Stieg Larsson, The Girl Who Played With Fire
Larsson’s hard-boiled and offbeat Millennium trilogy ticks along with more intrigue, social realism, and Ikea trips
If you’ve already got a dashing investigative journalist, a post-Cold War Russian hit man, and a bisexual math-whiz gamine femme fatale, what more could a thriller possibly need? How about an Ikea shopping trip? Such combinations of crime fiction tropes and odd Nordic detail move the novels of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy out of the potboiler category and into the more complex terrain of literary crime writing.
In this second installment of the series, we again follow the muckraking writer Mikael “Kalle” Bloomkvist and the don’t-call-her-a-sidekick oddball genius Lisbeth Salander through a world of strange coincidences and horrifying revelations. Larsson’s first volume, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, revealed uncomfortable truths about the compulsions and crimes of Sweden’s upper crust (Nazi affiliations and mass murder). Fire, however, examines the nation’s present and future. How, for example, does a country famous for almost strenuous social parity deal with its mentally ill citizens? How does Sweden’s proximity to the former USSR allow complex organized crime networks to grow undetected within its own borders?
Himself a journalist, Larsson (who passed away in 2004), was particularly adept at weaving such large issues into a compelling narrative. Though perhaps a bit heavy on explicitly described sexual violence for some readers’ tastes (when revealing the evils of women’s exploitation, the gory details can be tough going), Larsson’s grotesque inventiveness gets the hard-boiled job done.
Dragon Tattoo fans: you will discover more about what makes Lisbeth Salander tick — not to mention sharing her delight in that Ikea spree. But, of course, the truth won’t be as neatly put together as one of her new PoÃ¤ng armchairs.