NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Bernard Scudder (Translator)

4.0 out of 5 stars -- "An Icelandic novel of secret symbols, medieval witchcraft, and modern murder."

A student from Germany who is working on his master's degree in Iceland is found dead in a Reykjavik university printer alcove. He is carved with strange symbols and his eyes have been removed. The boy, Harald Guntlieb, had an unusual passion and a curious set of friends. One of them is quickly arrested for the murder. Harald's wealthy parents don't believe that the person arrested actually committed the crime and engage Thóra Guðmundsdóttir to assist a family friend, Matthew Reich, with a deeper investigation. Harald's obsession is focused on witch hunts -- torture and execution -- and a particular manuscript, THE WITCHES' HAMMER. The novel is full of many interesting historical details of significant people and events during the 1500s and the conversion to Lutheranism.

I read some of the previous reviews here on Goodreads and I must say that I disagree about Thora. I quite like her and found her normalcy a refreshing change from the "damaged" female protagonist often seen in current crime and suspense thriller novels. I thought she was an interesting character with quirks and flaws as she is struggling to work and be a single mother to a 6 year old daughter and a 16 year old son after a divorce. I liked the sparring between her and Matthew and didn't mind the developing romance even during the midst of some of the gruesomeness of the case. I am enjoying learning more about Iceland even as I struggle to pronounce the names. The translation seems quite well done and I like the writing style. I did not guess the identity of the killer until late in the book.

Back in November of 2014, I read the 5th book in this series (SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME) and lamented that I was not familiar with Thóra Guðmundsdóttir's backstory and that I wanted to start the series from the beginning. Well, finally got this debut from the library and am looking forward to reading more about this female lawyer and Icelandic crime fiction. I have the second novel in the series to start next!

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