Our Jolabokafloð countdown continues, as does Ragnar week. this time I’m revisiting my review of Rupture, book four in the dark Iceland series featuring Ari Thór Arason. What I really love about this series is how landscape and setting form an integral part of the story, never more obvious than it is in this book, the sense of isolation even stronger, facing the reader with a very different kind of darkness. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
1955.Two young couples move to the uninhabited, isolated fjord of Hedinsfjörður. Their stay ends abruptly when one of the women meets her death in mysterious circumstances. The case is never solved. Fifty years later an old photograph comes to light, and it becomes clear that the couples may not have been alone on the fjord after all…
In nearby Siglufjörður, young policeman Ari Thór tries to piece together what really happened that fateful night, in a town where no one wants to know, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik, who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town of Siglufjörður in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them.
Haunting, frightening and complex, Rupture is a dark and atmospheric thriller from one of Iceland’s foremost crime writers.
Oh what a story. Much like the preceding novels, there are no big whizz bang revelations, no high speed chases and no intense moments of jeopardy but then this is what I like about this series of books. It is so beautifully written, such an absorbing read that relies on the building of atmosphere to deliver chills that it does not need to be. The way in which Ragnar Jónasson establishes and delivers the picture of the remote Icelandic town of Siglufjörður is just perfect, and more so with the descriptions of Hédinsfjörður which seems incredibly bleak and isolated. The descriptions of the journey made by one of the residents of Siglufjörður in order to take pictures of the remote fjord are inspired, as is much of the series, by his own Grandfather and his writings on the town, but are perfectly captured and recounted on the page here that it feels new and undiscovered.
There are probably what seems, at first, to be three distinct threads throughout this book. The story of Jórunn and her unexplained death which Ari Thór is investigating; the story of the hit and run involving the politician’s son who thinks he is finally about to get his big break in the music industry, and the abduction of the small child by someone who may well have been stalking the family home. The story moves seamlessly between the three investigations with Ísrún providing the only true link between them. It means that a large portion of the book moves away from the traditional setting of Northern Iceland into the streets of Reykjavik and yet the atmosphere is no less taught.
We already know Ísrún from her appearance in Blackout and are aware of her struggles, both personally and professionally. It is nice to learn even more about her character throughout the book, seeing her in her family situation as well as her professional one. She is a journalist through and through, with an engaging and enquiring mind, a nose for a story and a need to find the truth, if only not to be scooped by another journalist. In many respects she is very similar to Ari Thór with his need to discover the answer to the puzzle and this certainly helps the story to flow back and forth between the two locations.
The mixture of cold case (no pun intended) and new is matched by the perfect pacing. There is more tension and a greater sense of jeopardy in the current cases, particularly that of the missing child, and Jónasson creates this with assured ease, tapping into the thoughts of the boys step-father, a man on the edge who is holding too many secrets of his own, and the utter despair and desolation of his mother as she weeps for her missing child. Even the urgency of Ísrún’s investigation, her frustration when she cannot get information from her police informant, is indicative of the flow of the story. It informs the pace.
When it comes to the cold case back in Siglufjörður, the story visibly slows, echoing the isolation and slow yet bitter winds of its location. The creeping and growing sense of foreboding that Ari Thór feels when visiting the ruined farmstead with the Priest is surely also felt by the reader and whilst drawn in by whispers of the past, you also feel the need to escape. To move away as fast as possible before you too fall fowl of the depression which must have affected the family who lived there.
Although not quite as dark as its predecessor, Blackout, it is still a story with a tainted and deepening shadow at its heart. All of the events are built upon a foundation of lies and deceit. Whatever the resolution, there can be no winners and the lives of all involved are clouded by indelible changes. Another superb read and a fine example of the way in which Jónasson uses atmosphere to create the ultimate sense of dread while not sacrificing the integrity and authenticity of the setting.
About the Author
Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavík, and currently works as a lawyer, while teacher copyright law at the Reykjavík University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated fourteen Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavík, and is co-founder of the International crime-writing festival Iceland Noir. Ragnar’s debut thriller, Snowblind became an almost instant bestseller when it was published in June 2015n with Nightblind (winner of the Dead Good Reads Most Captivating Crime in Translation Award) and then Blackout, Rupture and Whiteout following soon after. To date, Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, which has been optioned for TV by On the Corner. He lives in Reykjavík with his wife and two daughters.
Books by Ragnar Jónasson