From Norway’s bestselling female crime writer comes a suspenseful locked-room mystery set in an isolated hotel in Norway, where guests stranded during a monumental snowstorm start turning up dead.
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. Paralysed 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 travelled 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.
About the Author
Anne Holt is Norway’s bestselling female crime writer. She was a journalist and news anchor and spent two years working for the Oslo Police Department before founding her own law firm and serving as Norway’s Minister for Justice in 1996 and 1997. Her first novel was published in 1993 and her books have been translated into over thirty languages and have sold more than 7 million copies. Her novel 1222 was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel. She lives in Oslo with her family.
Read an Excerpt
The Crown Princess had been on the train, according to what people were saying.
Nobody knew where she had gone.
When I insisted on having my wheelchair fetched from the train, it wasn’t only because I felt helpless without it. As far as my mobility went, it didn’t really make that much difference. I had to stay in the lobby anyway. The toilets were on the same floor right next to the main staircase, which made it possible for me to empty my bags with comparatively little embarrassment, thank God, but apart from that there was nowhere I could get to without help.
The most important thing about the wheelchair is that it creates distance.
Not physically, of course; as I said, I am constantly stared at and bombarded with offers of help. I strive more for a kind of mental distance. The chair makes me different. It defines me as something completely different from all the rest, and it is not uncommon for people to assume that I am stupid. Or deaf. People talk over my head, quite literally, and if I simply lean back and close my eyes, it’s as if I don’t exist.
You learn a great deal in this way. My relationship to other people is—how shall I put it—more academic in its nature. I would prefer not to have anything to do with them at all, something that can easily be interpreted as a lack of interest. This is incorrect. People do interest me. That’s why I watch a great deal of television. I read books. I have a DVD collection that would be the envy of many. In my day I was a good investigator. One of the best, I would like to think. That would be impossible without a certain curiosity when it comes to other people’s stories, other people’s lives.
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.
People were staring, I could feel it, but it was still as if I didn’t exist. They were talking openly about everything. Despite the fact that many had disappeared for a while when the rooms were allocated, it was still too early to wind down for the night. Most of them came back before long. A few were standing chatting in the reception area. The shock of the accident had begun to subside, edging towards laughter. The situation was no longer threatening, in spite of the fact that the storm outside the old hotel was more violent than anything any of us had experienced before. It was more the fact that the shabby, melancholy air of the hotel was having a calming effect on us. Its crooked brown architectural patchwork had withstood both wind and storms for almost a hundred years, and it was not going to let anybody down tonight either. The doctors had worked their way through the queue of those needing help. A few of the teenagers were playing poker. I had positioned my chair at just the right distance from the long wooden table, and I could hear both the youngsters and the stream of people coming back from their rooms to find out the latest news, to compare their injuries, and to stare at the huge windows as the storm tried in vain to batter its way through to us at Finse 1222.
I was listening to what people were saying. They thought I was asleep.
And now that everyone had been taken care of and fed, when there wasn’t much more to say about where exactly they had been on the train when the crash happened, and glasses of red wine and beer had started to appear, most people were more interested in where on earth Mette-Marit had got to.
The rumour had already been circulating on the train. Two middle-aged women just behind me had talked about virtually nothing else. There was an extra carriage, they whispered. The last carriage looked different from the rest of the train, and this wasn’t the way the normal morning train to Bergen looked at all. What’s more, the far end of the platform had been cordoned off. It had to be the Royal Carriage. True, it didn’t look particularly royal, but there was no way of knowing how it was equipped inside, and besides it was widely known that Mette-Marit was scared of flying. It could be Sonja, of course; she adores the mountains, I mean everybody knows that, but on the other hand she wouldn’t be leaving home right now, just before the King’s seventieth birthday.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the two ladies got off at Hønefoss.
I rejoiced too soon.
The gossip had caught on, and was well on the way to becoming the truth. Strangers were chatting to each other. The train became less and less Norwegian as it climbed towards the high mountains. People were sharing their sandwiches and fetching coffee for each other. One person thought they knew something they had heard from someone they knew, and a girl of about twenty-five had definitely heard that somebody she went to school with who now worked in the royal protection team was actually going to Bergen this week.
When we left Oslo, there was quite simply an extra carriage on the train.
By the time we were approaching Finse, the carriage had turned into the Royal Carriage and everybody knew that Mette-Marit and her bodyguards were on board, along with little Prince Sverre, no doubt. He was still so small, after all. He needed his mummy, the little darling. An eager elderly man thought he had seen a little girl through a window before he was brusquely turned away by the police, so Ingrid Alexandra was there too.
But where had they gone, all these members of the royal family?
Sometimes I realize a little more clearly than usual why I would prefer not to have anything to do with other people.
Her voice was characteristic, bordering on parody.
It is said that opinions in themselves are never dangerous. I’m not so sure.
Whether it is Kari Thue’s views or her missionary zeal that frighten me most it’s difficult to say. At any rate, she is still very adept. She could play the main character in a play by Holberg, with her absurd logic, her way of distorting the facts, and her impressive belief in her own message. Besides which, she has such a bloody high profile. She’s everywhere: on the television, on the radio, in the papers. Kari Thue frightens nervous people into becoming aggressive, and seduces otherwise sensible men into insanity. The woman with a voice as sharp as the parting in her thin hair had already started a quarrel. There were two Muslims at Finse this afternoon: a man and a woman. Kari Thue is a bloodhound of note, and she had scented the problem long ago.
“I’m not talking to you,” she almost screamed, and I just had to open my eyes a fraction. “I’m talking to her!”
A short man with an enormous beard was trying to position himself between Kari Thue and a woman to whom he was married, judging by appearances. She was wearing dark, full-length clothes and a headscarf; she was the person the priest had tried to drag along to his prayer meeting in the hobby room, in his confusion. I presumed they were Kurds. They could of course just as easily have been Iranians, Iraqis, or even Italian Muslims, when it came down to it, but I still settled on Kurds. Ever since I got to know Nefis, who is a Turk, I have become pretty good at noticing details that I can’t define, strictly speaking, but which means I rarely get it wrong. The woman was weeping, hiding her face in her hands.
“There, you see!” shouted Kari Thue. “You’ve—”
The priest wearing the Brann scarf, who was at least as well known from television as Thue herself, moved towards them.
