Last Rituals – Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Title – Last Rituals

Author – Yrsa Sigurdardottir (translator Bernard Scudder)

Published – 2009 (paperback)

Genre – Crime

When I finished The Body Finder on the way into the office I needed to find something to read for the journey home. After a quick scout round the office I found a copy of “Last Rituals” & thought I would give it a go – and found myself gripped by an excellent crime novel.

A young man is found brutally murdered, his eyes gouged out. A student of Icelandic history in Reykjavik, he came from a wealthy German family who do not share the police’s belief that his drug dealer murdered him. Attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir is commissioned by his family to find out the truth, with the help – and hindrance – of abrasive ex-policeman Matthew Reich.

Their investigations into his research take them deep into a grisly world of torture and witchcraft both past and present, as they draw ever closer to a killer gripped by a dangerous obsession…

If I had any concerns about this book, it was the fact that it was a translation & sometimes I find they can take while to get into, with unfamiliar names, places etc – but this wasn’t the case with this great story – I was gripped from the beginning.

Set in Iceland the story follows Thora, a single-mum and lawyer, after she is hired to help the German family of the brutally murdered student (Harald) by reviewing the police investigation.  Thora must work with the family’s other investigator, Matthew, a German ex-policeman, who comes across as very stiff and formal at the start of their working relationship. They interview witnesses, examine the victim’s flat and trawl through his papers and computer.  The final act in putting the puzzle together is for  Thora and Matthew to retrace Harald’s footsteps as  he travelled across Iceland to research what seems to have become more than just a part of his studies into witch-hunts.  During the course of the story the reader becomes privy to meetings between Harald’s group of friends – an eccentric group of students – who clearly have something to hide. In amongst all this Thora has worries of her own as she tries to balance her working life with looking after her two children. 

Harald’s studies were around witchcraft and witch-hunts and I didn’t fancy wading through long gruesome passages, but I needn’t have worried, the book didn’t dwell on the details too much. In fact there wasn’t too much gore or violence at all.  Fortunately the author also gave Thora a sense of humour, and that helped to lighten the tone of the book too.

I thought this was a very enjoyable crime story, with a satisfying end. I’m certainly going to look out for the rest of the books featuring Thora.

Score – 4/5

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