Sigurdardottir, Yrsa - 'Ashes to Dust' (translated by Philip Roughton)
ASHES TO DUST is the third in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series and is set a year or so after MY SOUL TO TAKE. Thora is a lawyer who is making a habit of getting unusual clients and ends up acting as a private investigator more than a lawyer most of the time.
This time round she is representing Markus Magnusson whose child-hood home on the Westmann Islands is being excavated by a group of archaeologists a part of the (real-life) "Pompeii of the North" project. Over thirty years ago a volcano erupted and the lava and ash covered half of the town. At first Markus wants to completely prevent the uncovering of his home but he has to compromise, and reaches an agreement that allows him to be the first to go inside, no questions asked. However when he heads to the basement he gets a bit of a surprise as there are three dead bodies inside.
The police find this a bit fishy to say the least and when Markus's childhood crush is subsequently killed he is arrested for murder. Thora has her work cut out: she has to clear Markus of the present day murder plus she has to find out who the thirty-year old bodies are and how they ended up in Markus's basement.
With no Matthew, Thora's German boyfriend, around to help her this time, she has to rely on her surly secretary Bella to act as sidekick and quite competent she proves to be.
There is a fair bit of to-ing and fro-ing between Reykjavik and the Westmann Islands and as with MY SOUL TO TAKE quite a bit of interviewing and re-interviewing of witnesses, but though the book is long, it doesn't drag. There are plenty of characters and complicated relationships for Thora to untangle, to get to the truth. Thora does seem a bit slow on the uptake as regards a couple of the mysteries, but she is a pleasant character to spend time with even though I missed the witty banter between her and Matthew. Readers of this series are able to learn about a different part of Iceland in each book and this time will also hear about (or revisit) The Cod War of the 1970s between Britain and Iceland. With its extraordinarily unexpected, but well-plotted, ending, ASHES TO DUST is a good entry in this consistently interesting and enjoyable series with its believable and amusing heroine. I look forward to seeing where THE DAY IS DARK takes us.
Karen Meek, England