“Let’s all just calm down, shall we,” he intoned, placing a calming hand on the shoulder of the agitated Kurdish man. “My name is Cato Hammer. We should all be friends and have some consideration for each other in a situation like—”
He ran his other hand down Kari Thue’s back. She reacted as if he had been anointing her with sulphuric acid, and turned around so fast that she almost dropped the little rucksack she carried over one shoulder.
“Get off!” she hissed. “Don’t touch me!”
He removed his hand at once.
“I really do think you need to calm down a little,” he said in a fatherly tone.
“This has nothing to do with you,” she said. “I’m trying to conduct a conversation with this woman!”
She was so preoccupied with the genial priest that the Kurd seized his chance. With a firm grip on his wife’s arm he hurried away from the reception desk and disappeared in the direction of the stairs, where a sign carved in wood announced that you were now entering St Paal’s Bar.
I don’t like priests. I dislike them and imams in equal measure, although I haven’t actually come across many of the latter. I did once meet a rabbi who was quite decent, but that was in New York. On the whole I have little time for religion, and particularly for those who act as stewards for various religious beliefs. I find priests the most difficult of all to tolerate. Naturally, they are also the ones I am most accustomed to. And I react against priests like Cato Hammer most strongly of all. They preach a theology of tolerance where the boundaries between right and wrong are so vague that I cannot see the point of having a religion at all. They smile piously and open their arms wide. They love everyone. Sometimes I suspect that priests like Cato Hammer don’t believe in God at all. Instead they are in love with a Jesus cliché, the good man in sandals with the velvety gaze and welcoming hands. Suffer little children to come unto me. I just can’t cope with it at all. I don’t want to be embraced. I want sulphurous sermons and threats of eternal flames. Give me priests and bishops with straight backs and burning eyes, give me implacability and condemnation and promises of punishment on the other side. I want a church that whips its congregation onward along the straight and narrow, and makes it crystal clear to the rest of the world that we are heading for eternal damnation. At least that would make it easy to see the difference between us. And I won’t have to feel involved, something I have never asked to be.
So I didn’t like the man.
Without pre-empting events, I would still like to say at this point that the first thing I thought when I heard that Cato Hammer was dead a few hours later was that he hadn’t been such a terrible person after all, in spite of everything.
“Don’t get so agitated,” he said to the raging fury. “You create distance between people, Kari Thue. Muslims are not the same as Islamists. The world is not like that. You divide us up into—”
“Idiot,” she snapped. “I’ve never said or implied anything of the kind. You’ve fallen for the naive Norwegian political correctness that is allowing this country to be invaded by . . .”
I closed my ears.
If religion is, as I believe, basically a scourge for mankind, then I still see no logic, not to mention decency, in arranging believers in some kind of rank order. Religion comprises tyranny and civilization, rejection and conformity, love and oppression. And why Islam in particular should be regarded as worse than other faiths is beyond my comprehension. But it is not beyond Kari Thue’s comprehension. She is the leader of a movement that reserves the right to stand up for all women, children, foetuses, and everything else that forms part of “Norwegian values.”
I am allergic to the word “values.”
Combined with the concept “Norwegian,” it becomes utterly loathsome. In her fanatical desire to strike back at the “Islamic world threat,” Kari Thue and her increasingly numerous and terrifyingly influential campaigns are making life very difficult for hardworking, well-integrated Norwegian Muslims.
The other feeling that struck me several hours later when I heard about the death was therefore a sense of annoyance that it wasn’t Kari Thue who was lying there frozen stiff in a snowdrift instead of Cato Hammer.
But you can’t really say that sort of thing.
“Are you asleep?”
“No,” I said, trying to sit up straight in my chair. “Well, not any more.”
I was starting to feel stiff. Despite the fact that I couldn’t feel the wound in my thigh, it had become clear that the rest of my body had also taken a considerable beating. My back was aching, one shoulder was sore, and my mouth was dry. Dr Streng had pulled up a chair beside me. He offered me a glass of red wine.
“No thanks. But a glass of water would be great.”
He disappeared for a couple of minutes.
“Thanks,” I said, emptying the glass in one draught.
“Good,” said Dr Streng. “It’s important to take in fluids.”
“Definitely,” I said, smiling stiffly.
“Terrible weather,” he said cheerfully.
I don’t respond to remarks like that.
“I tried to go out for a while,” he went on, unabashed. “Just to feel the cold, that’s all. It’s impossible! It’s not just that there’s a hurricane blowing, they say the snow is worse than anyone up here has seen before. It’s piled high against the walls and windows, and the temperature is down to minus twenty-six, and with the wind-chill factor it’s going to feel . . .”
He thought for a moment.
“Freezing cold,” I suggested.
I put the glass down on the floor. Released the brake on my chair and nodded briefly to the doctor before setting off slowly. He didn’t take the hint.
“We can go and sit over here,” he suggested, trotting after me with two glasses of red wine in his hands in the hope that I might change my mind. “Then we can look at the weather!”
I gave up and parked by the window as he suggested.
“Not much to look at,” I said. “Whiteness. Ice. Snow.”
“And wind,” said Dr Magnus Streng. “Just listen to that wind!”
He was right there. For one thing, the roaring from outside was so loud that everyone had to raise their voice in order to be heard. What was more remarkable was that the wind was making the windowpanes vibrate, as if the storm were a living thing with a loudly pounding heart. The view was completely devoid of reference points. No trees, no objects, even the walls of the rooms at right angles to reception had disappeared in a whirling chaos of snow, without anything to focus on.
“Nothing to worry about,” said a voice behind me. “Those windows will hold. They’re triple-glazed. If one goes, there are still two left.”
Geir Rugholmen was clearly not a person to hold grudges. He sat down on the edge of the table and raised his glass in a toast. It looked like Coca-Cola.
“Absolutely,” I said.
“Fascinating,” said the doctor happily. “These windows aren’t quite as big, but in Blåstuen”—he was referring to the hotel’s common room on the lower floor—“you really do see the proof that glass is an elastic material. Now, Rugholmen, what can you tell us about these rumours that there’s royalty among us?”
I actually thought I saw a slight shift in the expression on the face of the mountain man. Something watchful, a flicker in his eyes before he sought refuge behind the glass he was holding.
