I had never heard of Anne Holt before - she's described as Norway's #1 bestselling crime writer. After finishing her latest book 1222, I can see why - and I will be hunting down her backlist.
1222 features one of Holt's recurring characters - Hanne Wilhelmsen. Hanne is not a stereotypical protagonist. She's wheelchair bound, having been paralyzed from the waist down in a police shoot out four years ago. She's a lesbian, a loner and astute. Oh, and she really doesn't like people at all, even more so since her accident.
'It's having people close to me that I find difficult. I am interested in people, but I don't want people to be interested in me. A very taxing situation. At least it is if you surround yourself with friends and colleagues, and if you have to work in a team - as you do in the police. When I got shot and almost died, I ran out of strength. I was perfectly happy sitting there, all by myself."
Hanne is on a train to see a specialist about her paralysis. When the train derails in a snowstorm high above any settlement, the passengers are forced to take refuge in a hotel at the top of the mountain. Communication is cut off as the storm rages on. And someone else is full of rage as well - a clergy man is found shot. Hanne is recognized and reluctantly conscripted to the team that seems to be taking charge - a lawyer, a doctor, and the hotel manager. The storm is increasing in ferocity - and there's a murderer among them. And what about that extra car on the train - the one with armed guards?
I loved this book so much! The character of Hanne was different, not a by the numbers detective. She somewhat reminded me of Inger Ash Wolfe's Hazel Micallef character. Stubborn, sardonic, irascible and highly observant.
"Like other practised liars, he had stuck close to the truth. As a rule, it's the sensible thing to do, but Adrian had given me a piece of a jigsaw puzzle without realizing that I only needed a fragment of sky to sense the outline of the entire finished picture."
1222 has been likened to Agatha Christie's 'locked room' mysteries. The comparison is quite apt. Hanne herself notes "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."
Each chapter has a clever title page listing the Beaufort Scale, a wind rating that starts at one and rises to 12, ratcheting up as the tension increases in the hotel.
I truly had no idea who the murderer was until the very end. The hotel is populated with many possibilities. Indeed, the various characters are half the fun of this read. Hanne's unveiling of the perpetrator at the end and her reasoning were right there before me the whole time, but I hadn't seen it.
This was a five star read for me - and a perfect read for a blustery winter day. Get a head start - read chapter one of 1222 now. Releases on December 27, 2011.