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Two crime books

Still behind on reviews so this time it's a couple of crime books that come under brief scrutiny. Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Snow Blind by P.J. Tracy.

A German student of Icelandic history (myths and legends sort of thing), Harald Guntlieb, is found murdered at the university in Reykjavik. A professor opens a cupboard and the body falls out on top of him to be precise. The body has been mutilated - eyes gouged out and a symbol carved on his body. The police quickly arrest one of the student's friends but the murdered boy's family feel they have the wrong man. They hire Thóra Gudmundsdóttir, a local solicitor, to investigate and send a German friend of theirs, Matthew Reich, to help her. The kind of information they turn up - a weird family history of the deaths of all Harald's siblings bar one and a grandfather who has passed his obsession with the occult on to Harald, plus Harald's apparent practise of some very questionable sexual practices - make Thóra wonder if she should have taken this case on in the first place. The German sent to help is almost more of a hindrance than a help, and now her son is keeping secrets from her. If it weren't that she needed the money Thóra knows she would run a mile from this...

I find it quite interesting to read crime books that are set somewhere other than the UK. Cultural differences are always quite apparent, differences in procedure etc. I'm no expert on the crime genre so have no idea how 'different' this book is, but it felt different to me. I was prepared to be shocked, given the nature of the sexual practices involved and the state of the body found, but actually I wasn't as the book is not particularly graphic. There're also quite a lot of family issues with Thóra and her divorce and two children and so on, meant to illustrate that life for women bringing up children on their own is not easy of course. Which is fair enough but I wasn't quite sure if I didn't find all of that a needless distraction. Jury's still out *but* I will say that, overall, I enjoyed this and will read the 2nd. book in the series, My Soul to Take which is just out.

Next up: Snow Blind by P.J. Tracy

This one is set in Minnesota, partly in the city of Minneapolis and partly out in the nearby countryside. The bodies of two dead policemen are discovered, disguised as snowmen, in a park where a lot of children are having a snowman building competition. A day later another body is discovered, also disguised as a snowman, on a frozen lake, north of the city. Detectives Magozzi and Rolseth are sent north to liaise with rookie sheriff, Iris Rikker, to try and discover if this is a copy-cat killing or the same killer at work. They quickly discover that the dead man in this case is a probation officer and that his killer is probably a wife beater he was interviewing who is now on the run. The detectives can't see the connection but unusual facts keep coming to light that connect the two cases in what seem like trivial ways *at first*...

Well, the first thing to say here is that this is the 4th. book in this series. This typical of me. I had no idea - Hubby just passed it on to me from his library pile, telling me that he quite enjoyed it, which is unusual enough in itself! It seems the first three books are not about these two detectives but more about a team of computer geeks who help the police - 'Monkeywrench' or something. They do appear in this 4th. book but not in any major way.

Anyway, like my husband, I actually quite liked the book too. I liked the two detectives, found the plot pacey and interesting, and absolutely adored the snowy Minneapolis and Minnesota setting (blame Mary Tyler Moore!) I had some idea fairly early on of what was going on but it didn't spoil my enjoyment at all. I suppose if I have a complaint it would be that there does seem to be a slight implication in it that most men are wife beaters and that did get a bit wearing by the end of the book. The 'author' is actually two women, a mother and daughter team, which has got to be slightly unusual? Anyway, not a bad read... not sure if I'll read the first three in the series, perhaps I'll grab them from the library if I see them there.


I read a lot of European crime fic, and did rather enjoy Last Rituals -- certainly enough to give the second one in the series a chance. You did get a good sense of Iceland through the book, I thought -- something that's so in the second one. I found the family stuff and the running gag over the inefficient PA very tiresome *g*.
Yep, I'll definitely try the 2nd. Maybe she tones the awful secretary down in book 2. We can hope.

What you said in my last post about the P.J. Tracy - the patronising stuff about the overweight woman being 'pretty' and 'good at her job' and so forth. I wonder if the authors latch on to something in every book? In this one I've just read it was wife beating that was rammed home constantly. I've just nabbed the first book in the series from the library as I was kind of curious to know what the subject is in that one. Judging by the blurb it might be religion...
There's a lot of very heavy-handed reinforcing of themes and stereotypes across the genre field.

The awful secretary is still in the second book, but not as often IIRC. It's a slow book generally, though, and I got pretty bored.