“Nothing but talk,” he said. “You shouldn’t believe everything you hear.”
“But that carriage,” Magnus Streng protested. “There was definitely an extra—”
“Is everything OK with you?” asked Rugholmen, looking at me with a little smile, as if he wanted to draw a line under our earlier discussion.
I nodded, then shook my head as Magnus Streng once again offered me the glass of red wine.
“Everybody should be sorted for tonight by now,” said Rugholmen. “And we must be grateful that people were moved across to the other buildings in time. Right now it’s absolutely impossible to be outside. The wind would just blow you off your feet, and the snow is something else.”
“When is somebody going to come for us?” I asked.
Geir Rugholmen burst out laughing. His laughter was happy and melodious, like that of a young girl. He took out a tin of snuff.
“You don’t give up, do you?” he said.
“How long is the weather going to be like this?” I wondered.
“For a long time.”
“What does that mean?”
“Hard to say.”
“But surely you must be in contact with the Met Office,” I said, not even trying to conceal my irritation.
He tucked a fresh plug under his lip and slipped the tin into his pocket.
“It doesn’t look good. But you should just take it easy. There’s enough food here, and warmth, and plenty to drink. Make yourself at home.”
“If it had to happen,” said Magnus Streng, “it’s fantastic that we were only a few hundred metres from the station. As far as I understand it, that’s why we weren’t travelling too fast. Less than seventy kilometres an hour, they said. We really can talk about a blessing in disguise. And then there’s this hotel! What a place! What service! Nothing but smiles and kindness. You’d think they took in accident victims every single—”
“Who’s actually responsible?” I interrupted, looking at Geir Rugholmen.
“Responsible? For the hotel?”
“For the accident?” he asked sarcastically, throwing his arms open wide. “For the weather?”
“For us,” I said. “Who’s responsible for the rescue operation? For getting us down from here? As far as I know, it’s the local police who carry the operational responsibility. What does that involve? Is it Ulvik police district? Is there a local representative? Is the Mountain Rescue Service in Sola—”
“That’s a hell of a lot of questions you’ve got there,” Geir Rugholmen interrupted me, speaking so loudly that those sitting nearby stopped talking and looked over in our direction. “It’s hardly my job to answer questions like that!”
“I thought you were part of a rescue team. The Red Cross?”
“You’re wrong there.”
He slammed his glass down on the table.
“I’m a solicitor,” he said irritably. “And I live in Bergen. I’ve got an apartment here and I’ve taken a week off work to sort out the kitchen before the winter skiing break. When I heard the bang it didn’t take much imagination to work out what had happened. I’ve got a snowmobile. I helped you and plenty of other people, and I’m not asking for any thanks for that. But you could at least try to be a little bit more pleasant, don’t you think?”
His face was so close to mine that I felt a fine shower of saliva as he hissed: “If you can’t be grateful, you could at least be a little bit more polite towards a bloke who instead of painting his kitchen has been shuttling back and forth in this fucking awful weather to bring both you and your bloody chair to safety!”
I’m used to people going off and leaving me alone. That’s what I want. It’s a question of finding the balance between being rude and reserved. Too much of the latter simply makes people curious and more intrusive, just like Magnus Streng, who had clearly decided to get to know me better. But I had obviously gone too far when it came to the former.
“I do apologize,” I said, trying to sound as if I meant it. “I am of course grateful for your help. Particularly for the fact that you went to get my chair when the weather had worsened. Thank you. Thank you very much indeed.”
I was lying. Geir Rugholmen looked at me expressionlessly for a few seconds, then shrugged his shoulders and gave a wry smile.
“Good,” he said. “And I can tell you that we’re holding an information meeting in . . .” he glanced at his diver’s watch made of black plastic, “half an hour. It’s going to be held here. Because of you, in fact. It was my idea. And just so we’re clear: it’s going to take a while before anybody comes to fetch us. It’s impossible to say how long. The power lines are down to the west of Haugastøl. The snowstorm is so severe that not even diesel snow ploughs can get through. There’s no chance of a helicopter in weather like this. We’re simply cut off. So you might as well try and relax for the time being. OK?”
Without waiting for an answer he finished off his drink and walked away.
Adrian had found someone.
This surprised me. I had noticed it a little earlier; he sauntered across the rough, worn wooden floor with an older girl trailing behind him. She might have been around eighteen. It was hard to say, actually. She reminded me of a less attractive clone of Nemi, the cartoon character. Thin as a rake, and dressed all in black with coal-black hair. Only the mouse-coloured roots showing along her parting, a silver-coloured piercing in her lower lip, and her pale skin diverged from the monotonous black. Her make-up was so thick she could have been fifteen or twenty-five. The two of them sat down on the floor with their backs to the wall and their arms around their knees right next to the kitchen door. They didn’t appear to be talking to one another. They just sat there like two mute, antisocial individuals in a group of people who had become positively relaxed during the course of the evening.
“Are you sure you wouldn’t like a little drop?”
Magnus Streng was offering me the glass of red wine again.
What I really wanted to do was to remind him that he was a doctor. That I had just been involved in a major accident, and had suffered loss of blood due to a ski pole penetrating my thigh. I really wanted to ask him if alcohol was appropriate medication for a middle-aged disabled woman with an indubitably lowered general state of health.
There are limits, even for me.
“No thank you.”
But I didn’t smile. Which was equally effective, in fact.
“No, right,” he said, getting to his feet. “Enjoy the rest of your evening, then. I’m going to try and sort out this royal mystery.”
My mobile rang.
Well, it glowed silently. I always have the sound switched off. Up to now it had been in the pocket of my padded jacket. It had fallen out onto the floor when I was looking for a piece of chocolate. It showed fifteen missed calls.
Presumably the accident had been reported across the media. Since the satellite dish in Finse had either been blown down or buried in snow, there were no working televisions in the hotel or the private apartments. A few people had been listening to the radio during the afternoon and evening. None of them had anything new to report on a rescue operation. It seemed as if the matter was not being pursued at present; it could hardly be said that we were in great danger. I have to admit that it seemed pointless to risk life and limb in order to rescue survivors who were safe and warm, cosily installed in a charming hotel. And I don’t suppose the dead train driver was in any hurry to get down from the mountain. As far as the mysterious extra carriage was concerned, it seemed as if those passengers were also safely settled in the top, and doubtless most luxurious, apartment in the wing.
