Written by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir — In the early hours of 23 January 1973, the Eldfell volcano erupted on the island of Heimæy; the only inhabited island in the Vestmannæyjar volcanic archipelago, an area now known as The Pompeii of the North. The severity of the lava flow resulted in the destruction of many homes, with some being completely buried. The eruption continued until early July and led to the evacuation of nearly all of the island’s population.
Ashes to Dust takes these events and returns to the Vestmann Islands more than 30 years later, with a mystery that may have occurred during the chaos of the eruption. Lawyer Thóra Gudmundsdóttir finds herself standing in the wreckage of one of the houses buried under the lava flow. In its untouched basement her client, Markus Magnússon, is busy searching for something he seems desperate to recover. Thóra’s job is to ensure that the archaeologists don’t acquire the right to excavate the site. However, with Markus’ discovery of three corpses and a severed head that he can’t explain, Thóra finds herself thrown into a murder investigation in which her client is the prime suspect.
Back in Reykjavik, a nurse who could have provided Markus with a defence has been murdered, and the key to the killer’s identity may rest with an anorexic young girl. When it comes to light that the woman was Markus’ childhood sweetheart, Thóra realises that the solution may be even more complicated than she thought.
This is a story that certainly flexes the little grey cells and has several red herrings thrown in for good measure. The reader is presented with several suspects before the final reveal and they’re all entirely plausible as the killer. If you’re the kind of reader who enjoys the challenge of trying to piece together the clues, then you’ll definitely enjoy this book as it allows you to do just that. You may even think you’ve worked out who the killer is, but there is one final twist left in this tale that just might surprise you. Did you guess the right motive?
What’s nice about Ashes to Dust is that it crams quite a bit into its 464 pages, without being overwhelming. There’s just enough detail about Thóra and her family without it overshadowing the main focus of the book. Even details of the volcanic eruptions are kept to the most salient facts.
For the reader who’s new to the series, this is Thóra’s third outing. It’s a book that you can quite easily read out of sequence without feeling you’re at a disadvantage. The writing is engaging with vivid descriptions and a well-crafted plot. It’s also extremely methodical, so despite the regular shifts in action, you still feel very much in control of the facts without getting lost. Our advice – if Nordic crime is your thing then this is one you’ll definitely want to get your hands on.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars