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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great Icelandic legal thriller
In 1973, a volcano erupts on Iceland's Heimaey Island. A village is buried under the lava. Included under the sea of ash is the family home of teenager Markus Magnusson.

In 2007, investors send a cleanup crew to excavate the site so it can become a tourist attraction. However, in the basement of the Magnusson home is found three relatively fresh corpses and...
Published on March 27, 2012 by Harriet Klausner

versus
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars And it started so well
This book has a very similar premise to what I consider to be Peter Robinson's best Inspector Banks novel, In A Dry Season, in that they both involve murder victims being discovered when a village that has been 'buried' for decades becomes exposed.

This is the third in the series featuring lawyer/sleuth Thora Gudmundsdottir. Although I did enjoy the first two,...
Published on November 3, 2010 by Alex


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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great Icelandic legal thriller, March 27, 2012
This review is from: Ashes to Dust: A Thriller (Thora Gudmundsdottir) (Paperback)
In 1973, a volcano erupts on Iceland's Heimaey Island. A village is buried under the lava. Included under the sea of ash is the family home of teenager Markus Magnusson.

In 2007, investors send a cleanup crew to excavate the site so it can become a tourist attraction. However, in the basement of the Magnusson home is found three relatively fresh corpses and a severed head. The Westmann Islands near retired Inspector Lieffson suspect Markus, who retained attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir to prevent the digging. The villagers offer little to repute the police assertion and the one person he claims who could vindicate him is dead. Digging for a viable alternative to her client, Thora defends Markus though she is convinced she represents a killer.

The third Thora Gudmundsdottir Icelandic legal thriller (see Last Rituals and My Soul To Take) is a great tale that uses the island nation's geography and history to anchor a fabulous present day murder mystery. The storyline is fast-paced with a deft investigation that leads to betrayal and secrets in a great setting. This series is a refreshing winner.

Harriet Klausner
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great protagonist, April 11, 2012
This review is from: Ashes to Dust: A Thriller (Thora Gudmundsdottir) (Paperback)
3.5/5

I've been reading a number of Nordic mystery/thriller authors lately, but Yrsa Sigurdardottir was the first Icelandic author I've read. Indeed, she is known as 'Iceland's Crime Queen.'

Yrsa's recurring character is lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir. In Ashes to Dust, the third book in the series, Thora is employed by a former resident of Heimaey Island in The Westman Islands. This fishing village was covered by a volcanic eruption in 1973 and only now (2007) is her client's former childhood home being uncovered. The government owns the houses and contents, but Markus insists on going to the basement ahead of the archaeologists to recover a box, before he signs off on the waiver. (I found the setting fascinating and ended up reading all about the Westman Islands online)

He swears he has no idea what's in the box - a friend left it in the basement and she is the one who desperately wants it back he says. But when the archaeologists go down after him, what they discover changes the game - three bodies nicely laid out. And the box? It contains a head. Yes, a head. Thora's case has taken a completely different turn.

Thora is a wonderfully different protagonist. She is a grandmother with a young child still at home, divorced, hoping that her long distance romance will work out. She's very, very determined and undertakes to prove her client's innocence. I found this different from North American practices - the lawyer pursuing clues and the truth rather than an investigator. I loved that she took along her secretary - again another character that's a square peg in a round hole. Interspersed with Thora's investigations are chapters from other characters that we know must somehow be related to the case.

Sigurdardottir has created a winding plot that takes us down many avenues, exploring familial relationships as well as those of a small close knit village. There are no great surprises (many of the clues are plainly laid out) and some of the story seems superfluous. At times, I wanted to hurry the tellin along - it seemed it could have been done in about eighty pages less.

I did enjoy the descriptions of Iceland's culture, lifestyle and scenery. But, Ashes to Dust felt a little wooden in parts. I'm not sure if this is in the original text or a result of the translation. It was an entertaining tale, but comparisons to Steig Larsson may be a bit too ambitious.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars And it started so well, November 3, 2010
By 
Alex (Sandhurst, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ashes to Dust (Paperback)
This book has a very similar premise to what I consider to be Peter Robinson's best Inspector Banks novel, In A Dry Season, in that they both involve murder victims being discovered when a village that has been 'buried' for decades becomes exposed.

This is the third in the series featuring lawyer/sleuth Thora Gudmundsdottir. Although I did enjoy the first two, with some reservations, I get the impression the author is still trying to decide what she wants the series to be. The first, Last Rituals, was rather gruesome in places and found Thora working in partnership with a male German visitor to Iceland who of course becomes her love interest. In the second, My Soul to Take, the nasty element had been toned down, the male character, Matthew, was very much relegated to a supporting role, and Thora's young daughter, teenage son and his very pregnant girlfriend provided a sub-plot which was so bad it would be absurd in an American sitcom. Thankfully in this latest book that 'comic' element has almost gone, but so has Matthew who is little more than a telephone tag bit part player who might or might not be moving to Iceland. His role of sidekick is taken by Thora's secretary, who until now has been completely useless, and only kept her job as it was a condition of the terms of the lease of the office Thora rented. This fact is made plain in the earlier books but not mentioned in this one, just in case you are wondering why she would be tolerated. It looks as if Yrsa Sigurdardottir may be looking to reader reaction to determine the outcome of the, 'will they/won't they', romance element of Thora and Matthew, and who should get the nod as the sidekick.

