For Dark Iceland regulars, returning to Siglufjördur for the fourth in the series is like revisiting an old friend; familiar on the surface, but with a barely suppressed turmoil threatening to shatter the smooth veneer.
Ragnar Jónasson's atmospheric thrillers centre around this small, isolated fishing town encircled by mountains in the far north of Iceland. Cleverly, he avoids hiking the crime rate to Midsomer Murders levels by setting many of his books' dark misdeeds in the surrounding terrain.
In Rupture, Siglufjördur is once again cut off, reversing the recent accessibility of new tunnels with the quarantine of deadly infection. Worse still, its inhabitants are staying indoors and the claustrophobia police officer Ari Thór Arason experienced on first arriving in the town is back.
As a questionable means of staving off disquiet, Ari Thór investigates an old case of two young couples who moved to the uninhabited neighbouring fjord of Hedinsfjördur over fifty years ago. The sudden death of one of the women was written off as an accident and the survivors moved away. But the unearthing of a haunting new photograph shows the couples may not have been alone in their remote farmhouse, after all.
Ari Thór enlists the help of news reporter Ísrún, based in Reykjavik, who made her first welcome appearance in Jónasson's previous novel Blackout. Ísrún, a young woman with a backstory every bit as complex as Ari Thór's, is increasingly caught up in a tangled web of her own; an unexplained murder and a child taken away from his mother in plain sight. Besides the personal and social tragedy, a political scandal looms; the repercussions of her journalistic investigation threaten to reach to the very top of Icelandic government.
Once again translated by Quentin Bates, Jónasson plays to his strengths in Rupture. His writing has taken on the confidence and suspenseful skill of a master craftsman perfecting his piece; layer upon layer of meticulous detail patiently added and left to unsettle the reader's mind. Each character and event adds to the mix; there is no superfluity here. As a resolution to dark secrets approaches, through a combination of his characters' ingenuity and a writer's sleight of hand, Jónasson leaves you wanting to know more.
Will Ari Thór's twisting relationship with his girlfriend Kristín work out this time? Can Ísrún overcome her personal problems to find a measure of tranquillity? It's testament to his seamless characterisation that, by the end of the novel, these questions are as critical as the resolution of the crimes.
Rupture is published in paperback on 15 January 2017 by Orenda Books, an ebook version is already available. Many thanks to Karen at Orenda for my review copy.