In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson introduced us to his quirky, introverted, antiheroine: Lisbeth Salander. I know the title was translated* but when I read it, I couldn't help wondering where the 'girl' was in that story. It seemed to be a story, mainly, about Mikael Blomkvist, the investigative reporter who employs Salander's talents for clandestine research, and later, develops an extra-curricular interest in her.
In contrast, The Girl Who Played with Fire is much more focused on Salander, and helps to fill in some of the mysterious gaps about this troubled woman. This installment has us rooting for her to overcome her underdog status (in most cases) but still shows us how cheering for a deeply troubled, victimized woman can also leave us cringing, as she steps over boundaries that most of us do not--or would not, in the same situation--cross. We are however, secretly gleeful when she does, and proceeds to kicks some ass.
If I had one problem with this one, its because I'm a little forgetful of the names. The Swedish names, being as they are, outside my bubble of common knowledge, are even tougher to remember, and this story has lots of characters. Add to this, Larsson's artistic play with language--and here I am assuming that this isn't a translation issue. The text includes snappy dialog like: What's the latest from Sonderlåad?** Forget about: is that this lady, or that guy? I haven't got past thinking: is Sonderlåad a person, or a place?
That being said, this story has quite a bit of depth, and ties nicely to the first novel, answering many questions, while leaving others unanswered, and adding some new ones. Where Larsson, and Salander, will go in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is something I'm looking forward to finding out.
* Original Swedish title: Flickan som lekte med elden, or Men Who Hate Women. Translation by Reg Keeland
** I made up both the quote, and the name.