Sunday, September 13, 2009
"Last Ritual" by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
First novel featuring attorney Thora Gudmunddottir
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.