The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson

According to, the first in the Millenium series, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, "is a thriller that crackles with stunning twists". The second book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, introduced crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist and punk hacker savant Lisbeth Salander. In this third book, Stieg Larsson's heroine, Salander, once again finds herself paired with journalist Mikael Blomkvist on the trail of a sinister criminal enterprise. Mikael Blomkvist, who is a journalist and part owner of the magazine Millennium, and his sometime partner, Lisbeth Salander, are at it again. Blomkvist's magazine intends to publish a themed edition about the sex trade. A freelance journalist and his researcher girlfriend, are writing the main articles. They are found shot to death in their apartment. Who could have seen that coming? Me, for one. They were going to blow the lid off Sweden's sex trade mafia and reveal a lot of big names who were involved in exploiting kidnapped women whose services are sold for money. As I was reading it, I thought, aren't they afraid of being killed? Wouldn't the magazine have hired some type of security? This was a weak link in the story. It turns out that Lisbeth Salander (usually referred to by her last name, Salander, much like writers do for men) is the prime suspect and Blomkvist thinks she couldn't have done it and tries to prove her innocent. Why would he think she couldn't kill someone when he hasn't had a conversation with her in 2 yrs and she has actually killed people? Hmmmm, another weak link in the story.

I only read 1/3 of the book and had to quit. The author is a good writer and the story kept you interested. But it was overshadowed by all the sex. I kept hoping this would be the last explicitly detailed sex scene only to read on and find myself in another one so I quit. I wasn't willing to wade through any more smut. Larsson indulged in every perverted sexual fantasy he could think of and I only read 1/3 of the book. Salander manages to engage in pedophilia, lesbian sex, multiple partners with "no strings attached", and domination. Editor Berger is involved in multiple adulterous affairs, three-ways with and without her husband, orgies (and all with her husband's approval). Blomkvist is the "square" because he only has sex with women, EVERY WOMAN HE MEETS and especially likes older women. Now Berger decides to do this expose on Sweden's sex trade? These characters have the morals of alley cats. Why would such people want to shine the light on the underside of the sex business? As though they are on some moral high ground? Where do people like this draw the line? How far do they go before it's "over the line"? Well, let's see. Salander seduces a black boy in Grenada by helping him with his Algebra homework. She's an adult, he's supposedly a boy. She's rich, he's poor. Yet she takes advantage of him to have sex. Isn't that pedophilia? Don't people go to jail for that? She sets herself up to be raped by her legal guardian while she videotapes it. Then she kidnaps him, ties him up, rapes him, tattoos him with "...pervert" and then blackmails him to do everything she says or she will release the tape. She hacks into people's computers and breaks into their business offices. She's able to steal enough of a fortune to keep her free and easy for life. And she kills as needed. Did I mention that these are the GOOD GUYS!?!

Karl Stig-Erland Larsson (15 August 1954 – 9 November 2004) renamed himself Steig Larsson so as not to have the same name as his friend and fellow author, Stig Larsson. A Swedish journalist and writer, he began the Millenium series as an after-hours hobby. By Larsson’s late teens, he was interested in politics and he became an ardent supporter of the local Socialists. He became a graphic designer, a photographer. He also was writing and doing research for Searchlight, a British antifascist, antiracist magazine. In 1995 he helped create Expo, a Swedish organization whose mission statement was “to study and survey antidemocratic, right-wing extremist and racist tendencies.” He was the editor for their magazine, Expo. This made him a thorn in the side of the people and groups he was writing about and his life was threatened. Larsson was initially a political activist for the Kommunistiska Arbetareförbundet (Communist Workers League). He was also an editor and co-editor for science fiction fanzines.

He lived with his long time girlfriend, Eva Gabrielsson, an architect. Eva Gabrielson said that he wanted to write novels as a sort of retirement income. He had finished 2 of the books and was working on the 3rd before he even sought publishing. He died of a sudden massive heart attack before he saw any of them published. When he died he was working on an unfinished 4th novel. Because of threats against his life, it was rumoured that he had been killed but it seems that it really was a heart attack. He was only 50 yrs old but did not take care of his health and was a smoker. Eva Gabrielsson found a 1977 will that left everything to the Umea branch of the Communist Workers League (now the Socialist Party). But the will was unwitnessed and therefore invalid. Since he and Eva were unmarried, everything went to his father and brother. She retained her half of their apartment and has retained his laptop with the unfinished 4th novel. There were hard feelings between the family and Eva. The family finally released the other half ownership of the apartment to her for nothing. But things are still not good between them. This should be a warning to all those who live together - the unexpected can happen and leaves the survivor without protection or provision. At least, in America, there are "common law" marriages when you've lived together long enough, but not in Sweden. If Larsson's father and brother (his family) inherited everything, wouldn't that include the unfinished manuscript on his laptop that Gabrielsson is holding? It was Steig Larsson's work and, evidently, by law, the family inherits everything, wouldn't that include this 4th work and any income it generates? Fortunately, I'm not a legal expert and just wonder... who will it benefit? What good would it do her to withhold it? Is it just to keep the Larsson's from benefitting? Who knows?

Then there are those who say Larsson wasn't a good enough writer to have written the best sellers. Did he really write them? Being a journalist doesn't necessarily mean you can write a best selling novel, much less two best sellers (and maybe a third best seller). Much like a short order cook can't necessarily prepare a gourmet meal. Could Gabrielsson claim that she had a hand in writing the books or the storylines? Is that how she plans to cash in on that unfinished manuscript on his laptop that she is withholding? Here is what the article in the New York Times had to say.

New York Times
Published: May 17, 2010

"Gabrielsson herself has been evasive, in at least one interview hinting at something like co-authorship and in another backing away from that position. She now says that she has been misquoted so often that she will no longer discuss the issue and that the whole story will come out in her own book, to be published in France this fall. Nevertheless, I tried to press her a little. Is it fair to say, I asked, that while Larsson may have shown the books to her or discussed them with her, he was the author?

'I’m not sure you could say that,' she said and paused. 'He did certainly write them himself ­— I think that’s fair.'

'But if he wrote them, then isn’t he the author?' I asked, a little baffled. 'Or is that too simplistic?'
She smiled and said, 'Yes.'”

As much of a hit as these books have been I cannot recommend this one to anyone. The language is foul, the sex is constant and explicit. I took it back to the library.