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Last Rituals (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir #1)

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  6,812 Ratings  ·  625 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
Hardcover, 314 pages
Published October 2nd 2007 by William Morrow (first published 2005)
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Dec 01, 2013 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
Amalia Gavea
This was between three and four stars, actually. Just to be fair.

So, Last intriguing title, is it not? Along with the blue-black book cover and the Icelandic setting, the readers are in for a haunting reading.

Last Rituals was already in my TBR list, but I started reading sooner than I thought, taking part in the September reading discussion of the You'll love this one...!! A book club & more, a suggestion by our lovely moderators. It is the first installment in Yrsa Sigurðardótt
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
Vanessa (V.C.)
Dec 27, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 22, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Rachel Hall
Last Rituals introduces the character of Thóra Gudmunsdóttir, a recently divorced lawyer and partner in a small firm that specialises in contractual law. Thirty-six-year-old Thóra, mother to son Gylfi, sixteen and six-year-old daughter Sóley has an acrimonious relationship with her ex-husband and children’s father, Hannes. Two years divorced, she works hard both at work and at home, to create a supportive and stable environment for her offspring, whilst allowing her own love life to take a backs ...more
Mar 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
I was fairly disappointed by this, after loving the standalone novel by the same author, I Remember You.

- The mystery itself was unsatisfying and dull. The references to dark magic/occult/religion/history really didn't work for me. Too much information dumping that made it feel like I was reading a dull history textbook at times.

- Every single character seemed shallow and immature. I found myself questioning multiple times whether any real person would ever behave in similar ways. First there wa
Trigger warnings: murder, mutilation, gore.

I've read several of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's books now, and they're all wonderfully creepy. Some of them have been slow and creepy, others have been compelling as hell and creepy. This one was...somewhere between the two.

The murder itself was hella disturbing and the dynamic between the victim's friendship group was super messed up. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that the protagonist is a lawyer hired by the victim's family to be their eyes on the ground,
Liza Perrat
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quite an enjoyable read, albeit a big long-winded and slow on the action. It all really focuses on the investigation, so lots of narrative explanations. I enjoyed another of her books far more: Why Did You Lie? However, I will still read the second in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series.
Dec 18, 2014 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
May 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Matt Poland
Aug 22, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Για την ακρίβεια 2.5*
Είχα ακούσει πολλά και θετικά για την Yrsa, οπότε πήγα στη δανειστική βιβλιοθήκη για να τη συναντήσω.
Αυτή τη φορά δεν την πάτησα όπως τότε που ζήτησα ένα βιβλίο του Ζοζέ Σαραμάγκου και τα κοχυλένια μου αυτάκια άκουσαν τους έκθαμβους υπαλλήλους να αναφωνούν "Πώς; Ζοζέ! τι όνομα είναι αυτό; Γάλλος είναι;".
Είχα πάει πάνοπλη με σκονάκι το όνομα της Yrsa.
Παρόλα αυτά δεν απέφυγα την ερώτηση περί της εθνικότητας και το επακόλουθο μπέρδεμα της Ιρλανδίας με την Ισλανδία.
Ο κύκλος τ
Sep 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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 08, 2013 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
Aug 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Maggie Gordon
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery-crime
Last Rituals was, quite literally, the most boring murder mystery that I have ever read. Despite the fact that it was supposed to be about witchcraft in Iceland, the plot was incredibly dry and entirely devoid of any suspense. Generally, a mystery is supposed to convey a sense of danger, but this book was a very bland, plodding description of the two main characters methodically researching the last few months of a victim's life. While this might be what real lawyers and PIs do, such banal activ ...more
Jul 13, 2014 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
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
Jan 28, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Vít Kotačka
Tak zase to nevyšlo... zase jedna severská krimi, kde nechápu, co je na tom tak skvělé a populární. Byl jsem v pokušení dát 2 hvězdy, nakonec dávám 3, protože to celkem čtivé bylo a chtěl jsem vědět, jak to dopadne. (view spoiler)

Přitom potenciál tam byl. Přijde vám Skandinávie lehce exotická? Island je Skandinávie na druhou. Tahle detektivka se dost vrtá v historii a Island má hodně zajímavý dějepis.

Hlavní téma téhle krimi je čarodějnictví, hony na čarodějnice a speciá
May 29, 2010 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
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Toni Osborne
Jul 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
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You'll love this ...: September 2016 - Last Rituals 152 37 Sep 30, 2016 06:02PM  
The Readers: Book #5; Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir 6 55 Jan 05, 2013 06:11PM  
Scandinavian and ...: Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir 43 80 Jul 03, 2012 12:35PM  
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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 (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #5)
  • The Silence of the Sea (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #6)

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“Mother Nature had made an appalling error of judgement.” 5 likes
“Marta Mist z jakichś gender studies. Ta była zupełnie okropna, ciągle tylko narzekała, jakie to kobiety są pokrzywdzone. Zdarzało się, że rozwalała tym nastrój imprezy.” 0 likes
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