LAST RITUALS is an ‘academic mystery’: that is, the crime takes place in a university department (a student is murdered), and the solution depends on the uncovering and understanding of the victim’s research, as well as of the broader mores, religion and witchcraft in medieval Europe. Yet the book is by no means heavy-going; the opposite in fact. LAST RITUALS is an assured novel, ably translated by the late Bernard Scudder. I recommend it very highly. . . .
Thora is an attractive heroine: she’s practical, capable and intelligent as well as having a dry sense of humour and an enquiring mind. Her domestic concerns are real enough, interesting and vivid, but without dominating the book. She’s curious about everything: I particularly liked her encouragement of the pathologist who did Harald’s autopsy to describe the molecular basis of muscle contraction. The description he provides is a little gem of knowledge. Similar examples are provided economically, accurately but not intrusively throughout the book – for example when a museum curator remarks in passing: “As a rule, people don’t know anything: they can’t even tell a revenant from a poltergeist.”
Incidentally, Karen Meek, the irresistible force behind the Euro Crime site, has announced that some expat North Americans and others will now be welcomed to the fold. The site will now “include those authors, though not born in Europe, who have a strong association with European crime fiction” – such as Donna Leon. May the sun never set on Euro Crime.