A disappointing favorite book


I revisited my favorite trilogy for the first time in a long time, Stieg Larsson's Millennium series. This time I read the second part, The Girl Who Played with Fire. 

The experience was quite different from what I had expected. I was disappointed with how flawed that book is. The book felt particularly weak compared to the first book in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I have read far too many times. In my opinion, the first book is close to a perfect crime novel, but the second part lacks that same craftsmanship. 

In terms of the murder plot, The Girl Who Played with Fire is boring and lacks suspense. The structure is odd, the beginning is disconnected, and the ending is abrupt. The meat of the book is entirely in how Lisbeth Salander's past is revealed to the reader and how she herself has to face it. This hook has served readers well, including me on previous reads. The Girl Who Played with Fire is not a great book as a standalone work, but as part of the series it more than serves its purpose. On Goodreads, Bookbeat and Storytel, the second book has received equally good or better star ratings than the first one. 

The reading experience sparked a couple of thoughts, which are not exactly groundbreaking:

One Good Character Goes a Long Way 

The driving force behind the Millennium trilogy is the character of Lisbeth Salander. Already in the first book, where Salander was a supporting character or at most the secondary main character, she stole the show. In the second book, Salander rises to become the most important character.

Stieg Larsson himself realized what a captivating character he had created when he elevated Salander's role. The Salander craze among readers did not get to influence him, as Larsson died before the publication of the first book in the series.

The Millennium trilogy's status as a landmark in crime fiction is largely due to the character of Salander. You can also see this from the fact that the English translation was marketed from the title onwards with Salander in front (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), and in the movies, Salander was the face on the posters.

While there are tons of legendary characters in crime fiction, I can't think of another character who has risen so clearly from a supporting role to become the driving force behind a book series.

The Appeal of a Book Series is Great 

The appeal of book series is, of course, nothing new in crime fiction. Most of the classics of the genre are series, starting with Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. People like to linger with familiar characters from one book to the next.

No change is to be expected. In the world of audiobooks, serialization works even better than in printed books. 

I too love book series. A fitting example is Jo Nesbø, whose standalone works are irrelevant to me, but every new book in the Harry Hole series is a cause for celebration.

I have built my own Leo Koski book series one book at a time. It has been important to me that each book is a standalone work that does not require the company of the other parts of the series. The approach is a bit like Dan Brown's with the Robert Langdon books. The main character is the same, but the stories are completely separate and a large part of the characters change from book to book.

Still, I feel drawn to also creating a book series where the long arc of the characters plays a more important role, a bit in the style of Lisbeth Salander. I have such plans as well in my idea storage, which is way too full at the moment.