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CR3 #4: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

It took me a VERY long time to get into The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Those first fifty or so pages describing the Swedish banking system very nearly lost me. However, I figured that since nearly every other person I saw on the train was reading the damn thing, it MUST get better. I was happy I persevered, since once the mystery got rolling, I couldn't put it down.

The Girl Who Played With Fire picks up about a year after the end of Dragon Tattoo. We start out immediately with Lisbeth Salander, who is involved in a near-murder and a hurricane right off the bat. I was psyched, because I though perhaps Larsson had managed to fix his pacing problems in this book. Unfortunately, immediately after that excitement, progress slowed to a crawl again. I didn't have as much difficulty sticking it out this time, since I knew that it would get better, but there was still some very dull spots.

The plot revolves around sex-trafficking, some brutal murders, and secrets from both Lisbeth and Sweden's pasts. Mikael Blomkvist is also back, using his investigative skills to try and solve the murder of two colleagues while doing his best to keep Lisbeth out of trouble. It's a pretty good mystery, with several enjoyable twists and turns.

I really love the characters of Salander and Blomkvist, and they are joined by some interesting new police detectives, including Sonja Modig and "The Bubble." Unfortunately, there are also about 25 other new characters who get to have passages from their points of view, and this can get confusing. Also (this is totally an American problem, and it really embarrasses me to admit I have it) I had some real trouble keeping the characters straight because several have very similar names.

I'd say I would say that despite those issues, I still enjoyed this book a lot. It's rare to find a mystery that I can't solve by the halfway point, and this novel kept me guessing. In addition, Lisbeth Salander is a great character; In my opinion, she's a heroine in the Buffy Summers vein--strong, smart, resourceful, and tough...though clearly deeply scarred by her past and flawed in her relationships with others. Blomkvist is also great, particularly in his stubborn determination to to befriend Lisbeth.

I am now reading the final in the trilogy, and will let you know how that is as soon as I finish.

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