical astronomy, however, she had had to immerse herself in the deeper mysteries of mathematics. In the course of her travels in recent months she had been to other university bookshops to seek out more books.
Her studies had been unsystematic and without any real objective, at least until she wandered into the university bookshop in Miami and came out with Dimensions in Mathematics, by Dr L. C. Parnault (Harvard University Press, 1999). That was just before she went down to the Florida Keys and began island-hopping through the Caribbean.
She had been to Guadeloupe (two nights in a hideous dump), Dominica (fun and relaxed, five nights), Barbados (one night at an American hotel where she felt terribly unwelcome), and St Lucia (nine nights). She would have considered staying longer had she not made an enemy of a slow-witted young hoodlum who haunted the bar of her backstreet hotel. Finally she lost patience and whacked him on the head with a brick, checked out of the hotel, and took a ferry to St George’s, the capital of Grenada. This was a country she had never heard of before she bought her ticket for the boat.
She had come ashore on Grenada in a tropical rainstorm at 10.00 one November morning. From The Caribbean Traveller she learned that Grenada was known as Spice Island and was one of the world’s leading producers of nutmeg. The island had a population of 120,000, but another 200,000 Grenadians lived in the United States, Canada, or Britain, which gave some indication of the employment market in their homeland. The terrain was mountainous around a dormant volcano, Grand Etang.
Grenada was one of many small, former-British colonies. In 1795, Julian Fedon, a black planter of mixed French ancestry, led an uprising inspired by the French Revolution. Troops were sent to shoot, hang or maim a considerable number of the rebels. What had shaken the colonial regime was that even poor whites, so-called petits blancs, had joined Fedon’s rebellion without the least regard for racial boundaries. The uprising was crushed, but Fedon was never captured; he vanished into the mountainous Grand Etang and became a Robin Hood-like legend.
Some two hundred years later, in 1979, a lawyer called Maurice Bishop started a new revolution which the guidebook said was inspired by the Communist dictatorships in Cuba and Nicaragua. But Salander was given a different picture of things when she met Philip Campbell — teacher, librarian, and Baptist preacher. She had taken a room in his guesthouse for the first few days. The gist of it was that Bishop was a popular folk leader who had deposed an insane dictator, a U.F.O. nutcase who had devoted part of the meagre national budget to chasing flying saucers. Bishop had lobbied for economic democracy and introduced the country’s first legislation for sexual equality. And then in 1983 he was assassinated.
There followed a massacre of more than a hundred people, including the Foreign Minister, the Minister for Women’s Affairs, and some senior trade union leaders. Then the United States invaded the country and set up a democracy. As far as Grenada was concerned, this meant that unemployment rose from around 6 per cent to almost 50 per cent, and that the cocaine trade once more became the largest single source of income. Campbell shook his head in dismay at the description in Salander’s guidebook and gave her some tips on the kinds of people and the neighbourhoods she should avoid after dark.
In Salander’s case, such advice normally fell on deaf ears. However, she had avoided making the acquaintance of the criminal element on Grenada by falling in love with Grand Anse Beach, just south of St George’s, a sparsely populated beach that went on for miles. There she could walk for hours without having to talk to or even encounter another living soul. She moved to the Keys, one of the few American hotels on Grand Anse, and stayed for seven weeks, doing little more than walking on the beach and eating the local fruit, called chin-ups, which reminded her of sour Swedish gooseberries — she found them delightful.
It was the off season, and barely a third of the rooms at the Keys Hotel were occupied. The only problem was that both her peace and quiet and her preoccupation with mathematical studies had been disturbed by the subdued terror in the room next door.
Mikael Blomkvist rang the doorbell of Salander’s apartment on Lundagatan. He did not expect her to open the door, but he had fallen into the habit of calling at her apartment every week or so to see whether anything had changed. He lifted the flap on the letterbox and could see the same heap of junk mail. It was late, and too dark to make out how much the pile might have grown since his last visit.
He stood on the landing for a moment before turning on his heel in frustration. He returned unhurriedly to his own apartment on Bellmansgatan, put on some coffee and looked through the evening papers ... --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.