Ashes to Dust has a great opening, and probably just pips the aforementioned, In A Dry Season, by the fact that it is based around real events in Iceland in 1973, when a volcanic eruption destroyed and buried most of an island village and caused it to be evacuated. However while the Robinson book builds up from the victim discovery, this one goes downhill faster than the lava flow central to the plot. It gets convoluted enough for the author to throw in a résumé, in the form of a review of case notes, about three quarters of the way through to remind you who everyone is and what is going on. (Just like Sam asking questions at the end of an episode of Quincy). I know it is fiction but the solution when it comes is so ludicrous it makes Murder On The Orient Express seem plausible.

If there is a fourth in the series I will read it in the hope that the author will have stopped experimenting and concentrate instead on the key elements that made her first book the best by far. For anyone considering Ashes To Dust who hasn't yet read the Peter Robinson book, I would recommend the latter as the better option.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Book but..., June 10, 2012
This review is from: Ashes to Dust: A Thriller (Thora Gudmundsdottir) (Paperback)
This is the third book I've read by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, the first two being Last Rituals and My Soul to Take.

This book is again another page turner. Yrsa has an interesting and breezy style of writing. She also layers the book, developing characters and plot by cycling through the perspectives of the different main characters. This is the device she also uses to let you believe you have figured out the plot and/or the criminal, only to pull the rug out from under you. I started this book yesterday afternoon and finished it in one sitting.

I do not want to put any spoilers in here so I will just say that I thought I was going to enjoy the book more when I finished. Nonetheless, I am eagerly awaiting her next book to be translated into English.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, June 2, 2012
By 
n.rivot (Rockville, MD United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ashes to Dust: A Thriller (Thora Gudmundsdottir) (Paperback)
I have read with great pleasure and interest the suspense novels of Arnaldur Indridason. So I was hoping to discover another Icelandic writer of the same caliber.

Alas! While the story starts in a fairly interesting fashion, it soon degenerates. The lawyer/investigator is such a disorganized ditsy woman, you wonder she ever gets anywhere. One follows various red herrings, and eventually you find out what "really" happened, and it stresses credulity, contradicting what you have been shown or told of the characters. I found the ending profoundly disappointing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good story, August 24, 2011
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On the whole I enjoyed this and it was an interesting plot. However, it did drag a bit in the last chapters and you felt Thora was a bit dense that she did not guess where things were heading earlier. I am not sure the lawyer device works. I find it a bit hard to see a lawyer taking such an active investigative role. Also, does she really only have one case at a time? It must be very expensive to have your lawyer do all the leg work! I also do not like the secretary character. Who on earth would put up with her.
All this sounds very critical. Don't let it put you off. This is not Henning Mankell, Peter Robinson or their ilk but still out ranks a lot of thriller authors.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Icelandic mystery but not a thriller, May 24, 2012
By 
Oxford (South Florida) - See all my reviews
Thora is an interesting main character. The plot was good but not suspenseful since the murders were mainly in the past. I enjoyed learning a bit about Iceland's history and culture.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat awkward and dull, January 23, 2012
This review is from: Ashes to Dust (Paperback)
I have to assume that this book flows more smoothly in its original language, because
I found it rather painful to read. At first I had some issues with the names not being
made to sound a little more "American" but I got over that. What I did not get over
was the painfully slow story. I had begun to feel that it would never get to the end. I
also felt that rather than reading like a book that had been translated from another language,
that it read more like a word for word transcription of a story told by someone who spoke
English as a second language. The sentence structure seemed quite awkward much of the time.

I also felt that Thora Gudmundsdottir, the lawyer who was the main character in the story was annoying and sometimes downright judgmental and unpleasant. I didn't like her. She seemed barely able to keep her own house in order and for that reason having her as a defense attorney and in fact investigator seemed to me to be a poor choice. Three bodies had been found in a home that had been buried in a volcanic eruption. They were found by a member of the family who had once lived in the home, when he was allowed to go in and retrieve something he was very anxious to find. This item was a box that had been entrusted to him by a teenage crush, just before the eruption occurred. Upon recovering the box, which was done as a favor asked by the now middle aged woman, of Markus Magnusson. Markus had hidden it the night the eruption began, and had no idea what the box contained, or so he insisted. Things did look almost interesting when another death occurs. Then things begin to twist and turn and just become all the more annoying.

Sorry, I was bored nearly to tears and would not have finished this one at all were it not an ARC that I felt compelled to give every chance to . It never truly caught my interest.

I would not recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Icelandic elements are nicely woven into old mystery, April 8, 2012
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This review is from: Ashes to Dust: A Thriller (Thora Gudmundsdottir) (Paperback)
This is not her best work, but as I have grown to like the main characters, and she writes good text, I read them all.

Flaws in this book are limited suspects and a bit of repetition here and there. Experienced mystery readers will put most of the pieces together. She does pull some stunts near the end.

An anorexic girl and old timers in a village take up quite a lot of pages. These really don't add much to the plot, but at least the old timers are quite like real people we have all met.

Thora's boyfriend will presumably make a bigger appearance in the next book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars awkward translation?, November 16, 2013
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If Thora "jumped for joy" one more time, I was going to give up! The plot was not bad but it was clunkily handled with some things very much over explained. It was very easy to figure out the central mystery of the victim's life. The twist at the end was low-grade, using a surprise confession from the murderer. Neither believable nor satisfactory. Characterization is shallow also.
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Ashes to Dust: A Thriller (Thora Gudmundsdottir)
Ashes to Dust: A Thriller (Thora Gudmundsdottir) by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (Paperback - March 27, 2012)
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