Ashes to Dust by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

Back in 1973 a volcano erupted in the Westmann Islands off the coast of Iceland.  The only town there was partially buried in lava and ash.  Today archaeologists are uncovering some of the ash filled homes.  Markus, a former resident, hires a lawyer, Thora Gudmundsdottir, to ensure that he is the first to enter the basement of a childhood home to retrieve some items.  Thora manages to work out an agreement so Markus is the first downstairs.  He returns upstairs empty handed and very disconcerted.  The box he went to retrieve broke open and a human head rolled across the basement.  The rolling of that head was stopped by three dead bodies.  He claims he had no knowledge of the head, much less the bodies.  Needless to say Thora’s client is now being charged with murder.

The author has been dubbed the Iceland’s Crime Queen and this book fits her reputation.  It is well-plotted and she really brings the landscape and the culture of the people of this small, somewhat insulated island, to life.  If you are looking for a foreign mystery you should think about giving Yrsa a try.  (Weird librarian note: Traditional Icelandic names are cataloged by first name – in Iceland all phone books are in alphabetical order by first name.  So if you are looking for her books look under Yrsa, not Sigurdardottir!)