Posted by: koolwine | December 16, 2011

Iceland: Last Rituals

A wealthy family enlists the help of a lawyer to  track down their son’s killer.

Country Focus: Iceland (Island in Icelandic)

Last Rituals
By Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
Translated by Bernard Scudder
Originally published in Iceland as Þriðja táknið by Veröld, 2005.
My edition: HarperCollins, 2007.
314 pgs.

Acclaim: Sigurdardóttir is the winner of the IBBY Award and the Icelandic children’s book award

Genre: Fiction
Time period:


To make a long story short:  The corpse of Harald Guntlieb, a German university student attending school in Reykjavik, sports empty eye sockets and a baffling pattern scored on his chest.  These gruesome mutilations may have had something to do with Harald’s field of study: torture and witchcraft.  Regardless of their son’s macabre interests, his parents want to know who murdered him and desecrated his corpse. Unsatisfied with the suspect that the Icelandic police have in custody, the wealthy Guntliebs send their emissary, Matthew Reich, to Iceland to enlist the help of a local lawyer, Thóra Gudmundsdóttir.  This single working mother of two is behind on her bills,  so she accepts the odd but lucrative offer to be Matthew’s guide and translator.   Sparks fly between the two as they question the dead man’s strange friends and travel to Iceland’s witchcraft-related sites in a race to uncover Harald’s real killer.


Marta Mist groaned.  “I’m not going to play teacher with you.  All you need to understand is that magic is just an individual’s attempt to influence  his own life in unconventional ways – at least, unconventional to the modern mind.  In its day it was very common and for those born into poverty at the time it was the only hope they had of possibly changing their circumstances for the better.  It mainly involves performing acts that will twist events in your favor –  sometimes at someone else’s expense, sometimes not.  In my view, when you’ve made the effort to perform the charm you’ve taken on step toward a specific aim and you can focus on it better afterward, so you’re more likely to achieve it than before.”

The author:

Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Yrsa Sigurdardóttir lives in Seltjarnarnes, a suburb of Reykjavik.  This award-winning author continues to work as division manager of Verkís, an engineering firm that specializes in geothermal and hydropower projects.  Sigurdardóttir started off  writing children’s books; two out of five won Icelandic book awards.  In the wake of those successes, she turned to crime…novels.  Each of her six murder mysteries has attracted more readers and attention than the last.

Overall Rating:
(On a scale of 1-5, with 1 book = turned off and  5 books = lit up)


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