The Girl Who Played With Fire

No, not me, although that may be the case sometimes.

‘Here’s some more books from our neighbour,’ said Partner as he dumped the pile on the kitchen table. ‘Where does he get them all from? The top one’s meant to be good. It’s about Gibraltar.’ He disappeared back out of the door.

I decided to inspect. Ooooh. Stieg Larsson (always reminds me of Stig of the Dump, terrible book) and The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Some time ago, one or more bloggers suggested I might enjoy Larsson, so I pulled it off the pile and opened it up. I couldn’t see the connection between Scandinavia and Gibraltar though, but there was one. I think Gib, and Queensway Quay specifically, were mentioned all of three times.

Book cover
Book cover

But what about the book? It’s long, or perhaps even long drawn-out at nearly 600 pages, however, it’s eminently readable. No sickening gratuitous violence, the emphasis is far more psychological. The feisty heroine, Lisbeth Salander, is an excellent character. As is the female editor, Erica. Larsson created solid credible female characters, or maybe he created characters and just happened to give these two women’s names.

It was a fascinating read for me, as it combined journalism and sex trafficking. Nice mix of my trade (journalism) and feminism (preventing sex trafficking). As well as being a journalist, Larsson was a leftie and against violence to women. I’m going to like him aren’t I?

Reading The Pyromaniac was like reading Wallender, or rather, the images in my mind conjured up similar phlegmatic characters and interactions. Although there is action, and plenty of it, it’s all very distant third person for the most part. It probably breaks all the rules parroted by today’s creative writing schools in terms of style, even allowing for reading it in translation. But what it does do, is tell a good story, and introduce some good, and flawed, characters. It’s impossible not to like Salander, with her black and white view of the world and her own unique moral code.

My only criticism was the ending, which I found somewhat incredible. But hey this is fiction, so authors are allowed some leeway. More seriously, Larsson’s partner Eva Gabrielsson, has said that incidents in his book are based on real life. There is more to Sweden than Ikea and Volvo it seems.

Hitchens on Larsson.

How long?

On the theme of long books, I was asked recently about the ‘right’ length for a book. Now, if you are an established author, then you can write books that are 600 pages long. Or any length really. But if you aren’t, the standard advice is usually between 50,000 and 100,000 words. With, naturally, the mid range of 70–80,000 deemed popular.

Reading around, much of the current advice is to keep books short. Probably because people have the attention span of grasshoppers. And a bad short book is better than a bad long book. The truth is, a lot of authors could be a lot more ruthless in their self-editing, and prune out all the irrelevant dross that slows the story down and sends the reader to sleep. One of the good things about Larsson is that there isn’t any irrelevant text. Everything is tied into the plot, one way or another.

Sci fi, spec fic and fantasy get an opt-out on the book length thing. Authors have to explain their brave new world and that takes more words and pages. But if you are writing a book set in the here and now, or the recent past, or even the historical past, you don’t need to create a whole different world that the reader needs to understand. Horses for courses.

Here are some grey Nordic looking beach shots from the Costa del Sol. The sea, the sea?

My prize carrot. I think I spread it out over three meals …

My first carrot
My first carrot

Some houses for sale.

The obligatory dog shots.

69 comments on “The Girl Who Played With Fire

      • It is the type of book that interferes with my sleeping, eating and bathroom habits.
        For utensils, get a deep freezer; you can keep dirty dishes for longer that way. I am working a solution for laundry that doesn’t involve buying more clothes. For the floor; limit outdoor activities. There will be less dirt in the house. You are most welcome 😀.

        Liked by 2 people

        • The first day was ok, as I did something first. The second was not good as I picked up the book and did nothing until I had finished it.
          No unauthorised expenditure here on frivolities. Mostly, he does the washing up as I fail to see it. Laundry: I put it in th wash, he hangs out. Another good solution. Sorry, he hangs out the washing, just to be clear.
          The floor. Hmmm. The dog needs to go out. We also need food. Can’t get round that one. Apart from letting it get dirty because when it gets cleaned it loooks sooooo much better.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Bad news. It’s not in movie format, so I won’t read it. haha!

