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Last Rituals: A Novel of Suspense Paperback – Apr 7 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
Similar in plot to Swedish author Helene Tursten's The Glass Devil, this first in a new series from Icelandic author Sigurdardottir offers little readers have not seen before. As with Tursten's novel, the spectre of demon-worship is at the heart of the mystery, after the strangled corpse of Harald Guntlieb is discovered with his eyes gouged out. Guntlieb, a German student, was attending graduate school in Iceland, examining the latter country's history of witch-hunting, an academic pursuit that may have taken on more personal overtones. His grieving parents, who had already suffered the loss of a child, enlist attorney and single mother Thóra Gudmundsdôttir to objectively assess the police case against a drug addict arrested for the murder. Aided by an attractive ex-German police officer, Gudmundsdôttir diligently tracks down the dead man's friends and colleagues, before arriving at the truth. The author gives less of a sense of her native land than other contemporary Scandinavian crime writers like Karin Fossum, and the identity of the killer will surprise few.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Dark, deep and icy as an Icelandic fjord; this is a rich and rewarding debut novel of ancient mysteries and very modern murder.' -- Mark Billingham 20071207 'Given the dark subject matter, this is a surprisingly funny book... a quirky and interesting read.' -- Guardian 20071222 'Considering its population is only around 300,000, Iceland seems to have more than its fair share of good crime writers. Yrsa Sigurdardottir keeps up the standard with LAST RITUALS, a grisly chiller set in the depths of winter... Her mystery is absorbing and, untypically, instead of the usual gloomy middle-aged man, her sleuth is a young woman... It's an accomplished debut, with credible characters and a personable heroine.' -- Sunday Telegraph 20080106 'LAST RITUALS shows that Yrsa Sigurdardottir has arrived, fully formed, it seems, as something of a unique talent in the field... What makes Sigurdardottir's crime debut such an exhilarating experience is the way in which she takes familiar ingredients. but throws off a series of innovative riffs on these concepts... [She] matches Tess Gerritsen and Kathy Reichs in the bloodchiller stakes. But like all Scandinavian writers, it's her acute sense of place that gives such character to her work, and readers may feel a keen desire to visit Reykjavik after reading LAST RITUALS.' -- Waterstone's Books Quarterly 20080129 'You will now have to remember two very good Icelandic crime writers. Arnaldur Indridason, who made his mark with his Inspector Erlendur a few years ago, is now joined by Yrsa Sigurdardottir... This is entertaining, well-plotted and cleverly combines the historical and macabre with Thora's life.' -- Marcel Berlins, The Times 20080120 'Fans of peculiar and grisly crime novels will find much in LAST RITUALS to titillate them.' -- Observer 20080210 'an intricately plotted tale that keeps the reader guessing whodunit, or indeed whether it was murder at all, right until the very end. Following in the footsteps of bestselling crime writer and Icelandic compatriot Arnaldur Indridason, it is clear that while Reykjavik may indeed be cool, it is also murder central as far as the imagination of some of its citizens is concerned.' -- Sunday Express 20080225 'After its grisly opening, LAST RITUALS turns out to be a surprisingly light and playful novel, with a jaunty translation by the late Bernard Scudder. Lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir is an engaging detective, and the black magic and hocus-pocus of the main plot prove to be of less interest than Thora's more earthly concerns, such as coping with her truculent teenage son and embarking on an unsuitable romance.' -- Daily Telegraph 20080120 'A debut jammed with suspense.' -- Woman and Home 20080101 'Enjoyable. a good read. the story is informative and interesting, and makes an encouraging start to a promised series.' -- Literary Review 20071201 'Suspenseful, compelling and unique.' -- Kirkus Reviews 20070801 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The development of this relationship is one of the book's positive aspects, but I had problems with Yrsa Sigurdardóttir's debut mystery, LAST RITUALS. First, there's little emotion throughout most of the book. Other than doing a good job, nothing's at stake for Thóra. No threats, no violence, and little action. Interviews, some leg work, and document reading makes the novel's pacing painfully slow in places. For instance, sixteen pages show Thóra reading a report about Harald's life. Granted, Harald's life was odd and he was working on a comparison of witch hunts in Iceland and Germany (plenty of historical detail is provided), but the novel was easy to put down in a number of places.
Another problem is that Thóra's voice is so intellectual and formal much of the time that it was tough to warm up to the character. The long, carefully articulated inner monologue didn't sound natural, even for a smart lawyer. This book was translated so who knows if this was the author's style or a translation issue?Read more ›
This crime fiction captures and brings our attention to the witch hunts of the 1600s, a darker side of Iceland's rich history.
The setting is contemporary and the historical elements are flawlessly interwoven into the story. As a main plot, the author recounts the murder of a German student Harald Guntlieb, known to be unconventional and born into a wealthy Bavarian family.
His body was discovered at the University of Iceland and police hastily arrested Harald's drug dealing friend. His parents felt that there was insufficient evidence and hired the investigator Matthew Reich, not fluent in the local language he in turn summoned the help of Thora Gudmundstottir, a well known lawyer.
Full of mysteries, this tale piques one's interest from the start by bringing forward a multitude of interesting characters in sub-plots. We learn the amazing puzzle has a dark side; Harald was obsessed with tattoos and body piercing and practiced erotic asphyxiation. He was also highly influenced by the local history of witch hunts involving torture and execution.
The author doesn't mince her words but skilfully uses humour to give us a lighter side. The characterization is superbly presented, Thora is a delightful protagonist with a sharp tongue and a spunky attitude, Matthew has a wicked sense of humour to go with his sex appeal. The strong contrast in their characters present an entertaining combination.
I enjoyed this mystery for its absorbing, untypical and compelling subject matter, a unique launch into a promising series.