In the second of his three volume series centered on the remarkable researcher and hacker Lisbeth Salandar and journalist Mikael Blomkvist, Larsson has delivered a totally engrossing page-turner. About to publish a book that reveals many dirty secrets concerning the international sex trade in Sweden, Blomkvist is caught up in a deadly race for the truth when his two authors are murdered and Salandar is accused of the crime. Larsson touches on corruption at all levels in this tale of women used and abused, treated like any other imported illegal product and powerless to protest. From low level johns to misogynist cops, from dark psychologists to supersecret intelligence agencies, many layers of Swedish society come under Larsson’s microscope. It is not a pretty picture.
Salandar, back in Sweden after an extended sabbatical, has grown somewhat from the character in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but remains hard-core, justifiably paranoid, blessed with almost magical techie powers (maybe a bit too magical), and an impressive command of several forms of combat. She is, as usual, totally victimized and misportrayed by the powers that be, and needs all her savvy to try to right the latest wrongs. Blomkvist is perplexed by Salandar’s unwillingness to communicate with him, but he has had girl-troubles before. He remains what he was in volume 1, a dedicated, moral actor trying to use his skills to make Sweden a better, or at least more honest, place.
Blomkvist and Salandar are characters one can care about and the subject matter makes for pretty stark, sometimes cartoonish, delineations between good and evil. Maybe a bit more ambiguity would have worked too. But that is a quibble. This is a fun read, a book you will not want to put down, one that leaves you panting for volume 3.