    Yeah, my attention span is a lot shorter than a grasshopper’s. I agree. It’s the same with a movie, but it’s worse when you watch and wait for the moment that something is supposed to happen and nothing happens. At the end of the movie you want to slap yourself for wasting your time watching it. LOL!

    Now we get to the great stuff! I love your sea photos and that beach bar is still my favourite. I will get drunk there and sleep on the beach, but only in my dreams.

    That is a beautiful carrot! And you managed to spread it over three meals? I would have eaten the whole thing right there and then!

    Good grief! Those houses look bad! Hopefully some millionaire will buy them and fix them up. I do love that two storey one.

    I hope you told Snowy you had to be the ‘slow coach’ because you were more busy taking photos of him and A and the beautiful scenes around you. When hubby and I could for walks, I also get left behind. Too busy seeing other interesting things around me. :D

    Great post and shots RS! I truly enjoyed this outing. Thanks for sharing. ♥


    • Good news:
      When A is watching films he turns them off if they are crap after a few minutes. I rarely watch them. More likely to watch good ones I’ve seen before. He found Reservoir Dogs recently so enjoyed that. Think I was busy or I’d have watched it too.

      The beach bar was totally different originally, then sat there unused and then got revamped by someone who has a bar in the village. Will see if I can find an early pic of it.

      I treated that carrot like gold dust! Because it was mine and organic, I didn’t need to peel it, so I used it in salads (grated), bolognaise sauce (grated) and the last bit went in with peas :D Grated makes it go much further.

      If someone can buy the houses cheap, it won’t cost much to restore them. They are a decent size, but on the main road :(

      Snows is very pack orientated. He needs everyone to be together. Probably stems from me disappearing to hospital, although he was ok when I was in Spain and A used to come back to Gib. But once he got jabbed and chipped and could cross the frontier, I guess he got used to us all being together. Sweetie 🐾 Thanks Sonel ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      • Awesome! I will look for it and see what I think of it.

        I’ve learned to do that as well and strangely enough, you start to know when it’s just a low-budget movie. When it doesn’t have some well-known actors in it, I lose interest.

        I am glad it was revamped. I would love to have a beach bar like that, but of course I will get my sons to run it. I will just laze on the beach with a margarita or something. Don’t even know what it tastes like. Or a Martini but it will have to have lots of olives in it. I will eat the olives. You can have the martini. LOL!

        I bet you did. Be glad I wasn’t there though. I love carrots and yes, they go a long way grated.

        That’s a fact. They would do well as a guest house, especially because they’re on the main road and use the double storey one as the main house. Makes me wish I was a billionaire. :D

        Hunting dogs are like that and yes, it was the same with Russel. When I went out with Simba and didn’t come back with him, I could see it was very traumatic for him as well. Still can’t talk about it without crying, so I’ll stop there.

        He sees you as his pack and will always worry about you. Even though Russel didn’t bond with me, he follows me everywhere when oldest son is working. When I sit and watch my movies or series, he would come and lie with me with his head on my foot. He is such a little darling. :D

        Big hugs to you and Snows and give him lots of kisses from me. ♥


        • It might be subtitled. So you would end up reading after all! Unless you speak Swedish. I like low-budget films. The first Mad Max was the best, the Tina Tirner one was not good. I’ve probably had two margaritas in my life at a Mexican restaurant. In Gateshead (UK) not Mexico. They were ok. I think we’d be fighting over the olives and the martini would probably get knocked over in the scrabble for olives!

          For some reason carrots don’t last long here, they seem to go sad quickly. My perfect one didn’t however, so fresh I guess. I’ve got some more coming up, so I hope one or two might be ready. Really pleased with the germination, first sowing didn’t work well, but subsequent one did. Tried carrots before but they didn’t thicken up enough, maybe lack of water? Def a winter crop in Spain.

          I’m used to single storey these days. Two storey for guest house and I’d live in the one with the roof falling in :D

          To be honest with Pippa, we were both so cut up that we honestly didn’t notice Snowy’s reaction. He seemed quiet for a few days. Since then, he’s def taken on more responsibility as pack guardian.

          He has clearly defined parameters. He will lie on the sofa with me, but if A watches a film in the bedroom he goes in there. If I’m not feeling well, I sleep on the sofa at night, and he often spends part of the night in the chair, whereas normally, he’ll be in bed with both of us. I guess R didn’t bond as closely with you because he knew Simba was yours. I’m sure he’ll be as close to you now as you want.

