Title: 1222 (Hanne Wilhelmsen #8)
Author: Anne Holt
Translated by Marlaine Delargy
Read by Kate Reading
Audio published: December 27, 2011 by Blackstone Audio (First published 2007)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
A train on its way to the northern reaches of Norway careens off the track during a massive blizzard, 1,222 meters above sea level. The passengers abandon the train for a nearby centuries-old hotel, which is 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 turns up dead. 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 wish to return to police work. Bitter and anti-social, she is slowly coaxed back to her old habits as her curiosity and natural talent for observation compel 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. Trapped in her wheelchair, trapped by the storm, and now trapped with a killer, Hanne has to fit the pieces of the puzzle together before the killer strikes again.
Hanne, Hanne, what happened? Last time I saw you, in Death of the Demon, you were on top of your game, a chief inspector working with a good friend, caring about the case. Now, you’re retired, wheel-chair bound and very withdrawn from people. I guess that’s one of the problems with reading series out of order, but this time it’s not my fault, really, I can’t read the ones in the middle that haven’t been translated yet. On the other hand, you might be a more interesting character now, trapped as you are, both by your wheelchair and by your outlook on the world. You are not a pleasant person, rude and judgmental, but with moments where you do connect with people, seem to care.
Yes this is one of the Scandinavian mysteries that seem so popular lately, but I will say the setting is integral to the story. These people are trapped, snowed in, in a hotel with a killer. It’s too cold to even attempt going outside. I love that set up and yes, it begs for comparisons to be drawn to And Then There Were None by Christie, but don’t get carried away by it. Really, the only commonality is the trapped by the storm and that’s happened in several novels, like Photo Finish by Marsh. I guess, for me, even though it is a modern mystery, in some ways it harkens back to the traditional mysteries, country home murders. We have an insulated group, stuck together, who know there is a killer among them. There’s even a great “parlor” scene at the end, while Hanna asks pointed questions and then accuses the killer, correctly of course.
This story, unlike the others in the series I’ve listened to up ’til now, is told by Hanne in the first person, a voice the reader, Kate Reading, capture perfectly. I felt like it truly was Hanne telling us what was happening. We only see things, events, and people from her point of view. She’s curious about people, but doesn’t actually like them. “I am interested in people, but I don’t want people to be interested in me.” It does work quite well as a stand-alone and was actually the first in the series to be translated into English.
It’s not a quick-moving mystery. It can’t be. It’s about motives and learning bit by bit from people as we see them interact with each other in the hotel, how they deal with the strain of being confined with mostly strangers. Was I surprised by who the killer was – not really because we do, after all have a limited number of suspects and Holt didn’t cheat by making it some random person we hadn’t seen much of, she plays fair, but it was definitely a compelling read, or listen. I was interested in who the killer was, but more so in how Hanne figured it out, given the whole situation.
Definitely one you should pick up if you enjoy mysteries, traditional or Scandinavian. I’m looking forward to listening to more in the series, of learning how Hanne ended up where she is in this one. She is certainly a complex character, someone you can like and dislike at the same time.
Hanne Wilhelmsen Series