Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times provides a detailed review of The Girl Who Played With Fire ahead of its US release date, finding the memorable heroine the main attraction: “Lisbeth Salander, the angry punk hacker in Stieg Larsson’s 2008 best seller, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” was one of the most original and memorable heroines to surface in a recent thriller: picture Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft endowed with Mr. Spock’s intense braininess and Scarlett O’Hara’s spunky instinct for survival.” She says the book suffers from an excess of coincidence, but “boasts an intricate, puzzlelike story line that attests to Mr. Larsson’s improved plotting abilities, a story line that simultaneously moves backward into Salander’s traumatic past, even as it accelerates toward its startling and violent conclusion.” Though some of the elements of the book are over-the-top and melodramatic, in Kakutani’s estimation, the main characters’ originality makes it all worthwhile. And given she isn’t the Times’s usual reviewer of popular fiction, she finds originality to be a surprise and uses the dreaded “transcend” word:
As he did in “Dragon Tattoo,” Mr. Larsson — a former journalist and magazine editor — mixes precise, reportorial descriptions with lurid melodramatics lifted straight from the stock horror and thriller cupboard. . . . The ending of “The Girl Who Played With Fire” — like the revelation about Salander’s past, which gives the book its title — comes straight out of a horror movie: it’s gory, harrowing and operatically over the top. The reason it works is the same reason that “Dragon Tattoo” worked: Mr. Larsson’s two central characters, Salander and Blomkvist, transcend their genre and insinuate themselves in the reader’s mind through their oddball individuality, their professional competence and, surprisingly, their emotional vulnerability.