I read Rupture a couple of months ago but have held off from reviewing it until now because it felt as though the country was wrapped in Rupturemania. The English launch was a phenomenon and references to Ragnar Jónasson exploded across my social media feeds. It felt as though the Nordic Noir – indeed the entire book-reading – community was struck by a fever as strong as that which afflicted the Dark Iceland setting of Siglufjörður. Ari Thór was not just a detective but a rock star, and GIFs about him littered Twitter.
So on the basis that what goes up often comes down, I wanted the dust to settle a little before reconsidering the book. Even though Jónasson continues to appear all over the place (such as this piece in the Guardian last week), I think we’ve all had time to gain some perspective. And to gaze at the brilliant, beautiful and surprising cover.
The success of the Dark Iceland series has been based on four factors: excellent and straight-forward story-telling, stripped-down language (well translated as ever by Quentin Bates), a brilliant setting, and a comfortable use of the Golden Age mystery formula. In each novel Jónasson finds a new and different but plausible reason to cut Siglufjörður off from the rest of the world to create a kind of locked room mystery. And although some of the action of the novel takes place in Reykjavik, isolation plays a key role in the main plot. The inclusion of a photograph as a main artefact in that plot contrasts against the more fluid half-truths of the sub-plot.
We’ve described the series in the past as comprising ‘crime with something to say’ but this time the themes are especially personal with fractured and damaged characters throughout. Although Jónasson is famous for being Iceland’s greatest expert on Agatha Christie it feels as though Rupture sees him channel his inner Tolstoy, exploring the different ways in which families can be unhappy. I lose count of the unhappy families of all kinds that populate the world of Rupture. Even the political sub-plot is really about families and friendships, desire, betrayal, passion and making mistakes.
Reaching the end of the novel for a second time I am again moved (though not by the slightly clichéd final dialogue). On the face of it Rupture is a straightforward whodunit, but you quickly realise it is a novel that disguises its depth in amongst the light language and matter-of-fact descriptions. Despite my natural reluctance, I find myself embracing the hype. I shouldn’t be surprised if in years to come Rupture is considered one of the classics of the genre.
Thanks to Orenda Books for the review copy.