Monday, October 6, 2014

1222 by Anne Holt

I should say right up front that Goodreads lists this as the 8th Hanne Wilhelmsen novel, so if reading series in order matters to you, you should stop reading right here. I am not going to write anything spoilerish about this book, but the book itself is very likely quite spoilerish for earlier books in the series. Get my drift? That said, I didn't have any idea that it was part of a series from the cover and it never turned out to be a big problem.

For someone who lives in a small space, I have an awful lot of books, emphasis on unread books, thanks to many years working in a bookstore and also certain natural book buying proclivities. So it's not entirely strange that when Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders happened to mention 1222 in a comment over at his place, I happened to have a copy of it just sitting here waiting for me to read. It's perhaps a little bit stranger that the discussion was about a verbal tic the book has, though whether the fault of the author or translator I don't think we determined. Although that probably shouldn't be an inducement to read a book, it did at least get me to open the cover. And once I had, I was hooked on the premise from the get go.

A train crashes in the Norwegian mountains as a storm of epic proportions is brewing. Everyone but the engineer survives the crash. Luckily for them there is an old Norwegian hotel near enough to the tracks that they can be housed there until help comes, whenever that is. It's called Finse 1222 because it 1222 meters above sea level. (I must have skipped over the part where this was explained, because I remained curious about the title till I looked at the jacket copy after. I thought 1222 was the address.)

The  narrator of the tale is Hanna Wilhelmsen, formerly a policewoman, now a paraplegic, after a bullet taken in the line of duty has severed her spine. Crusty and antisocial, clinical in her approach at least initially, it's Hanna's perspective that drew me in from the get go. People trapped in a remote place while mayhem ensues is hardly a new plot idea, but somehow Hanna's misanthropic world view coupled with a dire situation plus a lot of plate spinning as various personalities among the 268 survivors come into play makes this a very compulsive read, or at least it was for me. The gale force storm as another dimension of the book also adds to its energy.


  1. Thanks for reminding me that I liked the book despite its godawful verbal tics.

  2. Good. I wasn't sure if you had. It does have some flaws, but I was realizing this morning that one thing I liked about it was the somewhat cynical viewpoint on group behavior.

  3. Here's part of a post I put up a few days before I excoriated the tics:

    "1222 is the first novel of Holt's that I've read (she's published about sixteen), and I'm impressed because she has given herself the challenge of taking a well-worn crime-story set-up (group of people trapped by a snowstorm in an isolated hotel; one of them is found dead) and making it fresh. She has succeeded so far, in part by making the narrator/protagonist not especially likable, in part by doling out information about her characters only gradually.

    "1222 is one of at least six novels by a non-American author up for an Edgar (Holt is from Norway) and, based on what I've read of it so far, I won't complain if it wins.

  4. I may be wrong but I'm getting the sense from other things I've read that this was the first of the series to get a wider exposure in the U.S. It may have something to do with the Edgar spotlight.

  5. Holt attended the Edgars that year (where I chatted with her briefly). If she still lived in Norway at the time, someone paid to send her to New York. Perhaps that indicated a promotional push on her U.S. publisher's part.