Thursday, January 3, 2013

Last Rituals

Last Rituals
Author: Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
Harper, 2007
314 pages

We're planning a trip to Iceland this year, so I thought it would be appropriate to begin the new year with a book by an author from that country. I read my first Yrsa Sigurdardóttir book (The Day Is Dark) back in 2011. When I started reading that one, I didn't realize it was the fourth book in a series featuring attorney Thora Guðmundsdóttir until I was already into it. No matter -- Last Rituals is the first book in that series.

Thora is a divorced mother of a sixteen year-old son and elementary school aged-daughter. Like most of us, Thora struggles financially and constantly juggles home and work life. So when an opportunity comes up to make some extra money by helping a foreign visitor with a murder investigation, Thora decides to take it -- even though this isn't her normal line of work.

The foreign visitor is Matthew Reich. He represents a very wealthy family from Germany whose son, Harald, was the victim of a grisly murder. Harald was in Iceland studying history at the university. His specialty area was medieval torture and witchcraft, and let's just say he was a little bit different, with extreme body art and unusual friends. Did this have anything to do with his death? The police have someone in custody, but Harald's family isn't convinced he's the murderer . . . and now Thora isn't so sure, either. The more she and Matthew, um, dig into the investigation, the more interesting things get.

Last Rituals is an enjoyable, unpredictable mystery. (I didn't figure out the murderer until the very end.) The thing I liked most, though, was the emphasis on Icelandic history and culture. I have very little context in these areas; in fact I'll admit: I know next to nothing about Icelandic history other than what I learned in school about Iceland being more 'green' than Greenland and Greenland being more 'icy' than Iceland. :) 

I absolutely adore Thora. She has a wonderfully dry sense of humor, and there were several instances where I laughed out loud at something she said . . . or thought. She's a loving mother and fiercely loyal to her kids. I like that.

Matthew comes across as a bit of an 'arse' in the beginning, but it doesn't take long to warm up to him. Compared to Thora he's -- well, snobby, and Thora plays this off well (refer to above-mentioned statements on her sense of humor -- I particularly enjoyed the scenes involving his reactions to Thora's goose down coat!) Given than I've read Book 4 already, I know they'll be partnering on other cases. I just don't know how that's going to happen yet, since he lives in Germany . . . right???

There's a third character of note: Bella, the secretary at Thora's law firm who seems to have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I remember her from The Day is Dark. She's kind of unforgettable that way. It'll be interesting to learn how her character develops.

I will be reading more of this series, and hopefully will be able to complete (at a minimum) Book 2: My Soul to Take before our trip.