The Girl Who Played with Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire  
1st edition (Swedish)
Author(s) Stieg Larsson
Original title Flickan som lekte med elden
Translator Reg Keeland, pseudonym of Steven T. Murray
Country Sweden
Language Swedish
Series Millennium series
Genre(s) Crime/Mystery novel
Publisher Norstedts Förlag (Swedish), Quercus (English)
Publication date 2006 (Sweden), 2009 (United Kingdom)
Media type Print (Paperback & Hardback)
Pages 631
Preceded by The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Followed by The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

The Girl Who Played with Fire (Swedish: Flickan som lekte med elden) is the second novel in the best-selling "Millennium series" by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson. It was published posthumously in Swedish in 2006 and in English in January 2009.

The book features many of the characters that appeared in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, among them the title character, Lisbeth Salander, a social misfit, and Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative journalist and publisher of Millennium magazine.

Widely seen as a critical success, The Girl Who Played with Fire was also (according to The Bookseller magazine) the first and only translated novel to be number one in the UK hardback chart.[1]


Plot summary

Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, has made his living exposing the crooked and corrupt practices of established Swedish figures. So when a young journalist named Dag Svensson approaches him with a meticulously researched thesis about sex trafficking in Sweden and those in high office who abuse underage girls, Blomkvist immediately throws himself into the investigation.

Blomkvist plans to run the story in an upcoming issue of Millennium. But shortly before the printing of the story, Dag Svensson and his partner are found shot dead in their apartment. Lisbeth Salander quickly becomes the primary murder suspect, as the police discover incriminating evidence against her at the scene of the crime. The next day, Salander's guardian, Nils Bjurman, is also found dead in his bedroom, shot with the same weapon.

Blomkvist tries to clear her name, although he can’t find her anywhere. When he does eventually make contact, it is to discover that Salander is more embroiled in his investigation than he could have thought possible. It turns out that for Salander, the trail of guilt leads close to home.


Main Characters

  • Mikael Blomkvist, journalist and publisher at Millennium magazine.
  • Lisbeth Salander, antisocial private investigator, hacker, and accused triple-murderer.
  • Alexander Zalachenko (Zala), alias Karl Axel Bodin, former Soviet spy who turns out to be deeply involved in Salander's dark past.
  • Ronald Niedermann a.k.a. "The Giant", Zalachenko's henchman who is connected to Salander in way which she herself does not realize.
  • Carl-Magnus Lundin, president of Svavelsjö Motorcycle Club (Svavelsjö MC). Sells drugs and is commissioned to kidnap Salander for Zala.

Related to Millennium Magazine

  • Erika Berger, editor in chief of Millennium magazine and Blomkvist's on-off lover.
  • Malin Eriksson, managing editor of Millennium magazine.
  • Christer Malm, art director and designer of Millennium magazine.
  • Dag Svensson, journalist who is writing an exposé on the Swedish sex trade.
  • Mia Johansson, Dag's girlfriend and doctoral student.
  • Henry Cortez, part-time journalist at Millennium magazine.
  • Lotta Karim, part-time journalist at Millennium magazine.
  • Monika Nillson, journalist at Millennium magazine.

Related to Milton Security

  • Dragan Armansky, Salander's former boss and director of Milton Security.
  • Sonny Bohman, former policeman and part of the team Armansky assigns to support the police investigation.
  • Johan Fräklünd, chief of operations at Milton Security and assigned to support police investigation.
  • Niklas Hedström, works for Milton Security and is assigned to support police investigation but sabotages it. A heart problem kept him from becoming a police man. He hates Salander since she caught him blackmailing a client.

Related to Police Investigation

  • Jan Bublanski, police officer in charge of Salander's case, nicknamed Officier Bubble.
  • Sonja Modig, a detective in Bublanski's team.
  • Richard Ekstrom, prosecutor of Salander's case.
  • Hans Faste, working in Bublanski's team, causing trouble with his sexually discriminating attitude.
  • Curt Andersson, police officer in Bublanski's team.
  • Jerker Holmberg, police man in Bublanski's team.

Other Characters

  • Annika Gianinni, Blomkvist's sister and an attorney.
  • Miriam "Mimmi" Wu, kickboxer, university student and Salander's sometime lover.
  • Nils Bjurman, attorney and Salander's current guardian since Palmgren had a stroke.
  • Paolo Roberto, former professional boxer and Salander's boxing instructor.
  • Gunnar Björck, a Swedish Security Police officer and former punter abusing women. He is also the lead source for Blomkvist on Zalachenko.
  • Holger Palmgren, Lisbeth Salander's former guardian; she visits him in a rehabilitation home and they play a game of chess together. In her memoir "There Are Things I Want You to Know" About Stieg Larsson and Me, Eva Gabrielsson tells readers that this chess game was inspired by her brother Björn who Stieg Larsson used to play the game with and with whom he was very close. [2]
  • Greger Beckman, Erika Berger's husband
  • George Bland, teen boy Salander has an affair with in Grenada.
  • Richard Forbes, reverend and Salander's hotel room neighbour in Grenada.
  • Geraldine Forbes, wife of Richard Forbes and abused by him.
  • Sonny Nieminen, part of Svavelsjö MC and involved in trying to kidnap Salander.


The English version was published in January 2009 and immediately became a number 1 bestseller.[1] It received reviews from most of the major UK newspapers. Many reviewers agreed with Joan Smith at the Sunday Times that this novel was “even more gripping and astonishing than the first”. Carla McKay at the Daily Mail said that, like its predecessor, the book is "not just a thrilling read, but tackles head-on the kind of issues that Larsson himself railed against in society".[3]

Most of the reviewers concentrated mainly on the character of Lisbeth Salander, with Mark Lawson at the Guardian saying that "the huge pleasure of these books is Salander, a fascinating creation with a complete and complex psychology".[4] Boyd Tonkin in The Independent saying that "the spiky and sassy Lisbeth Salander – punkish wild child, traumatised survivor of the "care" system, sexual adventurer and computer hacker of genius" was "the most original heroine to emerge in crime fiction for many years".[5]

Cultural notes

The character of Paolo Roberto is an actual person. He is a former boxer and television chef who has also dabbled in politics. He played himself in the film based on the book.[6][7]

In the first part of the book, Salander is exploring Dimensions in Mathematics apparently written by L. C. Parnault and published by Harvard University Press in 1999. On February 9, 2009, Harvard University Press announced on their website that this book, as well as the author, is purely fictitious.[8]

The mysterious Karl Axel Bodin, in whose house Salander finds Zalachenko and Niedermann, is a historical name. Bodin was born in Karlstad and later moved to Sundsvall. He went to Norway to join the Waffen-SS; at the end of World War II, he was attached to the country's branch of the Gestapo. At the war's end, Bodin and another Swedish volunteer stole a car in an attempted escape to Sweden. The car's owner saw the theft, and soon a gunfight erupted in which the car owner and Bodin's friend were shot. Bodin left his friend behind and crossed the border.[9]

Film and TV adaptations


External links

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