Blurb: At a university in Reykjavík, the body of a young German student is discovered, his eyes cut out and strange symbols carved into his chest. Police waste no time in making an arrest, but the victim’s family isn’t convinced that the right man is in custody. They ask Thóra Guðmundsdóttir, an attorney and single mother of two, to investigate. It isn’t long before Thóra and her associate, Matthew Reich, uncover the deceased student’s obsession with Iceland’s grisly history of torture, execution, and witch hunts. But there are very contemporary horrors hidden in the long, cold shadow of dark traditions. And for two suddenly endangered investigators, nothing is quite what it seems … and no one can be trusted.
This is the first in the Thóra Guðmundsdóttir series which introduces Thóra, a thirty-something single mother and lawyer who is struggling to get by. When the body of Harold Guntlieb, a german student studying at the University in Reykjavik, is found in the history department with his eyes gouged out and weird mysterious symbols carved into his body Thóra is hired by Harold’s parents to investigate.
For the Guntlieb’s believes their son’s killer is not the small time drug dealer who is currently in police custody but something far more sinister is at work; so they send over ex-policeman and friend Matthew Reich to discover the truth and they will pay anything to find the real killer.
But as Thóra and Matthew dig deeper into Harold’s life they are pulled into his world of witchcraft and the grisly world of torture.
What can I say but Fascinating!
Thóra is an appealing character who is struggling to bring up two children on her own as well as running a successful law practice. She has a dry sense of humour which I really enjoyed bringing a unique perspective on the investigation. I also enjoyed the relationship between Thóra and Matthew where they spent a lot of the novel sparring which really balanced out the dark moments in the story and helped lighten the atmosphere.
One of the themes of this novel is the medieval history of the witchcraft hunts in Iceland and Europe and the superstitions people had in the past which drove them to do some very dark acts including torture. I thought this was a facscinating element to the story and the author does a fantastic job of weaving this history into the present day of the novel without the reader becoming lost in the plot which can happen in crime novels.
There is some gore and gruesome descriptions in this novel but the author manages to use these only when neccessary to help enhance the dark atmosphere within the novel and thankfully doesn’t linger too long on these descriptions.
One of the highlights of this novel is the dazzling setting of Iceland which the author really brings to life through her descriptions where much of the landscape hinders the investigation at times and helps to add tension and pace to the story.
There is a low body count in this novel which I found refreshing. This has all the hallmarks of a classic murder mystery set within the beautiful but harsh landscape of Iceland.
I would recommend this novel and I’m very much looking forward to reading more from Yrsa.
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