Ashes to Dust, Paperback
3.5 out of 5 (9 ratings)


The third crime novel from international bestseller Yrsa Sigurdardottir, ASHES TO DUST is tense, taut and terrifying - not to be missed for fans of Nordic Noir.

Thora peered at the floor, but couldn't see anything that could have frightened Markus that much, only three mounds of dust.

She moved the light of her torch over them. It took her some time to realize what she was seeing-- and then it was all she could do not to let the torch slip from her hand. 'Good God,' she said. She ran the light over the three faces, one after another.

Sunken cheeks, empty eye-sockets, gaping mouths; they reminded her of photographs of mummies she'd once seen in National Geographic. 'Who are these people?' 'I don't know,' said Markus ...Bodies are discovered in one of the excavated houses at a volcanic tourist attraction dubbed 'The Pompeii of the North'. Markus Magnusson, who was only a teenager when the volcano erupted, falls under suspicion and hires attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir to defend him - but when his childhood sweetheart is murdered his case starts to look more difficult, and the locals seem oddly reluctant to back him up ...


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Crime & mystery
  • ISBN: 9781444700077



Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 5 of 9 reviews.

  Previous  |  Next

Review by

On January 23, 1973, the volcano on the Westman Islands of Iceland erupted with little warning. The inhabitants of the island, had to flee their homes quickly, leaving most of their belongings behind. The residents were able to return but, for some, their homes were encased in ash and lava. These homes stayed undisturbed for over thirty years. It is this event that is the foundation of the setting of ASHES TO DUST.Thora Gudmundsdottir has had more than her share of clients whose wishes are slightly bizarre. When Markus Magnusson asks her to come with him to the home he hasn’t seen since the eruption of the volcano, she is willing to acquiesce to the wishes of her client. Markus hasn’t been in the house since he was thirteen years old.Hjortur Fridriksson is the director of a program, called “Pompeii of the North”. The group plans to excavate some of the buildings that have been under lava and ash for over thirty years, showing a slice of life that ended when it became clear that an eruption was imminent. Markus “… had refused to give even the slightest clue as to shy he was opposed to this parents’ house being excavated, had gone on and on about invasions of privacy, and had generally complicated the matter for Thora in every conceivable way.” Thora and Hjortur have worked out a compromise that allows the house to be excavated and Markus will be the first person to enter it. He is to be allowed to take anything he wants from the basement.Thora has no idea why he thinks he needs his attorney with him. She has no idea what is so important to him in the basement. And she has no idea why he is taking so long down there. The basement is relatively free of the debris from the volcano. Part of the roof has caved in and Thora is convinced the rest is ready to follow suit. She is bewildered when Markus calls to her, telling her he needs her opinion on something he has found.“Thora peered at the floor, but couldn’t see anything that could have frightened Markus that much, only three mounds of dust. She moved the light of her torch over them. It took her some time to realize what she was seeing – and then it was all she could do not to let the torch slip from her hand. ‘Good God,’ she said. She ran the light over the three faces, one after another. Sunken cheeks, empty eye-sockets, gaping mouths; they reminded her of photographs of mummies she’d once seen in National Geographic. ‘Who are these people?’ “Markus cannot explain the presence of the bodies. He was prepared to retrieve the odd box he had placed in the basement before the eruption, but the three bodies are more than he can comprehend. How did they get there? Thora soon finds herself defending a client charged with murder.What are the identities of the bodies in the basement? The island has a small population of people whose families had lived there for generations. If three members of the community suddenly disappeared, it would have been noticed. Why were they killed? This is a fishing community. The number of fishing boats belonging to the residents suggests smuggling might be involved in the murders. If the bodies were put in the basement after the eruption and the evacuation of the residents, who put them there? How many people were involved? Could one man have killed three men?Magnus tells Thora that his childhood sweetheart, Alda Thorgeirsdottir, was with him the night of the eruption. All the young people of the island were at a dance when word spread about the lava flow. They were put upon boats and evacuated from the island immediately. Alda will swear that they were together on the boat. Unfortunately for Markus, Alda is not available. As Thora tries to figure out what happened in 1973, she discovers that the dance, and the young people in attendance, are part of a secret that might lead to the identities of the mummies in the basement of the house.This is a complicated story, not because of the shifts between time periods, but because this is a story of emotions and the ramifications of behaviors that should have been examined with dispassion. It is a story that could be told about any group of teenagers in the 1970's, stories that would surprise the teenagers of the twenty-first century.In the first book in the series, LAST RITUALS, the author takes the reader back to the middle ages and the role of male witches in the culture of Iceland. MY SOUL TO TAKE confronts Iceland’s more recent past, the period during World War II. ASHES TO DUST goes back to the 1970's and the secrets and lies of a small society that had been uprooted when the volcano erupted.Iceland is described as a homogeneous society with little crime. In the hands of the author, the culture of Iceland, as seen through the eyes of the characters, is as different as their motives. These are wonderful books and I am looking forward to the newly released Kindle edition of THE DAY IS DARK. ASHES TO DUST is not available in the United States. On the front cover of the edition of the book I have, there is a quote from The Times – “She is entitled to join the front rank of Nordic crime writers.” Why the qualifier? Yrsa Sigurdardottir is entitled to be in the front ranks of crime writers (no proper noun required).