Basically, everything was more or less OK.
Apart from the fact that I had forgotten something.
I too have people who are close to me: a woman and a child.
I’d forgotten to call home.
Despite the fact that I was dreading speaking to Nefis, and was busy trying to come up with a strategy before I gathered the courage to call, I couldn’t quite forget Geir Rugholmen’s reaction to the question about the mysterious carriage. It was highly unlikely that Mette-Marit would be on the train. But there was an extra carriage. There had been security guards on the sealed-off area of the platform at Oslo’s central station.
“I’m alive,” I said before Nefis had time to say anything at all. “I’m perfectly OK and things aren’t too bad at all.”
The telling-off lasted so long that I stopped listening.
If the people in the last carriage weren’t members of the royal family, then who were they?
“Sorry,” I said quietly when the tirade on the other end of the line finally petered out. “I really am sorry. I should have called straight away.”
Whoever had been travelling in that last, completely different carriage between Oslo and Bergen, it was incomprehensible that nobody had seen them after the accident. That couldn’t possibly be true. Somebody must have helped them. Somebody from the rescue team must have helped them along the route from the tunnel opening to the hotel. As the rumours about the royal party grew, the only explanation I could come up with was that the people in the last carriage must have been taken out first, and were therefore already indoors and settled in the top apartment before the rest of us started arriving at Finse 1222.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Really I am.”
Nefis was crying at the other end.
Copyright © 2011 by Anne Holt
What People are Saying About This
“Hanne is a fantastic lead, dragged back into the case almost by pure instinct, but relishing the chance to get in the game…Holt makes it all work, and Hanne’s dark attitude makes for several surprisingly witty moments.”— The A.V. Club
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for 1222 includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Anne Holt. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Exactly 1222 meters above sea level, a train traveling north from Oslo careens off of icy rails. The driver is killed, but miraculously, all 269 passengers survive. Trapped high in the mountains and facing the worst snowstorm in Norway’s history, the survivors seek refuge in an isolated mountain hotel that has withstood the winter’s furies for decades. Welcomed by the staff, they ought to be safe from the storm here. But as morning comes, a body turns up—and it is clear the death is no accident.
As the storm continues to rage, retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is asked to investigate the murder. Hanne, paralyzed from the waist down by a bullet taken when she was on the force, wants nothing more than to be left alone until outside assistance makes its way through the storm; but when another body turns up, she realizes she has no choice. As the tension between the passengers mounts, aggravated further by wild rumors about the secret cargo the train was supposedly carrying, Hanne, with the help of Berit, the hotel manager, and Dr. Magnus Streng, must attempt to keep the guests at bay and figure out who the killer is and what they want before the killer strikes again.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Hanne lives a somewhat contradictory existence; her wheelchair constantly attracts attention, but at the same time (as she observes): “The most important thing about the wheelchair is that it creates distance….It defines me as something completely different from all the rest, and is not uncommon for people to assume that I am stupid. Or deaf. People talk over my head, quite literally, and if I lean back and close my eyes, it’s as if I don’t exist. You learn a great deal this way.” (p. 23) What do you think of Hanne’s assessment of her disability, and its effect on her and the people around her? What was your initial impression of Hanne? How did it change as the novel progressed?
2. Hanne observes about Dr. Streng: “I got the feeling that the man consciously made use of his handicap. As soon as you began to overlook the circus-like appearance, he made sure he resembled a clown once again….The whole thing was very confusing.” (p. 13) Why do you think Hanne finds it so hard to understand Dr. Streng, when in some ways, they’re quite similar?
3. Hanne and Adrian form a bond of sorts as the novel progresses. What do you make of their relationship? Did you find it interesting that Hanne feels a sort of sympathetic pity for Adrian right from the get-go, but finds Veronica (a young woman who is equally troubled) cold and off-putting? At the close of the book, Hanne requests Adrian leave with her in her helicopter out of Finse. What do you envision happening after they take off?
4. The setting is obviously quite crucial to the novel; discuss the role it plays in the story.
5. Do you think Veronica is a sympathetic character? Why or why not?
6. Were you surprised by what the mystery cargo turned out to be? Were there any other twists which caught you off-guard?
7. Hanne does not congratulate herself on catching the killer, but rather, thinks of herself as a person who has essentially obliterated someone else’s life. What do you think of this observation? Do you feel that Hanne was right to reveal the killer’s identity the way she did? Did she have a choice?
8. At one point, Hanne observes the following: “Nobody was talking about Roar Hanson’s death any longer, nor about the safety of the guests….It was hard to understand [they] had just been told that yet another person had been murdered. On the other hand, a comparatively long time with the police had taught me that people have the phenomenal ability to let themselves be distracted by good news.” (p. 212) Discuss the passenger’s varied reactions to their situation as the storm and the tension both mount; were you surprised by anyone’s behavior? Did you find any reactions unrealistic? Shocking? How do you think you would respond under similar circumstances?
9. Dr. Streng asks Hanne some interesting questions about the definition of “good” on page 224 (see quote below). How would you answer him if he posed the very same questions to you? What do you think defines a person as good or bad? Was Veronica bad? Mikkael, for killing Muffe? What about the mother of the pink baby?
“‘What does being a good person involve?’....’Does it involve doing good? Or…is it more a question of the ability to be aware of our inadequacies and deplore our faults? To take responsibility for the fact that we can’t manage to be good, I mean. In other words, is goodness an indication of our willingness to engage in an eternal struggle against the ego, or is it only the victor, the person who has already defeated his egoism, who can call himself good?’”
10. Using the following two quotes as a starting point, discuss the connections the author draws about fear and human behavior.
“‘Fear, ladies and gentleman, is often a question of quantity.’…. ‘Well, a swarm is obviously more dangerous than just one bee,’ mumbled Geir. ‘Not necessarily!’ Magnus Streng leaned forward. ‘Ask a beekeeper. Go to the expert! Ask a beekeeper!’” (p. 129)
“She was so afraid all the time without really being aware of it. I have also lived a life where I was constantly afraid without realizing that was what I was. Fear made me withdraw and retreat inside myself. In Kari Thue, the fear created anger…directed at far too many people.” (p. 289)
11. The author uses the locked-room setting to help explore ideas about human biases, racism, ethnicity, and religious discrimination. Discuss the various ways this is done, both obvious—as with Kari Thue and her anti-Muslim tirades—and subtle—Hanne observing how “Norwegian” everyone was being at several points. Then, consider these ideas in a real-world context. Do any anecdotes or personal experiences come to mind?
