Sunday, December 11, 2011

Leighton Gage

Leighton Gage has spent many years in Brazil where he maintains a home. He also lives in Miami and spends part of the year in the Netherlands.

His new Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation is A Vine in the Blood.

A few weeks ago I asked Gage what he was reading. His reply:
The civilized little country of Iceland has a population of slightly more than 300,000 people and a homicide rate akin to that of Japan – only about 0.5 murders per 100,000 people per year. And those (less than) two murders are usually alcohol-related and quickly solved.

Why, then, do they have so many crime writers? More to the point, why do they have so many good crime writers?

Maybe it’s something in the water. Or the fact that they have one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Or the fact that nobody reads more books, per year, than your average Icelander.

Whatever it is, I’m glad of it, because I just love Icelandic crime novels. And I particularly enjoy the work of Yrsa Sigudardottir, whose undark side you can sample every Wednesday on Murder is Everywhere.

Yrsa’s fourth book to feature the exploits of Reykjavik lawyer, Thora Gudmundsdottir, won’t be launched in the United States until the end of March, 2012, but I was fortunate enough to snag an Advanced Reading Copy – and, as is usual with Yrsa’s books, it kept me up all night.

On the 23rd of January, 1973, a volcanic eruption struck Heimaey, the only populated island of Iceland’s Westman Archipelago. The population, almost 5,000 people, was evacuated without the loss of a single human life, but almost a third of the village was covered by a thick layer of lava and ash. In June of 2005, an archeological dig began with the objective of uncovering some of the 400 homes and buildings buried for more than three decades.

That much is fact. But then Yrsa’s rich imagination takes over: corpses are discovered in the cellar of one of the houses being excavated. Multiple murders have been committed, and in one case, severe mutilation of one of the victims. It’s quickly determined that the dead aren’t islanders, and that their deaths took place at the time of the eruption.

Who are they? Who killed them?

The police don’t know, but they have good reason to suspect Markús Magnusson, Thóra’s client. And then Magnusson’s life is further complicated by the murder, back in Reykjavik, of his childhood sweetheart.

For which crime, too, he comes under suspicion.

I don’t think I’ll be giving away too much if I tell you that Markús is innocent.

As to who’s guilty, here’s an extract from the last page of the book:
“And who was the bad guy?” (Thóra’s) daughter asked eagerly. In her simple, childish world, criminals were easy to spot, like Robbie Rotten or the Beagle Boys in the books Thóra read to her.

“It was the one that I thought was the good guy,” replied Thóra…
Sigurdardottir’s latest book takes the form of a complex, intriguing puzzle, a puzzle Thóra is unable to solve until the very end.

But Ashes to Dust is more than just a mystery. Fans of the series are going to enjoy catching up on the continuing exploits of Bella, Thóra’s disagreeable secretary, and discovering how the lawyer’s love affair with Matthew, her German boyfriend, is progressing.

This one is, if anything, even better than Sigurdardottir’s previous novels.

And that is no mean trick, because Last Rituals, My Soul to Take and The Day is Dark are all seriously good books.
Visit Leighton Gage's website and the Murder is Everywhere blog.

Read more about A Vine in the Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue