Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Last Rituals: A Novel of Suspense” as Want to Read:
Last Rituals: A Novel of Suspense
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Last Rituals: A Novel of Suspense (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir #1)

3.56  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,782 Ratings  ·  471 Reviews
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 ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2005)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Last Rituals, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Last Rituals

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Will Byrnes
When a wealthy young German, Harald Guntlieb, is found dead in a Rekyavik university, the cops are quick to pin it on a drug dealer with whom he associated. Thóra Gudmundsdóttir is a thirty-something single mother of a lawyer struggling to get by. When Harald’s mother offers Thora impressive money to look into her son’s death, she teams up with the family’s representative in Iceland and the hunt is on. As Thora learns, Harald was no ordinary spoiled rich kid. He was into some pretty strange stuf ...more
Mar 28, 2016 Carmen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery fans
This is the first in a series starring a lawyer named Thóra. She is divorced. She has two children: a 6-year old girl and a 16-year-old boy. She falls into a "private investigator" role in this book, solving a gruesome murder for reasons that escape me.

The murder victim is a German grad student named Harald. He is strangled to death with some sort of belt-like object, and his eyes are gouged out. No one has found the eyes. A Satanic symbol (one assumes) is carved into the body. I'm thanking Sig
Feb 22, 2010 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scandinavian
This mystery novel has "amateur" written all over it. The author...

- does not understand narrative structure
- is completely ineffective with character writing
- writes unfocused viewpoint that lingers over boring, trite detail
- writes the dullest scenes
- and, just generally, seems to have no understanding about what it takes to capture and hold a reader's attention.

Many reviewers of this book seem to want to shift the blame to the translator, but it just isn't possible to absolve the author of ev
Vanessa (V.C.)
Apr 20, 2012 Vanessa (V.C.) rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
As many reviewers have already mentioned, this novel, although beginning with a promising start, lags rather quickly midway through. The main problem I have is mostly in the construction of the story and the characters. The plot in and of itself is interesting enough, but there is virtually NO suspense to keep you interested or to want you to keep reading. There's no sense of danger, no excitement, just a boring slog through Icelandic witchcraft history and unnecessary attempts at trying to focu ...more
Goodreads says that this novel has been published in 30 countries--pretty impressive. One of the dust jacket blurbs remarks that this is "not the usual depressive Scandinavian detective story." Well, sorry, but I happen to really like depressive Scandinavian detectives (like Indridason's Erlendur). Yes, I did like the novel, especially the woman lawyer protagonist who suffers through various personal and domestic tribulations. However, the story suffers from a complete lack of suspense and emoti ...more
Mar 01, 2010 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even thought Last Rituals starts with a gruesome murder, the rest of the book is fascinating romp through the ancient history of Iceland as well as through the contemporary events in attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir's life. Thora is an appealing main character. She has a sense of humor about her life and she also deals with the realities of being a single working mother with a practical, down-to-earth approach. When she agrees to help the German Matthew Reich to look into the bizarre death of a Ger ...more
Jan 13, 2015 Sheila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Taken from original review posted at

I have decided to start a love affair with Nordic Noir, but I haven't had much exposure, so I decided to dive in head first with Last Rituals, chosen because because of its premise – a German student has been killed most gruesomely; his eyes have been gouged out and his body is covered in weird symbols, tattoos and carvings. The police believe that the case is cut and dry, but Harald Guntlieb’s parents don’t believe that the small t
Sep 13, 2011 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries, iceland
I would rate this at three and a half stars.

Yrsa Sigurdardóttir (Yrsa, Daughnter of Sigurd, named in the typical Icelandic fashion) is yet another Scandinavian mystery, probably closer to Stieg Larsson than to Henning Mankell or Arnaldur Indridason. Where the two latter writers are more terse, Yrsa, like Stieg Larsson, works through a large cast of characters which has the effect of making Last Rituals a bit on the flaccid side. It runs on for over three hundred pages, including interviews with
Feb 13, 2013 Eva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I must admit I like Yrsa's books and the main character. This one was even better than The Day is Dark I read as 1st (although it's 3rd in the series). The plot is interesting and will keep you reading till the surprising end. The history of Iceland is an integral part of the story - so you'll learn quite a lot about it without having the feeling you're being instructed. Thóra's sense of humour might not be everyone's cup of tee but I think she is fun especially in her comments on Bella, the sec ...more
Katie Curlee Hamblen
Honestly, I just became so intrigued by Iceland, and started looking for translated versions of Icelandic authors' works, set in Iceland. The most well known author is a guy named something like Indridason, but his work was too stark, and cold. Sigurdardottir writes much more warmly, and her novels translate very well. I found the pacing of her mysteries to be really gripping. I hope they will be translating more of her stuff into English.

On a side note, the Icelandic language is so fascinating.
Jan 02, 2016 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.0 out of 5 stars -- "An Icelandic novel of secret symbols, medieval witchcraft, and modern murder."

