18 April 2011

Sunday, the library is closed

Already we suffer from reduced public spending. The Northfield library used to be open on Sunday afternoons in the winter. No more.

So, when I came home on Saturday wtih a book I'd already read and didn't want to reread, I was stuck.

What it meant was a 35-mile ride to the nearest bookstore. It was a nice Sunday afternoon. Driving the Prius meant I used less than 2 gallons of gas for the round trip. Still, it was a luxury I would think more than twice about after writing checks today for income taxes. (Tom Paxton, at the time of the first auto industry bail out, wrote a song, "I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler." Later he updated the song to "I am Changing My Name to Fannie Mae.") Today, I want to change my name to GE. I don't want any of its billions in profits. I just want to avoid paying taxes on my income like it did.

Back in the halcyon days before I saw our tax returns, I made the drive to the bookstore and came home with several books. One of the was A Test of Wills, that I wrote about a couple weeks ago. Another was Last Rituals by Yrsa. Yrsa is another of the Icelanders who usually do without a family name. When publishers outside of Iceland demand a second name, she gets her revenge by saying, "I'm Yrsa Sigurðardóttir." (Go ahead try and write or type that one.) It's so difficult that her publisher transliterates her name into Yrsa Sigurdardóttir.

Enough about Icelandic names.

The cover of the book says that Last Rituals is "A Novel of Suspense." An unnamed USA Today reviewer was more accurate when describing the book as a "fascinating and deliciously creepy mystery." The closest to suspense I could identify was what was wrong with the main character's teen age son or how long would it take for the divorced Icelandic lawyer, Thóra Gudmundsdóttir (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir) to get into bed with the gorgeous German guy who was directing the investigation.

No suspense, but definitely creepy. And sort of fascinating. The story is strung out like a trail of breadcrumbs behind Hansel and Gretel. One thing leads to another and another. Sometimes the trail is a dead end, but if you haven't eaten the breadcrumbs, it's possible to get back to the main route.

Yrsa writes well and translator Bernard Scudder does a great job of putting things into casual and correct English. Thóra and the German factotum talk to each other and to the people involved in a grisly murder. The dialogue moves the plot along very well (I've noted that before; for me it's usually much better than straight story telling most of the time.)

The victim was the son of a wealthy German family researching Medieval witch burnings in Iceland. His death seems as symbolic and horrifying as the persecutions he was studying. Matthew, a representative of the German family, needs help understanding Iclandic and Iceland. Thóra is an attorney who could use the generous fee offered by the family. Besides, she's a quick study and smart. The local police are on the fringe of things, but pretty much quit investigating when they're satisfied that their suspect is guilty.

So, no suspense. If there was any suspense, it happened in the back story. Lots of creepyness. Not very delicious. But it's a well-told story. Several of the characters are interesting. Ysra has written a couple more novels about Thóra, and I'll be looking for them in the library. (Buying books is on hold for awhile.)

Have you read Last Rituals or another of Yrsa's novels? Did you like it? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you think.

1 comment:

Karen Russell said...

Thanks for linking to my review. I agree -- the "suspense" tag isn't really accurate, but then it's not Yrsa's fault what the publisher puts on the cover!