We present a systematic exposition of the Lagrangian field theory for the massive spin-2 field generated in higher-derivative gravity upon reduction to a second-order theory by means of the appropriate Legendre transformation. It has been noticed by various authors that this nonlinear field overcomes the well-known inconsistency of the theory for a linear massive spin-2 field interacting with Einstein's gravity. Starting from a Lagrangian quadratically depending on the Ricci tensor of the metric, we explore the two possible second-order pictures usually called "(Helmholtz-)Jordan frame" and "Einstein frame." In spite of their mathematical equivalence, the two frames have different structural properties: in Einstein frame, the spin-2 field is minimally coupled to gravity, while in the other frame it is necessarily coupled to the curvature, without a separate kinetic term. We prove that the theory admits a unique and linearly stable ground state solution, and that the equations of motion are consistent, showing that these results can be obtained independently in either frame (each frame therefore provides a self-contained theory). The full equations of motion and the (variational) energy-momentum tensor for the spin-2 field in Einstein frame are given, and a simple but non-trivial exact solution to these equations is found. The comparison of the energy-momentum tensors for the spin-2 field in the two frames suggests that the Einstein frame is physically more acceptable. We point out that the energy-momentum tensor generated by the Lagrangian of the linearized theory is unrelated to the corresponding tensor of the full theory. It is then argued that the ghost-like nature of the nonlinear spin-2 field, found long ago in the linear approximation, may not be so harmful to classical stability issues, as has been expected.