My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is my first encounter with author Anne Holt and her detective Hanne Wilhelmsen, but I very much hope it won’t be my last.
Summary via Goodreads:
A train on its way to the northern reaches of Norway derails during a massive blizzard, 1,222 meters above sea level. The passengers head for a nearby hotel, centuries old and practically empty. With plenty of food and shelter from the storm, the evacuees think they are safe, until one of them turns up dead. With no sign of rescue and the storm raging, 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 when another body turns up, panic takes over. Complicating things is the presence of a mysterious guest, a passenger who traveled in a private rail car and now stays secluded on the top floor of the hotel. No one knows who the guest is, or why armed guards are needed. Hanne has her suspicions. Trapped in her wheelchair, trapped by the storm, and now trapped with a killer, Hanne knows she must act before the killer strikes again.
Hands down, the best part of this book was Hanne, the so-crusty-she-doesn’t-even-seem-to-like-people detective. She’s just so interesting about it!
The characters remind me somewhat of those in Laurie R. King’s Kate Martinelli books. There are a few surface similarities (a lesbian cop, for one) and many, many more differences. But what really strikes me with both is the richness of the entire world of characters.
Too often, quirky and unusual characters, particularly secondary ones, are one dimensional, existing only for their quirks. These people felt real, and gave Hanne a chance to grow just by interacting with them.
For me, the setting was another part of the appeal. Snowed in!!! That’s not something a California Girl like me is familiar with, but even beyond that, I appreciated the Norwegian feel to the book.
And there there was the mystery (or mysteries, as the case may be). You don’t get more of a locked room than this, with a major snowstorm cutting off all communication. The first body doesn’t worry Hanne too much, which amused me. But after that… How do you investigate a crime without panicking a building full of people with nowhere to go… Hanne manages (almost against her will) to puzzle her way through.
As I mentioned, I wasn’t familiar with this author, and I think this might be her first book released in the US. It was odd to realize that it is actually the 8th book in the series. This occasionally showed in small references to what I assume were characters and events from other books.
However, I loved the reveal of Hanne’s character over the course of this book. I wonder how it would have played to someone already familiar with the character– how much of it was new, how much would have been a rehash.
I’m nervous about starting this series at the beginning. I like Hanne at this point of her journey, I’m not sure I’ll enjoy the path here as much. I’m planning to find out.
I received this book for review from Scribner/Simon & Schuster for review. Thank you for this opportunity. You can read an excerpt on the Scribd website.