12. While trapped, the passengers are isolated from “outside” relationships yet they carry those relationships with them at all times. Discuss how this manifests itself in different ways using several character examples.
13. Dr. Streng has an interesting philosophy that he learned as a child: “My father didn’t say much….But it wasn’t really necessary for him to say anything. The message was clear enough: We are all needed. We are necessary here on Earth. Small and large, fat and thin, ugly and beautiful. I was good enough. I am good enough.” (p. 189) What do you think of Dr. Streng’s philosophy? Do you have such a lesson that you live by?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. There are some great descriptions of food in the novel, from fluffy rolls with jam filling to perfectly cooked venison. For your next book club meeting try your hand at some Norwegian cuisine!
2. At one point, Dr. Streng observes that it is like they are in a Roald Dahl short story. Read The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl, or perhaps a different, classic locked-room mystery such as Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None to discuss at your next meeting.
3. Finse Station is indeed the highest railway station in Norway, 1222 meters above sea level. It also happens to be the location where the battle scenes on the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back were filmed. Do some research on Finse, the station, and Finse 1222, the hotel at which the novel is set. Does it look like how you imagined?
4. Play a variation of the “if you were stranded on a desert island…” game! If you were snowbound in Finse, who would you take along for the ride? What five items would you bring?
A Conversation with Anne Holt
What method do you use to plot out your books? Are you ever surprised by the turns the narrative takes?
All of my books are always very carefully planned out before I start the actual writing process. First I write a synopsis, up to a 100 pages, and also make a visual guide, which I put on the wall. Yet changes will be made along the way. The stories sometimes object to being “forced” in one direction. Once I actually finished a book and went to sleep happy and satisfied only to wake up in the middle of the night realizing that the murderer was the wrong person!
Locked-room mysteries are extremely popular with writers and readers alike. What is it that compelled you to create one yourself?
Modern crime fiction is no longer primarily of the “whodunit”-type. Instead, “How could this happen?” is the essential question. With modern investigative-methods, there are so many devices and gadgets available that I wanted to write a crime novel taking place in the present but where the investigator didn’t have any tools at her service besides her own brain. That’s why it was necessary to place the story in a deserted environment, a classic locked-room mystery.
Where did the idea for Hanne Wilhelmsen’s character come from? How is it different writing her now than when you first started?
The idea for Hanne Wilhelmsen came from my years at the Oslo Police Force. The fact that the police force was so unrealistically described in Norwegian crime novels had annoyed me for a long time. It wasn’t my intention to make Hanne the main character, but my audience got so attached to her.
Have you spent time in Finse? What made you decide to set the novel there?
I’m often in Finse, at least a couple of times a year. Preferably in mid-winter, when the weather is really terrible and the hotel only stays open on random weekends. I have personally experienced being snowed in up there! The nicest time at Finse is in the spring, in May, when the skiing conditions are great, the sun is shining, and you have the beautiful countryside at your disposal. I chose to place 1222 in Finse because it is simply the only place in Norway where a large crowd of people (about 300) could conceivably be isolated for several days.
Does your writing process change at all from one novel to the next? What do you enjoy most about it?
The writing process is pretty much the same every year. I do my research and plot-structure in the fall and devote the spring up until mid-summer to writing. Sometimes I take a whole year off, and then I just read. A lot!
What do you think is the hardest aspect to writing a believable, suspenseful crime novel?
It is not that hard to create credibility, I must say. I have experienced life for quite a while now and I know what is true. Creating suspense is much more difficult. The most important thing is not to resort to easy solutions. I think the worst thing is when the author hasn’t planned out the whole plot until the very end, and therefore must rely on chance and coincidence to make the puzzle complete.
You’ve worked as a lawyer, police officer, journalist, and Norway’s minister of justice. That’s such a varied, interesting background! What made you decide to turn to writing? Is there some other career you’d like to explore in the future? Is there any one job you miss particularly?
I live in a small country that offers many opportunities for its people. I have been lucky to have the chance to do so many things. Writing came naturally to me. I hope to write books for the rest of my life, and basically it’s too late to start doing something else!
How does your background inform your fiction? Do you often pull from your real life experiences to create the dilemmas your characters find themselves in?
I’m a political person and I draw inspiration from what is going on around me. The crime novel is, in my opinion, the best and most appropriate genre to describe the shady sides of society, to mirror it. I live such a quiet, calm life and there is little to pull from there!
You address many social issues in this book such as anti-terrorism, religious discrimination, and fear and its impact on human behavior. How do you decide what ideas and themes to explore while writing? Is it informed by the characters as you go along, or do you often have an issue in mind that you wish to tackle, and so create a character around that idea (for example, Kari Thue)?
Good question. I create my characters based on what and whom I need in order to tell a particular story. For an author, the casting is just as important as it is for a filmmaker.
Many authors find that their characters are extensions of themselves, in one way or another. Do you find that to be true? Which character do you identify with most? Are any of the characters in 1222 based on people you know?
The most interesting part about writing is the chance it gives you to create. I don’t want to make it easy for myself and create characters out of real people. My characters are also fundamentally different from me, at least most of them. The challenge of being a writer is to create archetypes, not stereotypes. I hope I manage to do that.
Who are your influences as an author? What do you read when you're writing? What is your all time favorite crime novel?
It is impossible to choose an all time favorite novel, because it changes all the time. Life is not static, and neither is a person’s reading. Mystic River by Dennis Lehane is, in my opinion, a very successful, modern crime novel. Influences? Everything I read, whether it is good or bad. I don’t read a lot while writing, but I prefer non-fiction books.
What’s next for Hanne Wilhelmsen? And for you?
Hanne will be back in a couple of years. I’m going full blast with new projects, but none featuring her at the moment.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed this. It would be perfect for curling up by the fire with. It's too warm for that here, but the howling winds and mounting snow in the novel were almost as frighttening as the murders. Moves at a good pace, full of unique personalities and smaller puzzles.
