Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Last Rituals (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #1)” as Want to Read:
Last Rituals (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #1)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Last Rituals

(Þóra Guðmundsdóttir #1)

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  8,678 ratings  ·  813 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)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  8,678 ratings  ·  813 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Last Rituals (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #1)
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, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The grotesque murder of a doctoral student from Germany is what the last rituals of the total is about. Apparently the student was interested in the persecution of witches and the rituals the villagers practised to make sense of their brutal existence in the Middle Ages in Europe and his studies led him to Iceland.

His body was left in a bizarre state of butchery with symbols carved into his skin and his eyes removed. The young man had other things done to his skin called scarification that he d
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 Sigurðardóttir's
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
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quite an interesting crime story about a mysterious murder and investigations who really committed the crime. I really liked the background on witches on witchhunts in Iceland and Europe. Sometimes the story itself was a bit tedious. Why is it necessary to tell that detail about Thora's son? The author could have made more with the student group around Harald, primarily with the female characters. On the one hand the book had very dark tendencies I quite liked. On the other hand it read like a s ...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 w
Deb Jones
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: series
I would certainly not label this as a thriller of any sort, but that doesn't diminish the story it tells. The bizarre murder of a college student and its subsequent solution is what drives the plot. Along the way there are a number of interesting characters that come to life in the pages, not the least of which is the female protagonist, Thora, a 36-year-old attorney.

The slain young man was an avid student of history, particularly 15th through 17th century witch hunts. He also had a fascination
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
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
Valerio Gargiulo
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The story is interesting and intriguing. A very wealthy German young man is going to college in Iceland. He has a special interest in the history of witches and the black arts... The characters are well fleshed out, and believable. I really appreciate when authors like Yrsa make their characters normal people with normal problems. Along with the investigation we also get to learn about Thora's personal life and witness a parallel drama that unfolds in that realm. To anyone who enjoys a Nordic my ...more
Britta Böhler
2.5* rounded down.
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
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
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read this one on a recent trip, and found it be to thoroughly enjoyable. A little slap stick almost in some parts, but I enjoyed the storyline and the characters overall.
Sep 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: iceland, mysteries
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
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
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
Strong 3.5 stars.

I enjoyed this novel for the most part, being on a little Scandi-influenced crime kick after reading Stieg Larsson's Millenium trilogy earlier. I've never read a book set in Iceland before, so I found that particular aspect to be really quite interesting. Nevertheless, the pacing did drag a little in the middle and I really didn't care about Thora's home life and personal troubles.
Viv JM
3.5 stars

Not exactly high brow and ridiculously implausible but entertaining nevertheless - I liked all the historical detail about Iceland and witchcraft.
Jan 04, 2020 rated it liked it
My first Yrsa book back in the day.
I found the topic interesting and different from other books I had read.
Though I was very engrossed in it and read it in a short time, I have read most of Yrsa´s books and there are others that I liked more, so I find that 3 stars are deserved.
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Thora is a hard-boiled 36 year old lawyer. She has flaws. She's the divorced Mother of two and also works hard. Every day and night kind of hard. Also trying to hang on to the house after buying out her ex-husband. And it doesn't look like she'll be able to keep it much longer. The characters in all the key roles for this series and the context of Icelandic culture, jobs, family connections, all types of "norms"; that becomes central to this introducing novel. The plot itself secondary and rathe ...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.
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
Feb 10, 2008 rated it liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
You'll love this ...: September 2016 - Last Rituals 152 39 Sep 30, 2016 06:02PM  
The Readers: Book #5; Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir 6 56 Jan 05, 2013 06:11PM  
English Translati...: Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir 43 82 Jul 03, 2012 12:35PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Snowblind (Dark Iceland #1)
  • Nightblind (Dark Iceland #2)
  • Jar City (Inspector Erlendur, #3)
  • The Mist (Hidden Iceland #3)
  • The Island
  • Rupture (Dark Iceland #4)
  • Blackout (Dark Iceland #3)
  • The Darkness
  • Whiteout (Dark Iceland #5)
  • Silence of the Grave (Inspector Erlendur #4)
  • Hypothermia (Inspector Erlendur #8)
  • Reykjavík Nights: Murder in Reykjavík (Inspector Erlendur, #0)
  • Cage (Reykjavik Noir Trilogy, #3)
  • The Draining Lake (Inspector Erlendur #6)
  • Húsið
  • Voices (Inspector Erlendur #5)
  • Confession (Blood Secrets, #2)
  • Arctic Chill (Inspector Erlendur #7)
See similar books…
Yrsa Sigurðardóttir is an Icelandic writer, of both crime-novels and children's fiction. She has been writing since 1998.
Her début crime-novel "Last Rituals" published in the US in 2007, and the UK in January 2008 was translated into English by Bernard Scudder, and is book 1 of the Thóra Gudmundsdóttir series.

Yrsa Sigurðardóttir graduated from high-school in 1983, finished a B.Sc. in civil engin

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)

News & Interviews

You know the saying: There's no time like the present...unless you're looking for a distraction from the current moment. In that case, we can't...
28 likes · 10 comments
“Mother Nature had made an appalling error of judgement.” 6 likes
“Thóra glared at him. “I’ve given birth to two children, with all the accompanying pain, blood, placentas, cervical plugs, and God knows what else. I’ll survive.” She folded her arms and turned away from him. “So what do you know about gross stuff?”

Matthew did not seem impressed by Thóra’s experience. “Lots of things. But I’ll spare you the details. Unlike you, I have no need to beat my chest.”
More quotes…