AUTHOR: ANNE HOLT
Details: no. 8 Hanne Wilhelmsen
1222 metres above sea level the train travelling from Oslo to Bergen derails during the start of the worst snow storm in Norwegian history. With the snow and freezing temperatures getting steadily worse, the 269 passengers have no hope of a quick rescue and no choice but to take refuge in centuries old mountain hotel close to the crash site.
The hotel has withstood anything nature could throw at it for hundreds of years and is well stocked so the passengers should be safe from the elements and in no risk of food or water shortages. The safe-haven feels less save after the first night in the hotel though when one of the passengers is found just outside the hotel, murdered.
Among the passengers is former police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen. Retired from the police force since she ended up with a bullet lodged in her spine during her last case which left her paralysed from the waist down, Hanne has been leading an almost reclusive life. And when she’s asked to use the knowledge and training from her old career to investigate the murder she is very reluctant.
But with tension growing among the passengers, the storm outside showing no sign of lessening and no where to hide from the people around her, Hanne soon finds she’s looking into what exactly is going on around her, almost despite herself.
And the murder is only one of the mysteries Hanne is faced with. What exactly was the reason for the extra carriage added on to the train, why was it so heavily guarded and who exactly are the people hiding on the top floor of the hotel?
There are more then enough unanswered questions to keep Hanne occupied and very frustrated, because there’s always a chance that the murderer will strike again.
This was a very nice modern day variation on the traditional manor house mysteries. Locked in the hotel with nobody being able to come or go, the murderer has to be one of the people there. For any readers not immediately recognising the classical set-up of the story there is a nice reference to “little grey cells” towards the end of the book, and the solution to the mystery is revealed during a group meeting with Hanne taking the role of the story-book detective taking their time to target various suspects before revealing the actual murderer and the reasons behind the crime. There is some of the conceit we often find in the classical mysteries here as well; the reader is not given all the clues the story detective has access to. In this book that is due to Hanne being easily distracted and a little hard of hearing. But whereas Hanne is able to remember what she thought she had forgotten or missed, the reader doesn’t have that benefit.
While I enjoyed the mystery and the setting, I wasn’t as charmed by the main character. For me Hanne was a bit too anti-social and selfish as well as inconsistent. Her need to be alone and uninvolved didn’t quite fit with the interest she took in some of her fellow passengers and her constant observing and (internal) questioning of those around her and their motives.
However, I did find this a quick read and once I started the book I found that I needed to keep on turning the pages in order to find out what exactly was going on. The issues that caused me minor irritations at times weren’t big enough to stop me racing towards the revelations at the end of the story.