‘Rupture’ by Ragnar Jonasson – Watch out, it’s contagious!
If you’ve read my reviews of Snow Blind, Night Blind and Black Out you’ll know that if anything was going to test my book-buying ban, Rupture (translated by Quentin Bates), the latest edition of Ragnar Jónasson’s Dark Iceland series was it. Luckily, the lovely folks at Orenda Books supplied me with a review copy – hooray!
With the whole of Siglufjörður in quarantine, policeman Ari Thór finds himself stuck with time on his hands. After an old photograph piques his interest, he begins to investigate a mysterious death dating back fifty years. In 1955, after two young couples moved to a nearby isolated fjörd of Hedinsfjörður, one of the women died under strange circumstances and the case was never solved. As he is unable to travel, Ari Thór enlists the help of journalist, Isrún, who is in Reykjavik investigating a sinister case of her own. As these very different cases unfold, both show how the past can come back to haunt.
Since reading Snow Blind and becoming obsessed with all things Icelandic, I’ve gone on to explore and enjoy other Icelandic crime novels, particularly those by Arnaldur Indriðason and Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. I do love a gritty read and neither of these authors flinch from the gorier side of crime. There is a realism to the books and I think you can clearly see the influence of Sjöwall & Wahlöö’s Martin Beck Series (which I love) in both.
Jónasson’s Dark Iceland Series is different – quirky, even. His influences hark back to a different time. The plot structure, with each clue carefully embedded within the story, is far more reminiscent of golden age detective fiction. Reading a Dark Iceland novel doesn’t primarily feel like an exploration in human depravity, although there is much there, rather, one is left feeling the intense satisfaction of loose ends tied, like finding that elusive final clue to a cryptic crossword.
That’s not to say these mysteries are in any way tame. Jónasson’s evocations of the stark landscape, extreme weather, unpredictable volcanic activity, and in the case of Rupture, contagion, creates a palpable sense of claustrophobia and looming threat, imbuing each novel with a edginess and brooding atmosphere.