Book review: Rupture by Ragnar JÃ³nasson
It's not only the frozen landscape that sends shivers down the spine as one of Iceland's most talented crime writers returns in a stunning story brimming with the best of Nordic Noir.
Ragnar Jónasson, a lawyer who translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into English before embarking on his own literary career, has combined the famous English author’s classic style with rich atmospheric mysteries to create a superb crime series noted for its chills and thrills.
Rupture is the fifth book in Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series and stars his now familiar, charismatic young policeman Ari Thór Arason who operates out of Siglufjörður, a small fishing town in a narrow fjord on the northern coast of this most sparsely populated country in Europe.
Siglufjörður is a place of ice, winter darkness, almost ethereal beauty and, in the hands of this accomplished novelist, home to a claustrophobic community in a society often closed off from its neighbours by snow.
Against this awe-inspiring backdrop, Jónasson pens intelligent, thoughtful and timelessly traditional whodunits, seamlessly translated into English by Quentin Bates and written with the author’s finesse, perfect prose and penchant for brilliant plot twists.
The inhabitants of remote Siglufjörður are in virtual lockdown and the town in chaos after a wealthy traveller brought in the highly contagious haemorrhagic fever and died in the local hospital. Now a nurse has displayed the symptoms and everyone is staying indoors.
Meanwhile, Ari Thór is mulling over an interview with a man called Hédinn whose aunt died under mysterious circumstances in the nearby uninhabited and isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður back in 1955.
She had moved there with her husband and another couple, Hédinn’s parents, with the intention of trying to farm the land. But their pioneering plans were brought to an abrupt end when his aunt died after drinking poisoned coffee. The verdict was accidental death but the shadow of suspicion has always hung over the other family members, all now deceased.
Recently an old photograph came to light and it proves that the two couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all… an unknown man is pictured posing with the group. Can Ari Thór piece together what really happened?
He is assisted by Ísrún, a television news reporter in Reykjavik who is investigating an increasingly chilling hit-and-run case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a little boy goes missing in broad daylight in Siglufjörður. With a stalker on the loose, and the town still in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them...
Rupture is a clever, complex and haunting thriller, a fascinating study of a an already isolated community cut off from the world by a deadly illness, living in fear of both disease and an unknown stalker, and with two young people ploughing a furrow through events of the past , determined to seek out the truth.
It’s a fascinating scenario and one that Jónasson exploits through three separate story strands, each slowly weaving together as the mystery unfolds and moves inexorably to a conclusion that is both unexpected and gripping.
Addictive, top class crime fiction…
(Orenda Books, paperback, £8.99)