Monday, November 30, 2020

1222 by Anne Holt

Hanne Wilhelmsen is on her way to meet an American specialist about her back injury. Partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair since being shot on the job, the former police officer is hoping that some of the side effects of her condition can be lessened. 

But when the train crashes in a remote part of Norway, Hanne and the other passengers are rescued by locals and put up in an old off season hotel. They're lucky in multiple ways: the only fatality was that of the driver; the train was full of doctors on their way to a conference; and though the crash happened in a very remote portion of the country, they'd just left the station for the hotel. 

That, unfortunately, appears to be where their luck runs out. A snowstorm is barreling down on the region, cutting the survivors off from immediate rescue. And then the cell towers go down as well, leaving them with no way to communicate with the outside world. 

All that would be fine—they've got sturdy shelter and plenty of food to last, even a top quality chef to prepare their meals and hotel rooms aplenty to hole up in—but then a man is murdered. And the rest of the survivors soon find out about it, creating a panic that's hard to suppress. Hanne soon finds herself reluctantly drawn into investigating the murder, if only to try to keep the rest of the passengers calm. But then another man is killed, and it seems rescue may not come soon enough to save the rest of them!

This is the eighth book in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, which kind of kills me. I mean it really does hurt my slight OCD not to start at the beginning! (It'll be ok, I checked out the first two books from the library!) What's interesting is that this particular book was released in the States in 2011 as, and I could be wrong her, her debut US title. 

So apparently Anne Holt is one of, according to Goodreads anyway, "the most successful crime novelist in Norway." She's also a former cop, former lawyer, and the former Minister of Justice. AND her series features a lesbian detective. I only point that out because her books have been in print since 1993 and that's a bit of an oddity even in the genre today! Jo Nesbo calls her the "godmother of modern Norwegian crime fiction." I mean...I can't believe I haven't read her before now!

Though this is the 8th book in the series, 1222 works well as a starting point for new readers. The book does allude to, and outright spell out, earlier incidents that are likely part of the previous books. Certainly the person behind Hanne's injury that landed her in a wheelchair in the first place. But, again, the book does stand on its own. 

A passenger train crashes in a remote area just before a massive storm hits. They're lucky in that only the driver is killed. But that night, someone is murdered. And although they do try to keep it a secret, the rest of the survivors holed up in the main building of the hotel do find out and it creates and understandable panic. 

Hanne definitely doesn't want to be pulled into the investigation. In fact, her mobility is such that she can't actually investigate anyway. But even she can't deny her own curiosity and her skills as an investigator are absolutely needed!

I loved the atmosphere in this one. The remote setting and the storm of course lend this to being a locked-room style murder mystery. All of which makes it a perfect read for the season or the year, whichever you're considering when picking your next read. I'm looking forward to reading more in the series and getting to know Hanne better!

Unfortunately, it does appear that 1222 may actually be out of print in the US (but still available on audio...). Sorry!

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