A student from Germany who is working on his master's degree in Iceland is found dead in a Reykjavik university printer alcove. He is carved with strange symbols and his eyes have been removed. The boy, Harald Guntlieb, had an unusual passion and a curious set of friends. One of them is quickly arrested for the murder. Harald's wealthy parents don't believe that the person arrested actually commi
May 09, 2013 Tony rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
LAST RITUALS. (2007). Yrsa Sigurdardottir. ***.
This was the first novel from this novelist from Iceland. There were lots of kudos when it came out, and it was subsequently translated into “over thirty languages.” It was meant to be representative of Icelandic noir, but it really came out to be a cozy with a few weird scenes thrown in to make it seem non-cozy. The jacket gives a lot away; the novel is described as one of “secret symbols, medieval witchcraft, and modern murder.” Well…there you are
May 29, 2010 Maddy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2007-reads

Harald Guntlieb is a strange young man from Germany who has come to Iceland to complete his studies on the subject of witchcraft. He is drawn to the area because Iceland was unique in the fact that it had many male witches in its history, as opposed to the rest of Europe where female witches dominated. He came by his knowledge of the subject from his grandfather, who collected various medieval artifacts and works. Harald was his only heir and lived quite an affluent lifestyle. For Har
Anthony Fitzgerald
I think at this stage I'm Icelandic Novel'ed out, but it was nice to have a change of pace with a female protagonist! Especially since I had a hard time breaking away from the Kurt Wallender's (lead character from Henning Mankell's novels) image over my time spent in fictional Iceland.

I guess I went into this book expecting a sci-fi twist where witchcraft is actually performed (and takes affect) throughout as opposed to the more realistic approach the book offers. That aside, I did enjoy follow
Oct 15, 2012 Maxine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The body of student Harald Guntlieb is discovered in a small room at the University of Reykjavik. He has been strangled and the police treat the case as a straightforward murder. They quickly arrest Hugi, a drug dealer and the last person who Harald was seen with. However, there are some strange details about the body which make his family suspect that there is more to the murder than the police are saying. They hire attorney Thora Gudmundsdotter to investigate along with Matthew Reich, a friend ...more
Maria João Fernandes
Tinha muita curiosidade em conhecer o trabalho desta autora. Tenho pena de não dar mais do que 3 estrelas neste livro, mas a verdade é que ficou bastante aquém das minhas expectativas. Adorei a personagem principal - Porá - e o advogado alemão Matthew. A evolução da relação de ambos ao longo do livro é um ponto forte desta história. Bem como a vida pessoal da advogada: os filhos, o ex-marido e os dramas familiares. Esta parte cativou-me imenso, tanto como a evolução da investigação por parte do ...more
Matt Poland
I've been on a Scandinavian crime fiction jag, and this was the first disappointment. There's a fair amount of interesting detail about brilliantly creepy Icelandic folklore, but that doesn't make up for an unfocused narrative with a minimum of suspense. The writing is also fairly inconsistent, relying on cliches and odd little asides (Thora's opinions on global warming and politics, for example) that, while humanizing, don't add much to a murder mystery that dabbles in the occult. Since Bernard ...more
More like 2.5. I felt this novel was the author's almost amateurish attempt at a first novel. I don't know whether it was me, the unpleasant characters, the bad translation from Icelandic or the dated pop cultural references, but I was not captivated by this novel in the least. This series might improve in subsequent volumes.

A German exchange grad student studying witchcraft folklore in Iceland, Harald, is strangled; his eyes are removed and odd markings made on his body. Thora, a lawyer, and Mi
Tüm Avrupa'da cadı avları sırasında kadınlar cadı olmakla suçlanıp yakılırken, İzlanda'da erkekler cadı olarak suçlanıp yakılmış.

Kitaplarda bu tarz şeyleri öğrenmek hoşuma gidiyor.
Charlene Intriago
I love all these books set in Iceland, but I had a hard time with this story line and all the characters. Plot was too busy and the author seemed to ramble. I just could not connect with our main gal, Thora. She's a lawyer, divorced, raising two kids, and asked by the victim's family to help with the investigation of a bizarre murder. The body of Harald Guntlieb, a German college student attending the University of Iceland, is discovered on campus. Police think it's one guy; the family doesn't b ...more
Aug 04, 2014 Jessie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was given to me as a gift for my upcoming vacation. I wanted to read an Icelandic novel on my trip to Iceland. Apparently Yrsa Sigurdardottir is the second largest mystery writer in Iceland, or so I was informed while on tour. I enjoyed the book quite a bit. There were some moments where the language felt silly or unnatural, but the characters felt real enough. I was entertained. I wanted to solve the mystery and discover the truth of the murder and subsequent witchcraft tie in. My mai ...more
Toni Osborne
Jul 25, 2009 Toni Osborne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First novel featuring attorney Thora Gudmunddottir

This crime fiction captures and brings our attention to the witch hunts of the 1600s, a darker side of Iceland's rich history.

