Review: Last Rituals

Last Rituals
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir; translated from Icelandic by Bernard Scudder
HarperCollins, 2007
Originally published in Iceland by Veröld Publishing
Purchased new trade paperback.

Matthew beat Thóra to the photograph. He looked at it without a flicker of emotion, then handed it to her. “It’s quite disgusting,” he said as she took it.

“Disgusting” was not a strong enough word to describe what Thóra saw. The picture showed the young man whom Thóra knew from family photographs as Harald Guntlieb lying on the floor in a peculiar position she recognized from the photographs in the case file. But those had been so grainy and badly reproduced that they were almost fit to show on children’s television compared with what greeted her eyes now.

Last Rituals is the first in a series of mystery novels by Icelandic author Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, though she also has several children’s books under her belt. The lead character, Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, is a lawyer and recently divorced mother of two hired by a wealthy German couple to investigate the gruesome murder of their son, who had been studying history at the University of Iceland in Reykjavík. Assisting her is Matthew Reich, the Guntliebs’ security officer and a former police detective in Germany. The case requires a delicate touch on two counts: first, because the police have already arrested a suspect and declared the crime solved; and secondly, because Harald Guntlieb’s body was horrifically mutilated – both before and after his death.

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