I recently posted my review of the Stieg Larsson book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. As this adventure was so wonderfully addictive, I hurriedly moved to the second part of his Millenium Trilogy called The Girl who Played with Fire. The "girl" in both of these books is one of the main protagonists, Lisbeth Salander. This young woman seems at first blush to be deranged, amoral, self-centered, psychotic, and anti-social. She looks like a teenage street tough, with chopped hair, tattoos, and piercings. She is rude, moody, gruff, and dark. At the end of Dragon Tattoo, we are just starting to understand that there is something very dark in her past that has scarred her deeply and caused her to believe that she can only rely on herself. Yet at the same time, there is something redeeming and refreshing about her that makes you care for her. Make no mistake though, if you cross her, you will be in big trouble. If you underestimate her, you will regret it. In this work, we start to understand who this person is and the horrors that she has been through. We understand why it is her against the world. Larsson has really developed a person in Lisbeth of such lucid darkness and raw emotion, that you really desire for her to find the peace that she is seeking.
This book was 724 pages in length in the paperback form that I had purchased, but it was a very quick read. Maybe I should say that I completed it in just a few days because once I started reading, the action and story line pulled me in so completely that I didn't want to stop. At several points along the way, during particularly climatic scenes, I found myself yelling out at the characters trying to help them or warn them. I became fully immersed in the unfolding drama. Part of the issue here is that the antagonist, Alexander Zalachenko (Zala), is such a unique and mottled character. He is deliciously evil. He is cut-throat, savage, egocentric, and possesses a stone cold heart. He has fully embraced his evil ways and will stop at nothing to protect his empire. Even more compelling and gripping in this story is the relationship between Zala and Lisbeth. Zala has formed Lisbeth into who she is today and Lisbeth has formed the mysterious Zala into who he has become.
This book ends with our heroine Lisbeth in a world of trouble after the dust settles in the battle to the finish between Lisbeth and Zala. Some loose ends appear to have been tied up, but if you think about it, you realize that the real story is just beginning. Now to the last book in the trilogy, The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.