This Week, I Read… (2017 #34)

115 - The Girl Who Played With Fire

#115 – The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson

Considering how much I loved The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I’m surprised I didn’t enjoy this more. I can’t pin down the exact reason why–it might be a lot of small issues instead of a few big ones.

The narrative style is still simple and direct, which made this 700+ page tome a quicker read than its page count would suggest–but since I was familiar with the style this time, the flaws stuck out more. Do I care about all the food Lisbeth buys? Or how many sandwiches Mikael eats? There are so many mundane details clogging the text.

And at times, I felt really uncomfortable with the way both mental illness and non-straight sexualities were discussed by the characters. Yes, some of them were unredeemable assholes for many reasons, so if they’re throwing slurs around I don’t mind so much. But even the “good” characters slipped a fair bit. (Though credit were credit is due, the actual word “bisexual” does appear in the text, in reference to Lisbeth, who clearly is bi based on her in-story relationships, even if she doesn’t call herself that. Her female lover does–close enough for me, because Lisbeth doesn’t seem like the type of person to bother labeling herself, and that’s not the author copping out.)

I guess the ultimate problem for me is pacing. The search for Lisbeth by the police/media/Mikael takes most of the middle of the book, and since we the readers know she didn’t commit the murders she’s accused of, it felt really tedious. Then the actual murderer isn’t revealed by deduction, but by a POV section from his perspective where he thinks about having done it. (We did already meet him before that, so his existence wasn’t a surprise, but I felt the same way reading that passage as I did when a video game character dies off screen, in so-called “box text.” A botched climactic reveal.)

I didn’t hate it, though, and I already¬† have the third book in the original trilogy, so I’ll keep going. (I already don’t plan to read the extra books in the series written by another author–I just don’t do that, whether it’s the recent-ish continuation of the Dune series, or the Wheel of Time, which I gave up on long before Robert Jordan’s passing and didn’t care when Brandon Sanderson finished it.)

And that’s it for this week, because this took most of the week, and then I picked up the next Outlander book, which clocks in just shy of 1000 pages, so yeah–not finished with it yet.

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