Sunday, 22 January 2017

"He reflected that the starlight has travelled unimaginable distances to appear there before him, in an abandoned fjord on the most northerly coast of Iceland"

Rupture is the fourth novel in the Dark Iceland series which has established Ragnar Jonasson as a key protagonist in a particularly Icelandic branch of the Nordic Noir genre. Jonasson writes consistently arresting crime fiction set in increasingly remote parts of Northern Iceland. Added to each scenario is an almost supernatural element, a snow storm or volcanic blackout for example, which adds to to the suffocation and claustrophobia. In Rupture Dark Iceland just got darker when there is an outbreak of a deadly virus in the remote town of Siglufjordur, a child is kidnapped in broad daylight, and family secrets begin to unravel in the isolated and uninhabited Hedinsfjordur.

Jonasson's detective Ari Thor remains at the heart of the novel but this time we see more of investigative journalist Isrun, their relationship neatly builds in each novel which widens the Dark Iceland mythology. Isrun reflects;"Little Iceland was becoming more dangerous almost by the day", but thanks to Jonasson there's plenty for both Isrun and Thor to investigate.

For me Jonasson writes fiction that is at once contemporary and an innate descendant of the Icelandic Sagas that were passed down through the generations. Ari Thor cuts an iconically heroic figure in a World where "folk tales had had such a tenacious grip on the minds of Icelanders through the ages" yet his life is full of the challenges, his on and off relationship with Kristin and the paternity test that looms following a one night stand, facing men today.

Rupture's separate narrative strands come together expertly as Thor has the time to reinvestigate an incident from fifty years ago whilst his home town as its people "had become laboratory rats - locked away securely in glass case that nobody was even remotely tempted to open." This is crime fiction as its most exciting and storytelling at its most authentic. 

Quentin Bates translation is supported this time by a useful guide to Icelandic names. "Icelandic words are pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable" we are told in a prologue that confidet=nty proves that Icelandic Noir and Ari Thor are here to stay. We all need to know how to correctly pronounce Siglufjordur - just watch the literary pilgrims start to stray further than Reykjavik. Ragnar Jonasson is a cultural ambassador and Icelandic Tourism magnet of the future.

Credit is also due to Kid-Ethic for the book cover design which captures the abstract and off centre feel of Jonasson's Iceland perfectly. The Dark Iceland series is fast becoming a book shelf collection classic, complete your set now!

Check out my earlier reviews of Ragnar Jonasson's work here.

I read this novel in paper back mostly in front of a wood burning stove at home in Oxfordshire

Rupture by Ragnar Jonasson (translated by Quentin Bates) published by Orenda Books, 253 pages.      

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