Written by Ragnar Jonasson, translated by Quentin Bates — Iceland’s modern answer to Agatha Christie is back in fine fettle, with a tale of two mysteries set in the northernmost regions of this remote island nation. This instalment of the crime series featuring young policeman Ari Thor Arason slots in between Blackout and Nightblind, both of which have already been reviewed on Crime Fiction Lover, so some later developments in the detective’s personal life will already be known to you if you’ve read the series. However, there is much enjoyment to be had from reading the books out of order.
Ragnar Jonasson once again uses the combined investigative powers of Ari Thor and Isrun, a TV reporter from Reykjavik who also appeared in Blackout. Fortunately, the personal demons which haunt both of the investigators are not at the forefront of this book, so we can instead focus on fresh characters and two distinct cases to solve.
The first case is almost ancient history. Two related families attempted to create a new farming settlement in an isolated fjord near Siglufjordur, the town where Ari Thor is based, back in 1955. Their adventure came to an abrupt and tragic end when one of the women died in mysterious circumstances. Classified as an accident at the time, Ari Thor is persuaded to reopen the case as new photographic evidence emerges. He isn’t too hopeful that anyone will remember anything relevant after so many decades, but Siglufjordur is once again cut off from the rest of the country, so he hasn’t got much else to do. This time it’s because of a suspected outbreak of haemorrhagic fever.
Isrun helps Ari Thor with the cold case by doing some of the legwork, but she is far more eager to progress her career with current news scoops. An abducted child and a hit-and-run accident seem to be her ticket to the big time. She gets more than she bargained for, however, when it becomes obvious that there might be some political implications to her stories.
The charm of the story resides in the deductive process rather than in action scenes, although there are a few suspenseful moments. For example, at one point a young man suspects that a malevolent person is stalking his family and has broken into his house. The author plays scrupulously fair with the readers, allowing us to puzzle things out for ourselves, giving us plenty of clues, yet still keeping it entertaining. The contemporary mystery relating to the kidnapping is solved a little too quickly and relies too much on coincidence, but it has more moments of tension than the historical case, so it provides Rupture with some pace.
As in the previous books in the series, the author steeps us in the claustrophobic small-town atmosphere, frozen landscapes and harsh lifestyle of his home country. The noirish feel is present in the storyline as well, reminiscent of the much darker Agatha Christie adaptation recently shown on the BBC, Witness for the Prosecution (see trailer below). Although both cases are ultimately solved, there is little satisfaction to be had from revealing the perpetrators. With the lightest of descriptive touches and a melancholy colour scheme, Ragnar Jonasson leaves us with some open questions about the nature of justice and the power of redemption.
Rupture is out now for Kindle and from 15 January as a paperback.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars