1222: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel by Anne Holt
Scribner, ISBN 978-1451634716
December 27, 2011, 336 pages
A TRAIN ON ITS WAY to the northern reaches of Norway derails during a massive blizzard, 1,222 meters above sea level. The passengers abandon the train for a nearby hotel, centuries-old and practically empty, except for the staff. With plenty of food and shelter from the storm, the passengers think they are safe, until one of them is found dead the next morning.
With no sign of rescue, and the storm continuing to rage, retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is asked to investigate. Paralyzed by a bullet lodged in her spine, Hanne has no desire to get involved. But she is slowly coaxed back into her old habits as her curiosity and natural talent for observation force her to take an interest in the passengers and their secrets. When another body turns up, Hanne realizes that time is running out, and she must act fast before panic takes over. Complicating things is the presence of a mysterious guest, who had traveled in a private rail car at the end of the train and was evacuated first to the top floor of the hotel. No one knows who the guest is, or why armed guards are needed, but it is making everyone uneasy. Hanne has her suspicions, but she keeps them to herself.
Trapped in her wheelchair, trapped by the storm, and now trapped with a killer, Hanne must fit the pieces of the puzzle together before the killer strikes again.
Without question, this book is, at least in part, a homage to the queen of mysteries, Ms. Christie, a classic locked door murder as Hanne herself comments on.
"Twenty-four hours ago, there were 269 people on board a train. Then we became 196. When two men died, we were 194. Now there were only 118 of us left. I thought about Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. I immediately tried to dismiss the thought. And Then There Were None is a story that doesn't exactly have a happy ending."I say in part, because it is also, in no small part, a character study of Hanne Wilhelmsen herself. While you may not like her..she admits she is not very likable these days..she is always interesting. And smart and clever and not half as unlikable as you may think at first. Not that she is the only interesting character in this book either. No, the book is full of quite the unusual bunch, each more clearly painted than the next, with many excellent suspects as a killer. There is a church group who have two of their group taken as the murder victims, a teenage sports team on it'd way to a game and a group of bad boys on the way to a concert, a runaway youth, a few locals and happily for the injured, is a group of doctors on their way to a conference. Let us not forget too that group that was riding in the mysterious last car, a little secondary mystery for us, and Hanne, to figure out.
Then there is perhaps the best character of all in this book, the Storm. The way the author describes the constant deafening wind, threatening to pull the old buildings apart, the snow that builds up and up, covering the windows, slowly blocking all exits, temperatures that will kill, at times it seems like the most dangerous character in the book. Would you rather face a killer with a gun or someone who can freeze you to death in minutes? Not a great choice.
I first heard of this book in a review of the book by Jill at Rhapsody in Books. She liked parts of the book but ultimately was disappointed by what she saw as an ending that left too much hanging.
I will not disagree that some things are left unresolved...why did the hotel have food for a hundred people for days on hand?..other than the murders, but I can't really say it bothered me. I assume some things may be wrapped up in Holt's next book..and some may not. Certainly, the Hanne Wilhelmsen on the last page is a different person than the bitter, angry ex-cop we first meet. She realizes some things about her self and what she wants for her future..and I can not wait to see where that leads her.
This is the eight book in the series, but so far, only this and the first have been translated into English, with the second book coming soon. If you are afraid that will be a problem, I can assure you it is not really, although some careful reading will reveal a few spoilers. Well, I will have to just read them all as they become available and see it all fleshed out! Not a problem!