This month I finally jumped on the bandwagon and read Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire. It is part two in the Swedish crime thriller Millenium trilogy, in which sex trafficking is an underlying theme. The back of the book invites readers to step into an engaging storyline:
Part blistering espionage, part riveting police procedural, and part piercing expose on social injustice, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a masterful, endlessly satisfying novel. Mikael Blomkvist, crusading publisher of the magazine Millenium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation. On the eve of its publication, two people are brutally murdered, and the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to his friend, Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist, convinced of Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation. Meanwhile, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous game of cat and mouse, which forces her to face her dark past.
Stieg Larsson’s website says that Lisbeth Salander, the feisty heroine in the novel, was modeled after “a grown-up version of Pippi Longstocking,” who is dysfunctional and has a hard time finding her place in society. She is certainly one of the most unique characters I have ever encountered in a novel. The storyline is quite captivating, and is one of those books that makes me want to develop some serious combat fighting skills! I can see why this series has become a bestseller all over the world this summer.
There are a few points I would like to make however:
First of all, this book is meant to be read as part of the series. I did not read the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which made it a bit more difficult to keep track of all the characters and their back stories. When I reached the end of the book I realized that to find out how the story finishes I have to read the next book in the series, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. If you are wanting to read this book, I would recommend reading the whole series.
Second, I picked up this book because sex trafficking is a significant part of the plot. In this regard I was a little disappointed. Sex trafficking is mentioned but not really explained. I kept waiting for the big revelation about the operation and its intricacies but that never came. The average person who does not know a lot about sex trafficking would not learn very much about it from this book. However, I have yet to read the sequel so maybe more will be revealed a bit later. In my opinion, a book like Priceless by Tom Davis would be a better choice for those who want to read a novel that explains what trafficking is and how it operates.
Third, I was quite disturbed by the unnecessary sex scenes in this book. I found it odd that in a book about sex trafficking the heroine seduces a 16-year-old boy. In addition to this, I think that Larsson’s description of Lisbeth’s bisexual encounters were more for his benefit than the reader’s, as they really did not play a significant part in the plot. Fortunately these scenes take place in the first half of the novel, leaving the second half to be a much more enjoyable and interesting read.
Would I recommend this book? Maybe. If you’re looking for a series full of political thrill and criminal investigation, go for it. If you are only reading it in order to learn about sex trafficking, I wouldn’t recommend this book in particular. I am pleased though that trafficking is increasingly a theme in literature and movies, and am now committed to finishing this series because I simply must find out how the story ends!