At the beginning of The Girl Who Played with Fire, Lisbeth Salander is now independently wealthy, thanks to her involvement with bringing down corrupt businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström. Returning to Sweden after a year of traveling the world, she starts thinking about her future.

Mikael Blomkvist has triumphantly returned to his position at Millennium, but remains baffled by Salander’s cutting him off from her life after their return from Hedestad the year before.  He is working with promising young journalist Dag Svensson and Svensson’s girlfriend, Mia Johansson, on a book and an edition of Millennium dedicated to sex trafficking in Sweden—a project that promises to be a shocking, unprecedented exposé. Dag and Mia are killed in their apartment shortly before the magazine’s publication, and much to Blomkvist’s horror, Lisbeth Salander’s fingerprints are on the murder weapon. Matters only become worse when Salander’s guardian, Nils Bjurman, is also found dead. Even as the Swedish public vilifies Salander and shocking secrets about her early life are exposed, Blomkvist remains determined to prove that his one-time friend and collaborator did not kill anyone. As Blomkvist struggles to make the authorities reconsider Salander’s guilt, Salander herself is forced to deal with the demons of her past, and her own connection to the story Dag Svensson , Mia Johansson, and Blomkvist were determined to tell.

This is an even more complicated thriller than its predecessor, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and while it did occasionally get a bit overwhelming, it was almost impossible to put down. The plot is, as is the case with many thrillers, a bit far-fetched, but it is exciting and engrossing nonetheless; I stayed up much later than I should have several nights because I was so anxious to see what happened next. There are quite a few surprises along the way, including some revelations about Salander that were very different from what I expected. The social commentary is even more scathing than in the previous novel, yet it still feels organic to the plot. I expect the same from The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the final installment in the trilogy, which I just began reading.

Once again, though, Lisbeth Salander is what stands out more than anything or anyone else in this book. She only became more remarkable as I learned more about her. She’s one of the most morally complex, antisocial characters I’ve ever encountered, but also one of the strongest and smartest. It’s impossible not to root for her, even if almost none of the other characters do.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest picks up right where The Girl Who Played with Fire leaves off. Considering how this book ended, I’m expecting to stay up way too late a few more nights, unable to stop reading.

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