Hanne Wilhelmsen used to work for the police until a bullet severed her spine between the 10th and 11th vertebrae, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. On a train to Bergen in the middle of winter, she is on her way to see an American specialist due to health problems she has been experiencing when the train is derailed. Fortunately they were right off the station and near to a hotel that was mostly empty at the time, and the only person killed in the wreck was the driver of the train. However, that first night, there is a murder. And another the second night. What is happening? Who is the killer? And what about the mysterious extra carriage at the end of the train ¿ who is in it? Why is there an armed guard? Will Hanne overcome her self-imposed isolation and help find the answers? I really loved this book. Apparently it is an homage to Agatha Christie¿s ¿And Then There Were None¿ (also known in some areas as ¿Ten Little Indians¿). The plot moved quickly, and there were lots of bits of subtle humor interspersed among the tension and suspense. The characters were wonderfully portrayed ¿ while discussing the book with my husband I commented that you know a writer is good if you become attracted to one of the characters simply based upon the description and characterization, and that person¿s personality. Magnus Streng was one of my favorite characters ¿ he was absolutely fascinating and if he were a real person, I¿d love to meet him. I strongly recommend this book to people who enjoy a good mystery, suspense/thriller, or simply good writing ¿ you won¿t be disappointed ¿ it is wonderful!
vivid, cold, claustrophobic and with a protagonist who can be downright unlikeable at times, this is the book that got me hooked on Anne Holt. Was interesting to see a bit about social issues in Norway, too. Highly recommended tho maybe not everyone's cup of tea.
This is a horrible book. If there was an option to give it no stars I would have. Plot is boring and the main character is so unlikable that it made it a chore to read.
This is the first book by holt I have read, but certainly not the last. As the series is translated, I will be there. Great characters, a great setting, a very good plot with a number of worthy suspects adds up to a very enjoyable book.
With the good mysteries coming out of Sweden, I enjoyed reading one from Norway and a section I know well. The trian trip from Oslo to Bergen is beathtaking but I am glad I never got stranded in a snow storm such as in 1222 but it was a good read right to the end. I did not really suspect the culprit till near the end which made it more interesting.
Described as Norway's #1 bestselling crime writer, Anne Holt had fashioned together a most intriguing story of deceit, mystery and murder. Her latest book, 1222, is written in a very unique fashion, eluding familiar concepts of strong writing and story telling. One example of this can be seen in her main character, Hanne Wilhelmsen. Hanne is not your typical protagonist. Having been paralyzed from the waist down in a police shoot out four years ago, she is wheel chair bound. As a lesbian, and a respected police officer, she finds herself very lonely and depressed, and is not much of a social butterfly, even more so since her accident. On her way to see a specialist about her paralysis, Hanne's train derails in a snowstorm high above any settlement, and her and the other passengers are forced to take refuge in a hotel at the top of the mountain. As the storm continues to get worse, communication between them and the outside world is complete cut off. To make things even more interesting, a clergy man is found shot. With her crime investigation experience and knowledge, Hanne is shanghaied into the team that seems to be taking charge - a lawyer, a doctor, and the hotel manager. With the storm raging outside, and a murder amongst them, they truly do not have much time before the next body is found. This book kept me hooked until the very end! Holt did a terrific job concealing who the murder was until the very last pages! I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys murder mysteries, and action/ thriller novels! I received this book compliments of Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster Publishers for my honest review and would rate this novel a 5 out of 5 stars.
Take one gloriously grumpy central protagonist, add that train crash, include a massive snowstorm cutting off a train full of people 1222 metres above sea level in an inaccessible hotel, add a mysterious locked carriage and a group of shadowy unknown passengers, then kill off a high-profile passenger and see what happens.What happens is that our grumpy protagonist, Hanne Wilhemlsen, ex-police officer, in a wheelchair as a result of being shot on duty, has to work out what is going on before the body count continues to increase. With no official help from the outside, and way too much interfering help on the inside, Hanne and a small group of trusted people - some passengers, some staff, some locals, need to work out who wanted to kill off a seemingly harmless, albeit annoying, priest. And the killing doesn't stop there.Of course this plot has more than a hat-tip to a few perennial favourite devices - a closed room setting, albeit a biggish closed room in this example. This is a very large, rather luxurious resort, capable of taking in 269 or so people at a moment's notice. Then there's the idea of the thinking, observational detective - in this case enforced because of physical restrictions, there's something vaguely reminiscent of Nero Wolfe or Hercule Poriot about Hanne, although her Archie / Hastings is embodied in more than one person in 1222. There is a large potential cast of passengers, staff and local helpers so it's just possible that the concept of a resort (that's further divided after a particular storm event) could be what makes the action being centred around a very small group of people feasible. Despite this, there was more than one point where I did wonder where everybody else was hiding - 269 plus people not being a small number after all. Add to that the secretive sub-thread about the mysterious closed off carriage, and you couldn't help wondering what was going on behind closed doors, besides the murder plotting of course!That secretive sub-thread is probably the only part of the book that simply flat-out, doesn't work. This reader had to assume that perhaps the closed carriage was there as a bit of a hap-tip to the classic red-herring (being another perennial favourite), but to be honest, it didn't work as a red-herring throughout the book and the resolution... well it was just pointless.Ignoring that bit of off-kilter action, the rest of the book was really good. I really like Hanne (and not just because I like grumpy protagonists!), and the use of the setting to provide a closed off, claustrophobic environment along with a sense of potential threat worked. There was a good cast of supporting characters, some nice touches of humour and good pace, and for readers who like to work out the whodonnit aspects, the author has played pretty fair - you've got a good chance of sorting it out, although you will be waiting until the last minute to get your deductions confirmed.After a bit of a look around it seems that, in that delightful habit publishers have designed to drive readers mildly bats, 1222 is the eighth Hanne Wilhelmsen novel, but the first to be translated into English. Hopefully we'll get the rest of the series "toots sweet". In the right order would be greatly appreciated.