The setting is contemporary and the historical elements are flawlessly interwoven into the story. As a main plot, the author recounts the murder of a German student Harald Guntlieb, known to be unconventional and born into a wealthy Bavarian family.

His body was discovered at the University of Iceland and police hastily arr
When a student's body is found mutilated at the Icelandic college he attends, an arrest of one of his friends is quickly made. All is not as it seems however. The student's German family decides to hire an Icelandic lawyer to further investigate because they are not at all convinced that the police arrested the correct person. Here enters Thora Gudmundsdottir, a divorced attorney and mother of two who is struggling to to keep her law firm and family afloat.

Labeled as "An Icelandic Novel of Secr
This novel was marketed in a manner that set it up as something of an Icelandic "Da Vinci Code," but in execution, "Last Rituals" is a traditional mystery whose events lack the immediacy and the clever puzzles of that better-known suspense novel, however better written it could arguably be.

Another disappointment arises in the shallow depictions of character Sigurðardóttir uses for her cast: they are naive and over-explanatory in a way that may make the reader feel clever, but that same reader is
Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is a likable book. The first half moves along smoothly but then the book starts dragging and doesn't pick up again until the denouement. I really wanted to love this book-the blurb said it was about medieval Iceland, Icelandic myths, and other enticing topics-but I only liked it. I did like the protagonist Thora who, while she doesn't really stand out from other mystery/thriller detectives, was a pleasant narrative voice.

I got a little tired of being told how
Feb 10, 2008 Alisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: translations
It passed all of yesterday when my head was hurting, and D was too sick to talk to me. They mystery was standard, and not overly accomplished. The best thing about reading foreign mystery novels is the by-the-way things you pick up by accident. What people call their dogs, or what kind of food they think is a romantic night out. Or how this book always tells what language a conversation is held in: English, German, or Icelandic. I don't know exactly what that means, but I'm sure it does signify. ...more
Jul 25, 2016 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining--perfect read for a day of delayed flights and airport boredom! Interested to try more books in the series.
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

An der Universität von Reykjavik wird ein Student tot aufgefunden. Es handelt sich um den Deutschen Harald Guntlieb. Ein Täter wird schnell verhaftet. Doch Haralds Eltern wollen sich mit dieser Lösung nicht zufrieden geben. Sie wollen wissen, was wirklich zum Tod ihres Sohnes geführt hat. Sie engagieren die Anwältin Thóra Gudmundsdottir. Diese allein erziehend mit zwei Kindern, etwas chaotisch, aber dennoch voller Wissensdurst. Ihr zur Seite steht Matthias Reich, der von der Familie Gu
Caro M.
I tried, I really did, but I couldn't get through first 50 or 60 pages. I couldn't get into caring for a dead student or for detective Thora.
I might give it a try again after some time though.
Richard Ward
Murder mystery originally written in Icelandic and set in Iceland. The main character is a lawyer, though I never quite understood what kind. It's not a legal thriller, though, and there are no courtroom scenes. A college kid has been brutally murdered, with his body mutilated and stuffed into a closet. The cops have their suspect locked up and awaiting trial. The boy's parents aren't satisfied that the police have the right man and so hire their own team of investigators to uncover the truth. O ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Readers: Book #5; Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir 6 55 Jan 05, 2013 06:11PM  
Scandinavian and ...: Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir 43 77 Jul 03, 2012 12:35PM  
  • Frozen Assets (Officer Gunnhilder, #1)
  • Hypothermia (Inspector Erlendur #8)
  • The Black Path (Rebecka Martinsson, #3)
  • Unspoken (Anders Knutas, #2)
  • The Princess of Burundi (Ann Lindell, #4)
  • Night Rounds (Inspector Huss #2)
  • Lucifer's Tears (Inspector Kari Vaara, #2)
  • House of Evidence
  • The Fourth Man
  • Echoes from the Dead (The Öland Quartet, #1)
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is an Icelandic writer, of both crime-novels and children's fiction. She has been writing since 1998. Her début crime-novel was translated into English by Bernard Scudder.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir graduated from high-school in 1983, finished a B.Sc. in civil engineering from the University of Iceland in 1988 and M.Sc in the same field from Concordia University in Montreal in 1997.

More about Yrsa Sigurðardóttir...

Other Books in the Series

Þóra Guðmundsdóttir (6 books)
  • My Soul to Take (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #2)
  • Ashes to Dust (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #3)
  • The Day is Dark (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #4)
  • Someone to Watch Over Me: A Thriller (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #5)
  • The Silence of the Sea (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #6)

Share This Book

“Mother Nature had made an appalling error of judgement.” 2 likes
More quotes…