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The Girl Who Played With Fire - Stieg Larsson Three people are dead and Lisbeth Salander's finger prints are on the murder weapon. Can Mikael Blomkvist clear her name before the police find her? And what does Lisbeth's situation have to do with an expose of the Swedish sex trade two of the murder victims were working on?

I was afraid The Girl Who Played With Fire would suffer from the sophomore jinx. I'm pleased to say it did not.

Larsson must have figured out he had a good thing in Lisbeth Salander while working on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo because she's the primary focus of this, the sequel. Actually, it's not all that much like its predecessor. TGWTDT was a mystery and TGWPWF is a faster paced thriller.

The structure of the two books is fairly similar: a slow build up to a lightning storm. Honestly, I can't figure out why these books work so well for me. They both begin slow and have a lot of extraneous details I think might have been pruned had Larsson been alive when they were accepted by a publisher, notably the oddly specific minutae of the characters' everyday life and the prominence of brand names. Still, once I started reading them, they kind of took over my life for a few days.

The Girl Who Played With Fire is, in a way, an exploration of Lisbeth Salander's past. Where The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo barely scratched the surface, this book did some strip-mining. Since the villains were players in the sex trade, they were not sympathetic and quite vile. The action was even more brutal than in the previous book and there was a lot more of it. Without giving too much away, Lisbeth Salander is so tough there should be an internet meme dedicated to how much of a bad ass she is. "If Chuck Norris had a sex change and gained 50% more damage-inflicting skills, he would be Lisbeth Salander" or something to that effect.

I felt that the parts of the story about Lisbeth eclipsed the other parts of the story by a wide margin, a good thing in my book. I wasn't that interested in the everyday business of running Millennium or who was falling for Mikael "The Ladies Man" Blomkvist anyway.

I guess I should bring this review to a thrilling conclusion before I start giving away plot points. I enjoyed The Girl Who Played With Fire even more than I did the previous volume. Five easy stars.