Anne Holt¿s latest novel is ¿1222¿. The numbers refer to the height above sea level of the town where this modern version of the classic crime story takes place. The story starts with a derailment just as the train leaves Finesnut on its journey from Olso to Bergen. Plenty of injuries, but the train driver is the lone casualty. Amongst the 269 passengers who are evacuated to the nearby century-old mountain hotel are self-indulgent teens, German tourists, a church group, a sports team, the unseen occupants of a mysterious extra carriage, a group of doctors (conveniently for those injured) on their way to a conference and retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen. Add some locals and hotel staff, a snowstorm to ensure everyone has to stay put, a murder (or two) and you have the definitive locked room mystery. Hanne is not Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot: there¿s no rubbing of hands together with glee at the challenge; she doesn¿t want to get involved. Hanne is paralysed, confined to a wheelchair, limited to the lobby level. Whilst relying on those around her for some pertinent information, her powers of observation and deduction are obviously acute and she has the case solved in time for the classic denouement when the cops finally arrive. Anne Holt gives us a prickly heroine. She¿s cynical, perceptive, has a very dry sense of humour and an incisive wit. Hanne¿s inner monologue is a delight; her other characters and the dialogue are realistic and the action is non-stop. Holt touches on several topical issues and throws in a bit of philosophy. The Beaufort scale chapter headings are a fitting touch. ¿1222¿ gives the reader undiluted pleasure throughout: this novel is hard to put down. Marlaine Delargy¿s excellent translation certainly deserves a mention.
And then there were noneI need to read this Agatha Christie classic. I¿m overdue, because this is the second novel I¿ve read in the past few months that owes a significant debt to Ms. Christie¿s novel. And that¿s not a criticism. It¿s a brilliant structure, and it¿s used to good effect in Anne Holt¿s latest, 1222.I¿ll start by noting the unusual title of the novel refers to the elevation (meters above sea level) of the novel¿s setting, and the name of a hotel at that elevation. In the opening pages there is a train crash high up in Norway¿s snowy mountains. Most of the 269 passengers and crew get off with fairly minor injuries, but they¿re trapped in the mountains by a severe winter storm. It¿ll be several days before organized help can arrive. Fortunately, a handful of locals form a rescue team and evacuate the passengers to the nearby hotel, which opens its doors wide to accommodate everyone.The main character of the novel is a wheelchair-bound former police inspector named Hanne Wilhelmsen. I believe that Hanne has appeared in prior novels by Holt, but this is the first of the series to be published in the US. She¿s not a warm and fuzzy first-person narrator. In fact, she¿s rather prickly, but she¿s an interesting lady with a complex back-story, and she¿s a keen observer of human nature. In other words, she¿s exactly the sort of person you might want around when you¿re trapped in a remote location with a bunch of quirky strangers¿and suddenly people start turning up dead.Ms. Holt kept me guessing along with everyone else for the duration of this very enjoyable who-done-it. She embellishes the basic plot with several other side mysteries and red herrings. I warmed up to Hanne enough that I¿d love to continue reading her series. Other characters were used more to fulfill their functions within the plot, but they were ably handled. 1222 isn¿t a major literary work, but I don¿t have a single complaint to voice. It was written to entertain, and on that count, I found it to be entirely successful.
Overall, a good read. Decent whodunit, part of a series, starts up intriguing but ends somewhat predictable. The main character is a bit hard to like, but I ended up rooting for her anyway by the end. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more.
At 1222 metres above sea level, a train is derailed and the passengers are forced to move to a nearby hotel. Outside the worst storm in Norwegian history rages while, inside, a murderer is at work.1222, by Norwegian author Anne Holt, is a locked room mystery reminiscent of 'Then There Were None' by Agatha Christie. As the number of possible suspects dwindles, Hanne Wilhemson, once a police detective, now wheelchair bound, uses her considerable deductive talents with only the aid of her 'little grey cells' a la Hercule Poirot to eventually solve the case.Like the books from the Golden Age of Mysteries it pays homage to, 1222 is more puzzle than gore. However, if this superb novels follows many of the conventions of the British Cozy, it certainly does not adopt all of them. This is no sexually repressed, slowly evolving story. Hanne is a lesbian who, with her Muslim partner, has a daughter. And, as for the plot, well, let's just say it has all the twists and turns, as well as the quirky characters of any modern thriller, but is able to keep the reader enthralled without the need for long and often deeply disturbing descriptions of murder's aftermath.
A severe Norwegian blizzard causes a train to derail crossing a mountain, killing the train driver. The passengers are forced to abandon the train and make their way to a hotel that's almost empty except for a few German guests and the staff.While they wait out the storm in the well stocked and staffed hotel, passengers from the train are being killed, and Hanne Wilhelmsen, an ex-police detective who is now a paraplegic, is called upon to identify the murderer before more people are killed.With everyone locked in the hotel and the blizzard outside gaining intensity, this novel has every element necessary for a chilling crime thriller.
This is Anne Holt's homage to Agatha Christie's style of murder mysteries, taken to modern Norway. Hanne Wilhelmsen is an ex-cop, a paraplegic traveling by train through the Norwegian mountains to Bergen to see a specialist. The train derails near an isolated holiday resort and the passengers are taken by snowmobile to the hotel to wait out the fierce winter storm that prevents them from being rescued. Sometime during that first night, a man is murdered and Hanne finds herself unwillingly heading up a quiet investigation, helped by the red cross worker who rescued her, a doctor and the hotel manager. Holt excels at the character study and here she has plenty to work with. She remains true to the spirit of the genre, while creating a modern collection of people, who are on edge after surviving the crash and learning that a murderer is living among them. Holt even ends the story in a particularly Christie-like way, while retaining the its very modern setting.I didn't look at her. Instead I met Geir Rugholmen's gaze. He was still standing on the table, his legs wide apart; he was strong, but there was an air of resignation about him. We were both thinking the same thing.The people who were snowed in at Finse 1222 had begun to let go of their dignity. And only eighteen hours had passed since the accident.