          Liked by 1 person

          • It won’t matter. Sometimes I do watch movies with sub-titles, but only if they’re very good. Wish I could speak Swedish. LOL!

            I agree. The first Mad Max was good. A bit violent and I agree, the one where Tina Turner played in wasn’t good.

            Never had one and yes, we will fight over those olives. hahahah! Let’s flush the martini’s and rather have a bottle of Olives on the table then. Then we can both eat as much as we want. LOL!

            It’s the same here. When hubby buys fresh carrots and there are any left, I usually cut them up and freeze them. I love carrot and potato mash. :D

            I hope to see some more shots of your carrot garden. Maybe you will have another one that will be bigger than this one. Let’s hope. :D

            Sadly enough in times like that it’s like I notice everything. It’s then as if I am ‘outside’ of myself. Some days I still are like that. Please give Snows a lot of hugs and kisses from me. ♥

            They are such sensitive little souls. I see R does the same and when C comes looking for him, R would look guilty at C, like trying to tell him ‘Awww, I was just here for a little bit.’ LOL! He’s such a caring and lively little darling.

            As a matter of fact, hubby and I went and picked him up the day we adopted him and when I tried to pick him up, he snapped at me. I didn’t blame him though because I knew he didn’t know what was going on. When we got home and let him loose, he immediately ran to oldest son and they clicked. It was even before he met Simba. When they did meet, they just sniffed each other and Russel looked at me, smiled and ran to C’s room. He does smile though. Too adorable for words. I will try and capture that smile one day. And yes, he is as close to me as I want. At this stage I don’t want to be too close, but I do love him. :D ♥

            Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s the thing with we journalists! We always fish for loopholes in But on a serious note, depending on the theme,I guess 250 words work fine for romance and perhaps 400 for thriller. What say! And, I loove the pics.
    Stay blessed.


  3. I read the three books and enjoyed them all, though they took me a long time to read. Larsson was brilliant and I’m only sorry that his partner did not inherit from his estate. That’s perhaps the saddest part of the whole thing — that a man who wrote about prejudice and the victimization of women should leave behind a common-law widow who ends up inheriting nothing, while the father and brother from whom he was long estranged get the bulk of his estate.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I so enjoyed the trilogy. The Husband gave it to me for Christmas a couple of years ago, and that was me: immersed in them, one after the other, and no crowbar could dislodge me. I agree that the translation was a little clumsy at times and yes, the plot also became a little far-fetched but I forgave that for Salander. I also found the Swedish culture interesting – very different from us. Also, in one of the books, Wallender takes to the country and his cottage is endowed, with among other things, a composting toilet….

    There has been a film of one or more of the books and while I much prefer reading (and if it’s a good read, I don’t care how many pages/words it is), it was pretty well done. It was the original Swedish one with sub-titles. Only saw it because it was on TV and found it by accident. I’ve not seen the US re-make. Probably won’t. Will read the trilogy again instead!


    • Ha! My partner bought me books for Christmas for a couple of years and then realised his mistake. Absolutely nothing got done for a few days, and he ended up cooking until,I’d finished the books.
      There were a couple of places where something didn’t make sense, so I put it down to translation, but for 98% of the time it was pretty good. I was thinking about a book I read in Spanish a while ago, and figured I could translate that. It’s primarily about conveying the sense and style, and I think that was well done with Fire Girl.
      Suspect the Swedish version would knock spots off a US one. I had a real thing for subtitled films at one point. Three colours (blue, white, red) was one of my very faves. And trop belle pour toi.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ha! Indeed!

        In my mind, a good translation manages to include appropriate idiom or what can pass as idiom. Whoever translate’s Deon Meyer’s work does quite a good job. I think anyway, but perhaps that’s influenced by the fact that I understand Afrikaans and they’ve managed to incorporate and translate it at the same time without it’s being clumsy.


        • Translation is interesting, I can read in Spanish and French (and used to read Latin at school) and what’s interesting is the overall impression a book leaves you with. I think that’s the most important effect a translation should have. It’s conveying thesense, not the literal meaning of words, which fits with your comments about idioms. I’ve not read Meyer (well, only Stephanie) but I’m sure it helps knowing Afrikaans. What I loathe in some works is where authors use foreign phrases and then translate them literally afterwards eg

          ‘Buenos días,’ said Miguel. Miguel said good morning.

