Monday, May 31, 2010

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (audio)

Book Description:
Lisbeth Salander, the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker, is a wanted woman. Two Millennium journalists about to expose the truth about the sex trade in Sweden are brutally murdered, and Salander's prints are on the weapon. Her history of unpredictable and vengeful behaviour makes her an official danger to society - but no one can find her anywhere.

Meanwhile, Mikael Blomkvist, editor-in-chief of Millennium, will not believe what he hears on the news. Knowing Salander to be fierce when fearful, he is desperate to get to her before she is cornered and alone. As he fits the pieces of the puzzle together, he comes up against some hardened criminals, including the chainsaw-wielding 'blond giant' - a fearsomely huge thug who can feel no pain.

Digging deeper, Blomkvist also unearths some heart-wrenching facts about Salander's past life. Committed to psychiatric care at age 12, declared legally incompetent at 18, this is a messed-up young woman who is the product of an unjust and corrupt system. Yet Lisbeth is more avenging angel than helpless victim - descending on those that have hurt her with a righteous anger terrifying in its intensity and truly wonderful in its outcome.

Another great book continuing the story of Lizbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. The book had a rambling beginning, we follow Lizbeth as she is living it up in the Caribbean, licking her wounds and avoiding Mikael Blomkvist. She does not want to have anything to do with him, much to his surprise and chagrin, of course she gives him no explanation, she just cuts him out of her life. While in the Caribbean, she faces down a hurricane and prevents a brutal husband from killing his rich socialite wife. Sort of an odd side story that has no bearing on the rest of the plot once Lizbeth returns to Sweden and buys herself a multi-million dollar apartment and virtually assumes a new identity.

Still, she finds it too irresistible not to hack into Blomkvist's computer at Millenium and see what they're up to at the magazine. She comes across the upcoming articles and issue they're working on to expose the sex trade and trafficking industry. This leads to all sorts of problems that ensue - mainly Lizbeth is placed at the scene of the crime of three brutal murders (I nearly clapped about one of them - you'll know why when you read it) and a major hunt is on for Lizbeth. Mikael, who discovers two of the dead bodies, is not convinced of her guilt and takes on another crusade to find her and prove her innocence. In so doing, much of her past is revealed and finally we, the readers, learn more of Lizbeth's childhood, who her parent's were, her twin sister and what "all the evil" is that began when she was twelve years old. The book has a cliffhanger ending which makes the recently released and last book in the trilogy a must read.

This novel was not as disturbing and brutally graphic as it's predecessor, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but it has it's moments. Whereas the last one dealt with incest and serial murders, this one centers on crime and the sex trade in Europe, involving the murder of young prostitutes and numerous other illegal activities by a syndicate of thugs and gangsters all working for the mysterious and all-knowing Zala. Who is this Zala, and how does Salander's corrupt and detestable guardian, Nils Bjurman know him?

On audio, I was riveted and mesmerized by the excellent narration by Simon Vance, who could read the phone book aloud and I would happily listen. I wholeheartedly recommend this series if you like crime thrillers. Lizbeth is an amazing heroine, so different from most women. Strong yet incredibly vulnerable, here we get a peek into her psyche (but not much). We're scared for her, but also confident she can take care of herself, but by the end, it's pretty dicey, and thankfully her friend, Mikael is on her side, whether she wants him there or not.

Now onto The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, which will be a bittersweet read. A pity that the author died before his books were published, he was a great talent and it's very sad and tragic that he died so unexpectedly and at such a young age. The world lost a master storyteller.


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