Described as Norway's #1 bestselling crime writer, Anne Holt had fashioned together a most intriguing story of deceit, mystery and murder. Her latest book, 1222, is written in a very unique fashion, eluding familiar concepts of strong writing and story telling. One example of this can be seen in her main character, Hanne Wilhelmsen.Hanne is not your typical protagonist.Having been paralyzed from the waist down in a police shoot out four years ago, she is wheel chair bound. As a lesbian, and a respected police officer, she finds herself very lonely and depressed, and is not much of a social butterfly, even more so since her accident.On her way to see a specialist about her paralysis, Hanne's train derails in a snowstorm high above any settlement, and her and the other passengers are forced to take refuge in a hotel at the top of the mountain. As the storm continues to get worse, communication between them and the outside world is complete cut off. To make things even more interesting, a clergy man is found shot. With her crime investigation experience and knowledge, Hanne is shanghaied into the team that seems to be taking charge - a lawyer, a doctor, and the hotel manager. With the storm raging outside, and a murder amongst them, they truly do not have much time before the next body is found.This book kept me hooked until the very end! Holt did a terrific job concealing who the murder was until the very last pages! I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys murder mysteries, and action/ thriller novels!I received this book compliments of Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster Publishers for my honest review and would rate this novel a 5 out of 5 stars.
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.
Tain traveling from Bergen to Oslo is derailed in the mountains during a raging snowstorm. The passengers are transferred to a hotel via jet ski where they are trapped for three days during the blizzard. A couple of murders take place and a retired police detective starts watching, asking questions and attempts to solve the murders. Hanna, the detective is in a wheelchair, and must remain the ground floor of the hotel while attempting to solve the case. I find these Scandavian mysteries to be moody, dark and depressing. Also, there are some anti-American comments made by one of the men that makes you wonder.
A tense mystery set in the mountains of Norway (a real place, by the way...look it up!). Our main character is a former police officer now confined to a wheelchair and only reluctantly helping with the investigation. Interesting characters and the unique setting make this a riveting read.
The protagonist is a b of the first water. 'Nuff said.
Decent book, but I expected more. 1222 is a novel written by Anne Holt, one of the most prolific and bestselling crime writers from Norway. While I had never heard of Anne Holt of her series about Hanne Wilhelmsen before, this book had me intrigued enough to check on her impressive backlist and credentials. While I won’t rule out reading more of her books, I’m not all too hyped. I can see why people enjoy her writing, I’m just not sure if it’s for me. The book features protagonist Hanne Wilhelmsen, who isn’t your typical main character. She’s bound to a wheelchair because she’s paralyzed from the waist down, something which happened during a shooting approximately four years ago. On top of that, she uses her paralyzis to keep other people at a distance. While it was hard to like Hanne from the start, she gradually grew on me. She befriends a loner boy who reminds her of herself when she was younger, indicating she’s been a loner her entire life. She also befriends a doctor with dwarfism, but tends to stay away from “regular” people which I thought was strange. Why does she purposely go seek out people who are “different” as well? Notice how I use these terms here, I’m not trying to imply anything, but I find it odd the author chooses to stick those who are “different” together based solely on the fact they’re different. I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself well, but it seems like the only reason why Hanne befriended the doctor with dwarfism is just that – because he has dwarfism. Not because she likes his personality, thinks he’s a nice person or all that, but because he has dwarfism. I thought that was strangely judgemental and perhaps not a good call. What I enjoyed most about this book was the setting. The descriptions add to the story without being overwhelming. I also liked Hanne’s personality simply because it was different, and she wasn’t a generic character. The plot itself is pretty straight-forward though. A train crashes and survivors are brought to a nearby hotel, where they stay the night. A snow storms comes and they’re stuck in there a little longer. A person is found murdered. Former inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen starts an investigation, helped by some of the people also on board of the train. Another murder happens. The story is pretty straightforward for the first half of the book, but the author uses so many clichés that I had to keep myself from rolling my eyes at times. I had solved the murders way before the main character did, which isn’t a good sign. There’s also an additional mystery involving trained security who were present on the train and now keep the upper floor of the hotel to themselves. Who are they? Why were they on the train? The explanation at the end is confusing and far-fetched to say the least, and doesn’t add to the story. I’ve heard some people rave about this book, while others are less than impressed. I like to keep the ball in the middle. The writing itself is solid, if not for the plot flaws and some of the obvious plot twists. The author knows her protagonist well, but fails to include much plot otherwise. The ending was a bit cheesy and difficult to understand, and I felt like it fell short. This book is the eight book in a series about detective Hanne Wilhelmsen, but reads well enough as a stand-alone. Perhaps if I’d read the previous books, I would’ve started to like the main character sooner, but to me, Hanne Wilhelmsen and her lonely, anti-hero personality never seemed the problem – the plot was. It was too obvious and see-through and let me feeling a tad bit disappointed. Good for a long road trip, or to read on a plane to Norway, or on a cold winter evening, but nothing world-changing. 1222 is a nice book for locked-room mysteries like “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie, except that it pales in comparison to this classic mystery novel. It’s a decent book with an interesting protagonist, but the plot is unconvincing. Read at your own risk.
This book had absolutely no appeal to me. There are some tremendous Scandanavian writers, Anne Holt doesn't happen to be one of them. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen in this soap opera and finally wrote it off as a bad purchase and set it aside. It is difficult to believe this book was nominated for an award.
An interesting take on Agatha Christie - the story is the typical "locked room" mystery, where the murderer must be someone in the closed area - in this case, a mountain hotel, closed to the world by a giant snow storm for a few days. As others here have mentioned, the lead character keeps telling us that she is a misanthrope - but then keeps helping others, so we stop believing her. The story is very straightforward, with key characters coming to the lead character with their thoughts and problems, then some are murdered and she figures out who done it. The ending is a bit of a double ending, with a murderer revealed - and then a parallel mystery of who were the police guarding all along in the hotel hinted at, although with the death of bin Laden, this latter mystery now lacks one prime suspect. The devil is in the details - and the details here can be really gross (the author seems fixated on people's mouths and dental hygiene) and the constant repetition of who is where, who knew what, and that the lead character hates people. An interesting read, it can pass the time, but about halfway through, I realized I was reading it only out of habit, not with enthusiasm. Read it if you want to hear a Norwegian complain about Norway.
This is an excellent "locked room" mystery with an intriguing narrator/protagonist. Readers who love mysteries and who enjoy female main characters will enjoy this book. The mysteries aren't all solved until the very end, and there are still questions. I wanted the story to continue to find out what happens to Hanne next. This needs a sequel, hint hint. Book clubs would find much to discuss/enjoy here. I think I read that the first book in the series will be translated this summer. I will definitely want that, but mostly I want the next book in the series to be translated immediately.