The Girl Who Played with Fire (original title in Swedish: « Flickan som lekte med elden« ) is the second novel in the million-selling Millennium Trilogy by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson. It was published posthumously in Swedish in 2006 and in English in January 2009.
Mikael Blomkvist, publisher of Millennium magazine, has made his living exposing the crooked and corrupt practices of establishment Swedish figures. So when a young journalist 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.
He’s had no contact with tattoed wild-child and computer hacker extraordinaire Lisbeth Salander since they risked their lives on a terrifying hunt for a serial killer last year (see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). But unknown to Blomkvist, Salander has had contact with him – or at least, with his computer hard drive, which she has cloned and is monitoring from the vast new apartment she has bought with her fraudulently obtained fortune.
Repeatedly abused while young, Salander is a traumatized survivor of the care system in Sweden – but she’s no helpless victim. A punk avenging angel with boxing skills, a photographic memory and pathologically focussed on seeking out and punishing violent misogynists, Salander is drawn to the investigation on Blomkvist’s computer. So while Blomkvist and his fellow Millennium idealists research the sex industry according to the rules of good journalism, Salander – spurred on by the appalling case studies of teenage prostitution she finds on Blomkvists computer – takes matters into her own hands. She plots punishment for the traffickers, but before she can carry out her own brand of justice, she is accused of three murders, all connected to the sex trafficking expose about to be published in Millennium.
To avoid capture by the police, Salander vanishes. While the tabloids go wild at the idea of a “psychotic lesbian” on the run, Blomkvist tries despairingly to clear her name, though 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 shockingly close to home.