          Aaaagh. What’s wrong with saying, ‘I wished him good morning too’.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I saw the Dragon Tattoo movie. Quite enjoyed it but the violence at end got to me.
    I don’t know what it is but for some reason these days such violence freaks me out.
    Otherwise, the acting was great.

    Novel word count?
    Dunno, what I’ve written ranges from 50k to just over 100k.
    To get up to 600 pages must take a lot of stamina and skill. Something I don’t yet possess.


    • One morning is as good as any other. I was surprised with the violence at the end of Dragon, which was silly as I’d read Fire first. Oh, getting ahead of myself. Have now read Dragon. Larsson gave it a different title originally about men hating women which I think is more logical having read the book.

      Writing words is easy. Writing good words isn’t. Anyway rumour has it shorter novels are in vogue. Something to do with the average idiot’s attention span I suspect.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Did you enjoy your carrot?? I love the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo trilogy. I read them very quickly one after the other in an all consuming fashion. Great tales and of course a mention of Gib. I think the Rock Hotel features as well as Queensway Quay sand maybe Irish Town too – but I maybe wrong :-)


  7. Oh dear am I the anti? I enjoyed book one, even if a bit too many dull subplots and thought book two was easily 150 pages to long – the first 100 pages utterly irrelevant to everything that followed. Book three I thought incredible from the start with the brain shot survival in a shallow grave through to the end so my suspension of disbelief was stretched to breaking point. I’ll give him that he wrote a quick moving story and I hate not to finish what I’ve started so I made it to the end. But there’s no way I am going to re read and certainly never recommend. It felt to me that, because he died tragically with a good first book they left the rest alone. I thought 2 and 3 needed a good editor! As they say we are all different in our tastes. Loved the carrot!


    • Interesting comments Geoff. Valid to say any long book could be edited. But I like to immerse myself in long books sometimes so Tolstoy, Balzac, Proust, Conrad, Henry James, Rushdie, García Márquez suit my mood sometimes. Not that I’m saying Larsson is the equivalent, but if the style suits and so does the plot it’s nice to linger and enjoy.
      What annoyed me were some sloppy translations/editing where if I’d been editing I’d have asked a bit more about what it said in the Swedish because I thought the English wasn’t quite clear or didn’t flow. But overall, I’ve enjoyed 1 and 2.

      Hoping I may have another carrot soon. The excitement of gardening eh!


  8. Stig of the Dump… now that takes one back! But come on! How can anyone NOT like it? To say something like that is blasphemous! 😭 😀

    Love the coastal shots, btw!

    I’ve read the tattoo girl trilogy. Very good reads! Seen the origianal movies too… Swedish with Eng subs, also very good. Far better than the modern take with Daniel Craig.
    You’ve done a really thorough job in your review and I agree with it whole-heartedly. I really like the strong female characters, especially Lisbeth. Mm… I never put these books on Goodreads… anyway, time for that later!


  9. As a professional writer and former journalist I am not surprised that this book doesn’t contain irrelevant material or is overwritten. I read it a while back and glad I did – a really good book – not enjoyable in the traditional usage of the word. A real eye-opener as a Swede living in the UK I had no idea of the level of corruption etc underneath the beauty of Sweden and its people. Have you read about the battle his former partner, Eva had with his father and brother. He was ostracised from both for most of his adult life but as he died without a will they got everything.


    • Yes I did read about it. Very sad. I read that one of the reasons they didn’t marry was because there is some law that means your address is published if you marry and he’d already received threats by then. Sad tale all round really. :(

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Your carrot is a beauty… mine are tiddlers… I have them in pots, and after several months thought they’d be ready for picking and a nice vege bake… haha the two I selected were not even an inch long… so I put them back, which I discovered several days & two wilted carrots later doesn’t work 😕But I persist… next year we will have a raised bed garden.


    • Ha! Got an even better one this time. Managed to make two salads and a casserole out of it. Excitedly picked a couple more later and … same as your experience although slightly longer. Do they take ages to grow or what! Raised bed or not.

      Liked by 1 person

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