"Ashes to Dust, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Ashes to Dust - Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Philip Roughton

Book 3, in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series

I don’t know why I put this author on the back burner for such a long time. I had totally forgotten how wonderfully different Thora Gudmundsdottir, the protagonist is. Thora is a lawyer by profession who has a very unusual clientele and is the type to poke her nose into the investigating side of cases as well as defending her clients. If you haven’t read the previous installments don’t worry this one works pretty well as a standalone.

Although the book is long, it doesn’t drag by any means. As in her previous stories there is quite a bit of interviewing and re- interviewing of witnesses and lots of traveling back in forth from the big city to where the action takes place. Ms. Sigurdardottir weaves a very complicated crime thriller with a liberal helping of “what-ifs” to keeps us guessing till the very end. The winding plot takes us down many avenues and is fueled by the infinite peculiarities of human behavior. 

The star is also Iceland with all its glorious scenery. “Ashes to Dust” takes place in parts on the Heimaey Islands. In 1973, the small community came to international attention after volcano Eldfjell erupted and the inhabitants were temporarily evacuated. With this as background the author pinned a clever, rich an intriguing mystery with surprising twists and turns and handled Iceland past and present to the full effect in her tale of hidden crimes and family secrets.

Here is a brief outline:

The volcanic eruption buried a number of houses in lava, including that of Markus Magnusson, who was 15 at the time. In 2007, an excavation of his childhood home reveals three bodies and a severed head that appear to be decades old. Markus tells the police he knows nothing about the bodies, but the single person who could have verified his version of events is found dead, her apparent suicide soon revealed as murder. With the searchlight of suspicion cast on his affairs, Markus must rely on Thora, his determined lawyer, to defend his interests.