Equally as riveting as the first installment, this second offering more than lives up to expectations. While racing and interweaving plots are undoubtedly the star attraction; a wealth of character development gives this book the ballast lacking in many other thrillers. Salander is a heroine who gains both our sympathy and condemnation. These conflicting feelings are played with throughout the book to great effect. There is however another less admirable conflict. While Salander seems to be a believable product of our times, there are times where Larsson tests his readers too much; making Salander almost into a super hero. However, the mystery surrounding her life slowly clears as the plot progresses and we gradually see her emerge into the three dimensional character the first book only hinted at.
Blomkvist remains central but takes more of a supporting role as a whole new array of characters enter the scene. From lesbian lover Mimi to the totally unexpected boxing champion, Larsson deftly populates this story with a fresh and charismatic cast. Frequently his supporting characters are well worn clichés, such as the biker bad guys. Somehow, and this must be testament to his talent, he manages to get away with it. I expect this might be because there is a complete lack of pretention in his style, he knows these characters are clichés, the reader knows it, and both just understand exactly what is going on.
Through all the twists and turns my eyes hardly left the page. There were brief moments of emotion and occasional laugh out loud funnies. Come the end though I was left with something like that feeling you have on leaving McDonalds: after eating a Big Mac, a little high, I’m yet utterly unsatisfied and craving for more. This is not high art, it is not trying to be, but it is a crime thriller of great dexterity, wit, sophistication and charm.
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