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4.1 out of 5 stars58
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 22 February 2012
I had put off reading reading "Ashes to Dust" even though I had enjoyed the author's first 2 books as I was discouraged by the negative reviews that I read. I changed my mind and decided to give it a go when I read that the plot was based in the Westmann Islands. As I have been to Iceland recently, I thought I would get something out of reading it even if it wasn't a great thriller. Much to my surprise, I really liked this book and read it in a couple of days. I personally am glad it was more focused on the plot and not as much time spent on Thea's boyfriend or children. I thought the plot was satisfyingly complex and was interested in the dynamics of a small Icelandic community that were portrayed in the book. I wouldn't really compare these thrillers to the "Millennium" trilogy or even the the Wallander series. They are simpler but still enjoyable to read. It will really depend on what you want from a thriller. If you like lots of action and gore, this is definitely not the book for you.
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on 24 July 2010
Ashes to Dust is the third novel featuring the engaging Reykjavik lawyer,
Thora Gudmundsdottir. It cannot be easy for the author to continue to
invent credible crime plots set in a largely crimeless society of just
over 300,000 people.Yet she pulls it off marvellously in what is her most
accomplished novel to date.
In 1973,in the Westmann Islands,some 100 miles off the Iceland mainland,
Eldfell volcano violently erupted leading to the evacuation of the islanders.
Thora is hired in 2007 by a client who is resisting excavation of his property.
When this resistance fails three bodies and a head are discovered in his basement
covered by volcanic dust.He becomes the suspect for these murders and a further
very recent one.The police seem convinced of his guilt so Thora carries out
her own investigations,only to find the locals unwilling to assist her.
This is a rich,lengthy,meticulously plotted story ,with plenty of surprises
along the way. Highly Recommended.
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on 10 September 2012
Loved the previous two books but I struggled with this story. I am finding Thora less and less sympathetic, there is little here about her boyfriend or children and so it almost seemed like the plot for a short story . Also I feel there is too much criticism of the secretary Bella , who I actually quite warm to [ the better thriller writers allow characters to develop over the series ] . Then after finding much of the book really really slow [ too much telling not showing ] the ending suddenly rushed as if she had had enough telling of the tale .
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on 11 March 2012
I read this book on the strength of the positive reviews and because of the Icelandic setting. The latter was quite enticing, with the investigative action set between Reykjavik and the Westmann Islands, and depicting how the excavation of misdeeds covered up by the lava eruption there decades before, links up with a current murder in the capital. And what a murder - it is decribed in the first few pages in a chilling and original way.
The investigation leads lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir to contact a variety of people in her home town (a plastic surgeon, a tatooist, the self-important young police inspector) and to travel to the Islands with her free-spirited, goth secretary to meet relatives of the victim and suspect. She gets the sense that people are not telling her all they know. At one point she hires a fishing boat tour in order to get information from the knowledgeable guide, though squeamish about the business of killing fish or the puffin hunt they witness.
Back in Rekyavik there is a deeply troubled anorexic girl who is witness to someting to do with the murder.

But I found much of the book fairly enjoyable and then frustrating in turn. The author does not seem to credit her readers with enough wit, and insisits on going over the same details and over-explaining all the possible motives and her own dilemnas. Some of the 'clues' are so obvious, but surrounded by too much uninteresting filler that if it weren't for the 'Icelandic interest' I may have put the book aside. Tightening up the writing would have made this a much better book. I may give another Ysra Sigurdardottir a try sometime, but in the hope that the plot and writing are less sluggish and crisper.
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I am working my way through this author's books, featuring the attorney Thóra Gudmundsdóttir in stories that always seem to feature something of the weird and mysterious along with the mundane and brutal. This is the third in the series (although I've been reading them out of order, with no ill consequences).

In this story, Thóra is representing a man who is being investigated regarding bodies found in his family's house, being excavated over thirty years after the eruption of the Edfell volcano in January 1973, on the Icelandic island of Heimaey. She finds herself caught up in mysteries both old and new, and juggles that with her family.

