Review of “Ashes to Dust” by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

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.

Rating: 3/5

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

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16 Responses to Review of “Ashes to Dust” by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

  1. Well, you know how I felt about “My Soul To Take”. Again, bumbling Thora, obnoxious red herrings, and a forced resolution (a resolution though, despite Thora’s awkwardness). I love the setting, and the facts that go along with it but it really isn’t enough for me to want to read any more of this series. Swapna really liked this one, and I had hoped that maybe the books were improving, but I guess not!

  2. the second review of this one I read today..and you did not like it as much as she did. I did read the first, but neither of the other two..and now I wonder why.

  3. This one is new to me but it doesn’t sound very good. Thanks for the honest review. I think i’ll pass on this one.

  4. zibilee says:

    This doesn’t sound promising to me, and I am sorry to hear that it was a reading drag for you. I don’t like a lot of red herrings in my mysteries, and I also don’t think I would like a character who grates on the nerves. I did enjoy your excellent review on this one though, and though it was interesting to read, this is a series that I am going to pass up!

  5. I kind of liked this one. I think I felt the same way as you – interested enough to finish it, but not enough to ever read another in the series.

  6. That’s too bad about Thora’s character falling flat because the book itself sounds interesting.

  7. Barbara says:

    You crack me up. “Would this never end?” And you agree! 😀

  8. Jenners says:

    Too bad … at least I don’t feel compelled to try and it and puzzle out the pronunciations of the author and Thora.

  9. I think I’ll be giving this one a pass. I’m not a big fan of the Scandinavian/Icelanic thillers genre and this one doesn’t sound like it’s one to change my mind.

  10. I haven’t heard of this series, and now I’m definitely not eager to give it a try. I don’t read too many mysteries, but when I do, I definitely don’t want them to feel amateurish.

  11. bookingmama says:

    Good to know…

  12. BermudaOnion says:

    The fact that you’re not interested in the rest of the series speaks volumes.

  13. Meg says:

    Eek! A severed head?! You can tell how much mystery and crime-related fiction I read . . . the head alone would freak me out.

  14. I had to laugh at the “would this never end” part of your review. 🙂 Murder mysteries have to be superb for me to be even remotely interested since it’s not my favorite genre, so I will be passing on this one.

  15. Margot says:

    Wow, this sounds like quite the mystery. I’d like to read this one but I’m glad I don’t have to commit to another whole series.

  16. Staci@LifeintheThumb says:

    I loved your final sentences….will this ever end??? Nuff said!

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