March 22, 2012

1222: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel

Hanne Wilhelmsen is not your typical detective. For starters, she isn't a detective any more--she's been retired from the police since a bullet to her spine paralyzed her from the waist down. (1222 is the eighth novel featuring Hanne, but the first to be translated into English.) On her way to see a specialist about her injuries, she purposely keeps herself aloof from her fellow travelers, even when their train derails and they are forced to seek shelter in an isolated Norwegian hotel.

A blizzard rages around the hotel, cutting off all forms of communication, and then a prominent priest is found shot dead on the porch. Another man vanishes, and a third is found frozen to death outside the hotel. Is there just one killer? How many more passengers could be targets? When word gets out about Hanne's former job, the hotel staff turns to her for help.

As the storm worsens, putting a strain upon the aging hotel, the tempers of the former train passengers become equally brittle. As accusations start to fly, Hanne must isolate the killer before he or she can strike again.

1222 is a throwback to an earlier era of crime fiction--openly paying homage to such works as Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. Despite a limited number of suspects, Anne Holt has been able to create a true whodunit. Though the situation is sometimes stretched almost beyond believability, Holt skillfully keeps drawing our attention back to the gritty and authentic Hanne.

I think 1222 will appeal to crime fiction fans who enjoyed the Scandinavian settings of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Henning Mankell's books. The cold that Hanne and the other passengers have to endure practically permeates the pages, chilling your fingertips as you read. It's a fun, fast mystery, and the "locked room" aspects of the mystery remove the need for forensics, taking the investigation straight to the psychology of the killer.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Sure!

Have you ever been frozen in somewhere? Or survived a train crash? Who's your favorite Scandinavian author?

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