Finally, a new post on my blog! Enjoy a virtual trip to Iceland with me. :-)
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This detective thriller takes place in Iceland and involves investigations by Ari Thor, the main detective, and Isrun, a Reykjavik journalist into a cold case from 50 years earlier as well as more recent up-to-date cases both locally in northern Iceland and in the capital. There's sub-plots to intrigue the reader as we discover more about the main characters. The whole thing is engaging and well-written as the characters are developed and fleshed out. I enjoyed this and ploughed through it quite quickly which is always a good sign. It's the second of these novels by Jonasson that i've read and I preferred it to Blackout.
Siglufjörður is closed off due to a virulent virus. Ari Thór, to pass the time, agrees to look into a mysterious death from half a century ago. In the uninhabited fjord of Hedinsfjörður a woman had died of accidental causes. There were supposed to be only 4 people and a baby living there at the time, but a photo emerges showing a fifth person. Ari Thór begins to investigate, aided by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik, who becomes wrapped up in a death and a child’s disappearance.
Whilst this book is part of a series it can be read as a standalone novel, as can any of the series. Indeed, the English Language versions are published out of sequential order.
The storyline lent an almost nostalgic bent to the story, given part of it was set in the distant past, with all but one of those affected long dead. Knowing the outcome for the woman who died makes it all the more tragic, as does the case of the suspicious death in the capital, and the circumstances that surround it.
One thing that stands out in the Dark Iceland series is that Iceland itself is a major character in the book. The sites, the geography, the weather, all effect the story, all bring another layer to the tale. Iceland is a beautiful country, with it’s own unique atmosphere and vibe and this comes across in the novels. The mountains that surround the town, together this time with the virus, make its inhabitants seemingly cut off from the rest of the world. The sense of isolation is added to by the fact that so few characters appear in the story, only a handful complete the tale, making the town seem almost deserted.
As with the rest of the books in the series it is easy to fly through Rupture. Short paragraphs lend themselves to the obvious ‘just one more chapter’ promise to oneself and often end on a cliff-hanger that obviously means another must be read.
The characterisation is solid. There were times when I didn’t particularly like Ari Thór, his grumpiness sometime verging on unnecessary rudeness and Ísrún could often be found to verge on this herself. Kirsten, Ari Thór’s on/off girlfriend appears briefly in this novel and whilst she had annoyed me in past outings, she was more agreeable in Rupture.
This outing is slightly different in that a major part of it focusses on the incidents and investigations Ísrún carries out in Reykjavik, who is looking into a suspicious death and the kidnap of a boy that has shocked the country, all the while, battling her own health and personal issues. The storyline is solid and engaging and given there are three threads, not complicated or easy to loose track off.
Ragnar Jónasson’s literary past includes translating Agatha Christie into Icelandic. That influence shows in that he has created strong characters, with their own idiosyncrasies and foibles, possessing of course a keen eye for detection and giving all of his novels the closed room feel of a classic crime novel.
A sign of a great translation is the fact that the reader forgets they are reading a translated work. That is the case with Rupture. Quentin Bates has done a fantastic job of allowing English language readers the chance to experience this book. Whilst I obviously don’t know the original Icelandic version, it feels as if Quentin Bates has been true to the original and retained the voice of Ragnar Jónasson.
Another great installment in the Dark Iceland series. I’m looking forward to reading the rest.
England, 1235 (then Iceland, Greenland, France, Italy and the Greek islands)
There was a ghastly whistling sound, and then the deacon's blood burst from his neck in a thick roiling jet that hit me full in the chest. I staggered back, burning liquid in my eyes, in my hair, my mouth, running down inside my habit. There was a full-bodied reek of salt and iron and I gagged, spinning away in my soaking robes, the hot gore seething against my skin as it trickled down my back, under my arms and into the hair between my legs. The dead man in Sir Hugh's arms whistled once more, an empty squeak that ended in a forlorn burble. I could see, as if through a red gauze, Sir Hugh still holding the deacon under the chin so that the weight of the corpse dragged its slashed throat apart into a vast wound in which secret things were revealed, white, yellow, red, like the inlaid patterns in the altar steps. I thought I saw the flap between head and torso stretch like dough in a baker's hands, then I was running down the nave half-blind, blood squelching between my toes at every step. Behind me I could hear Sir Hugh's voice echoing in the cavernous shadows. He was laughing, a great, warm laugh full of ease and pleasure. 'Stop,' he called, happily. 'Come back, Petroc! What a mess you've made! What on earth made you do such a thing?'
This novel could have been titled "The Sucker's Tale".
When the book opens, a villainous ex-Templar now employed as a bishop's steward (which, here at least, means minder/enforcer) is looking for someone to be the patsy. He finds one in the innocent and naive young student priest, Brother Petroc.
Next thing we know, Petroc is on the run accused of committing a horrifying murder. Everywhere he turns he finds people either already involved in the scheme or swiftly drawn into it by his presence.
Yet Petroc proves, under pressure, to be less of a sucker tham the one-time Templar Sir Hugh de Kervezy had anticipated.
He escapes on board a ship, and Sir Hugh is obliged to pursue him across the cold, dark North Atlantic (the Sea of Darkness) then back and down to the Mediterranean and eventually to the Isles of Greece, where the final confrontation between them occurs.
It is not just a page-turner though, it is well set in its period and also often made me stop and think. Like when Petroc's more streetwise friend and fellow-student observes that the bishop "is no priest, he's a lord, and a rich one. Interests, brother. They need to be protected. By people like the steward."
Or speaking of Greenland: "A sad place, too near the world's edge for people to settle comfortably. In times past it was safe and green, but this age of the world is turning cold, and they freeze, little by little, year by year. [...] The chill is creeping over the land ..." We are usually informed that the name "Greenland" was Lief Ericsson's way of conning people into going there as settlers. But what if that were not so? That Greenland did use to be green ... Climate change I believe in, of course. I'm just not so sure about global warming ...
But back to the book. Yes, it's a great read. The copy I have here in front of me has been on my bookshelf for years, but I notice second-hand copies are going cheap, and it is now also available on Kindle.