Review by

In the winter of 1973, a volcano eruption buried an entire Icelandic town under ash and lava. Now over 30 years later, some of the homes are being excavated for historical purposes. What no one expects to find in the basement of one of these homes are corpses that have been hidden underground since the eruption occurred. Markus Magnusson, who lived in the home as a child, comes under suspicion for killing his childhood crush and it seems that the murders from the past are somehow connected to the murder in the present."Ashes to Dust" is a new tightly wound thriller by acclaimed author Yrsa Sigurdardottir. The novel brings together all the best elements of a murder mystery – family, secrets, murder, betrayal, and deceit. The plot is thick with twists and surprises, and the story winds its way through the characters involved like a well placed tourniquet of suspense. "Ashes to Dust" grabs hold of the reader and refuses to let go – they are left guessing until the very last chapter. Fans of Steig Larsson should not miss this evocative and enthralling Scandinavian crime thriller. It truly sets a new standard for the genre. Disclosure: I received my copy of this book free from Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program. However, this had no impact on my opinion of the book or my review.

Review by

I enjoyed this book. My only criticism is that Tianna's story line is hanging at the end. Otherwise, bravo! I would recommend this book to a friend.

Review by

I have to assume that this book flows more smoothly in its original language, because I found it rather painful to read. At first I had some issues with the names not being made to sound a little more "American" but I got over that. What I did not get overwas the painfully slow story. I had begun to feel that it would never get to the end. I also felt that rather than reading like a book that had been translated from another language,that it read more like a word for word transcription of a story told by someone who spoke English as a second language. The sentence structure seemed quite awkward much of the time. I also felt that Thora Gudmundsdottir, the lawyer who was the main character in the story was annoying and sometimes downright judgmental and unpleasant. I didn't like her. She seemed barely able to keep her own house in order and for that reason having her as a defense attorney and in fact investigator seemed to me to be a poor choice. Three bodies had been found in a home that had been buried in a volcanic eruption. They were found by a member of the family who had once lived in the home, when he was allowed to go in and retrieve something he was very anxious to find. This item was a box that had been entrusted to him by a teenage crush, just before the eruption occurred. Upon recovering the box, which was done as a favor asked by the now middle aged woman, of Markus Magnusson. Markus had hidden it the night the eruption began, and had no idea what the box contained, or so he insisted. Things did look almost interesting when another death occurs. Then things begin to twist and turn and just become all the more annoying. Sorry, I was bored nearly to tears and would not have finished this one at all were it not an ARC that I felt compelled to give every chance to . It never truly caught my interest.I would not recommend it.

Review by

This book is the third in a series featuring the female lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir, and has quite a catchy opening: “She had often considered death to be a desirable option. Today, however, she hadn’t been feeling that way, which was rather unfortunate in light of the circumstances.”This opening murder scene, capturing in free association the thoughts of the victim, is riveting. The rest of the book, however, is more of a murder mystery of “standard” qualityThora is representing Markus Magnusson, who lost his house in the [real-life] eruption of a volcano on the Westmann Islands in 1973. It is now 2007, and archeologists are excavating some of the houses. Markus has retained Thora to make sure he has first access to the basement of the house. It is soon clear why the basement is a problem, when Markus discovers three bodies as well as a box containing the head of a fourth. Markus claims his childhood crush Alda gave him the box for safekeeping, but Alda has just been found murdered. Thora’s job is to exonerate Markus with the chief witness no longer available. In order to do this, she has to try to solve the crime herself.<strong>Evaluation</strong>: The information about the volcano and the reaction of the townspeople is interesting, much more so than Thora, unfortunately. She is very beige; very meat and potatoes; the only time she makes an impact on the reader is when she is being obnoxious by interrupting witnesses. It’s not a good way to come to one’s notice. Moreover, the red herrings are a bit amateurish, and the final twist comes across as a let’s-hurry-up-and-finish-deus ex machina. (In the closing scene of the book, when Thora closes her eyes and thinks “Would this never end?” I was with her one hundred percent!) I don’t want to say I wasn’t engaged by this book, but I doubt very much that I shall read another of the series.

  Previous  |  Next

Also by Yrsa Sigurdardottir   |  View all

Also in the Thora Gudmundsdottir series   |  View all