The interaction of Thóra and her secretary Bella is great - it's nice to see Bella getting more time to grow as a character in this book. There's certainly lots of potential to surprise in her. The characters in the story are many and varied, and the tangled threads of so many odd and unsolved mysteries from 1973 to the present (the book was published in 2007) keeps the reader's interest engaged the whole way. There's no way I could work out what the whole story was, even though bits of it kept popping up, sometimes even before Thóra worked it out. That's what makes these books so continually engaging; the storylines are complex, the characters are well developed, and the overarching stories are always very clever. Great stuff; can't wait for the next one to read.
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on 23 January 2013
I have read all of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's books so far, but I have found the translation of the last few books to be annoyingly clunky. The stories themselves are wonderfully imaginative and really hook you in, as they are all gripping tales, but I'm sorry to say that I find the writing awkwardly put together and almost childish. I have no idea whether or not the translator is at fault, but it may appear that this is the case, as the writing lacks fluidity.
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"Ashes to Dust" is the third of Yrsa Sigurðardóttir's 'Thóra Gudmundsdóttir murder mysteries'. The original was first published in Icelandic simply as "Aska (Ash)" in 2007. This edition has been translated into excellent idiomatic English by Philip Roughton and first appeared in 2010.

Anyone who has read either of the forerunners to the book will know exactly what to expect here, for the author does not deviate from her earlier formulaic approach to mystery-writing aimed mostly, I suspect, at a female audience. As with the earlier books, there is a fair amount of "tourist Iceland" in the locations chosen for the story -- in this case in the form of the Westman Isles (both its annual rock music festival and its historical Eldfell eruption on Heimaey in 1973) -- as well as mundane home life intrusions for the protagonist, presumably to help the reader relate to the character. These latter elements continue storylines from the earlier "Last Rituals" and "My Soul to Take" but with the love interest element pruned back to a bare minimum (no pun intended). The end product is a somewhat forced and overly fanciful storyline, which is nevertheless firmly grounded in the everyday and mundane, producing a dissonance in the narrative which will probably infuriate more readers than find it endearing.

Overall, the book is too formulaic, as well as simultaneously too simplistic and too far-fetched to be of much value to lovers of complex mystery tales. Things are made worse by the central "mystery" and the consequent solution to the murders being blindingly obvious to all but the dimmest of readers from very early on and yet spun out in the narrative until almost the end in some very poorly judged pacing of the plot. The book is light-hearted enough to be entertaining for those not worried about its lack of intellectual challenge but ultimately it has to be said that there are many much better murder mysteries -- even Icelandic ones -- out there.

2.5 stars, really.
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on 4 May 2012
I write this after reading the other 11 or so reviews preceding it, and partly in response to them.
I enjoyed this book, not so much for the plot, which can mostly be worked out as you go along except for the final volte-face, but for the people. I appreciate some of the other reviewers find them a bit tedious, but I think it depends on your sense of humour. The lead character, Thora, is rather humourously unhumourous, and Bella the secretary is a great comic character, so, like many great detective/thriller mysteries, the wierdos that inhabit the book are soemwhat more interesting than the plots themselves. Descriptions of life in Iceland might be very interesting, but it does not come across as much different from life in UK, though colder, perhaps. The low population mean almost everybody knows everybody else, but that is like rural UK, though Londoners might find that a bit odd.
I have just odered no 4 in the series.
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on 23 July 2014
The author has complained in the past about the problems of writing crime fiction in Iceland because of the lack of crime (especially interesting crimes). This shortage of material has forced her to use all her creative powers to invent imaginative story lines. Indeed, her trademark has become complicated, particularly gruesome plots. Here she makes good use of the volcanic eruptions in 1973 in the Westman Islands just off Iceland's south coast. One major improvement is that she has toned down the twee aspects which tended to jar with the gruesome plot in the first two books -- Thora's middle-class observations, the women's magazine-style family details and the trashy soap opera aspects. Still, I don't agree with the publisher's hype that the author is Iceland's Stieg Larsson!
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on 24 December 2013
Very good read, particularly for those readers with an interest in the troubles of Ireland.
Told in both a sometimes graphic and humorous narrative, the story is a must as a 'holiday read'.
Pity about the spelling!
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