Rupture is the first of this author’s works that I’ve read. It’s number four in his Dark Iceland series. You can read it as a standalone however and I had no trouble following the plot and getting to know the characters; relevant backstory is explained when need be. Our protagonist is a young policeman, Ari Thór. He’s one of only two cops in the small, north Icelandic town of Siglufjörður. The town is currently in lockdown, isolated by the health authorities, due to an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever, thanks to a visitor who stopped off in Africa. One night, Hédinn, a local, pops in to see Ari Thor (they sit across the room from each other, even though both say they haven’t been exposed). He has with him a family photograph taken fifty years previously. The people in the photograph are his parents, uncle and aunt, one of whom supposedly committed suicide by drinking rat poison. But did she kill herself or was it something more sinister? And can Ari Thor get to the bottom of the mystery all these years later? He begins to investigate and draws in Isrún, a reporter in Reykavik, who I believe is a recurring character.
There are several sub-plots and interweaving story lines. A family being stalked, the child kidnapped. A hit and run killing. Both give Isrun more to do for otherwise she would be reduced to just making the odd phone call on Ari Thor’s behalf. The focus however is on the historical mystery and it is this which Ari Thor is concerned with.
As with many Nordic crime novels, Rupture has a great sense of place and atmosphere. The reader can almost feel the cold and isolation of northern Iceland. The latter is heightened by the outbreak, the townsfolk literally cut off from the outside world. With the historical setting, Hédinn’s ancestors had tried to make their home in an isolated fjord, and the author brings the bleakness of the location to the fore. He does such a good job of this that the reader can’t help but truly wonder whether they might have been driven to their wits end and this keeps one guessing as to how the victim met her end, was it suicide after all?
So-called Nordic Noir most often has the emphasis on the noir. The novels of Jo Nesbo and Stieg Larsson are dark, foreboding places. Evil stalks the land and the violence can be brutal. Ragnar Jónasson is a different beast altogether. Yes, there are some difficult subjects broached and people do die. But this is more a cosy mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie. Even the use of poison as a method of suicide/murder (albeit in a historical setting) harks back to the queen of the murder mystery. Were it not for the fact that one feels almost physically chilly reading it thanks to the descriptions of all that snow and ice, I might say it’s the kind of book to curl up with under a duvet with a hot chocolate.
In conclusion, this is a novel with a real sense of place. If atmospheric whodunits are your thing, I can recommend Rupture as well worth a read.