This book is the third in a series featuring the female lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, and has quite a catchy opening:
“She had often considered death to be a desirable option. Today, however, she hadn’t been feeling that way, which was rather unfortunate in light of the circumstances.”
This opening murder scene, capturing in free association the thoughts of the victim, is riveting. The rest of the book, however, is more of a murder mystery of “standard” quality.
Thóra is representing Markus Magnusson, who lost his house in the [real-life] eruption of a volcano near a small fishing village on the Westmann Islands in 1973. It is now 2007, and archeologists are excavating some of the houses. Markus has retained Thóra to make sure he has first access to the basement of the house. It is soon clear why the basement is a problem, when Markus discovers three bodies as well as a box containing the severed head of a fourth. Markus claims his childhood crush Alda gave him the box for safekeeping, but Alda has just been found murdered. Thóra’s job is to exonerate Markus with the chief witness no longer available. In order to do this, she has to try to solve the crime herself.
Evaluation: The information about the volcano and the reaction of the townspeople is interesting, much more so than Thóra, unfortunately. She is very beige; very meat and potatoes; the only time she makes an impact on the reader is when she is being obnoxious by interrupting witnesses. It’s not a good way to come to one’s notice. Moreover, the red herrings are a bit amateurish, and the final twist comes across as a let’s-hurry-up-and-finish-deus ex machina. [In the closing scene of the book, when Thóra closes her eyes and thinks “Would this never end?” I was with her one hundred percent!)] I don’t want to say I wasn’t engaged by this book, but I doubt very much that I shall read another of the series.
Published in the U.S. by Thomas Dunne Books for Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan, 2012