17 February 2010

Mystery review: Ashes to Dust by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

According to Amazon UK this book is due out in Britain in an English translation in July. I could find no information about publication in the USA.

Original Icelandic title: Aska (Ash)
Genre: Murder mystery
Year of publication:2007
No. in series: 3
Series detective: Thora Gudmundsdottir
Type of mystery: Murder
Type of investigator: Lawyer
Setting & time: Reykjavik and the Westman Islands, Iceland, 2007.

Three desiccated corpses and a head are discovered in the basement of a house that is being excavated after having lain under volcanic ash since the 1973 volcanic eruption in the Westman Islands. It falls to lawyer Þóra (Thora) to represent the man who found the bodies in the basement of his childhood home, since certain facts of the matter have cast suspicion on him, not only for the deaths of the four men, but also for the recent death of a woman from the islands who is in some way connected to the head and possibly the bodies as well.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir keeps getting better. Her writing is more polished than in the earlier books and her storytelling and plotting skills, which were good in the first two books in the series, have gotten even better. As in the previous book, the roots of the whole case lie in the past, and Þóra has to dig deep and sift thoroughly through the evidence before she finds what she is looking for.

Intermingled with the main story is, as before, Þóra’s personal life, but in very small doses that make the story more realistic without dragging it down as such stuff sometimes tends to do. No fillers here, just a few small details to make the character more lifelike and the story more realistic.

Interestingly, Yrsa has decided to flesh out Bella, the surly receptionist who works for Þóra and her partner. Of course there is a reason: Matthew, who assisted Þóra in her previous two investigations, is only present in a couple of phone calls, so instead of having him as a partner and his experience with police and security work assisting her considerably, she now has a sidekick with no experience of such work. Fortunately Bella doesn’t come across as one of those clueless stupid sidekicks I hate so much, but merely as one who is not too terribly keen on the job but knows what she is doing nonetheless. I expect to see more of her in the next book, Auðnin (sorry, I haven’t a clue as to when it will be published in English, but apparently the title will be Veins of Ice), because she is a refreshingly different kind of sidekick.

4 stars.

2 comments:

Term Paper said...

Sigurdardottir delivers terrific clammy atmosphere and frequent frissons of fear...

Dorte H said...

I have read her first, and you have just reminded me that I should put her second on my list.