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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, June 3, 2016

1222 by Anne Holt

1222 by Anne Holt – Deep within my TBR boxes was 1222. I was inspired to read the book when Scribner provided me with a copy of The Lion’s Mouth, the newest book in the series. I decided to read the two books featuring Hanne Wilhelmsen back to back.

In 1222, written in 2011, Hanne is on a train heading to the west coast of Norway for a medical appointment in Bergen when the train derails at the tunnel on the edge of the mountain town of Finse.

Tossed about in the wreck the wheelchair bound Hanne ends up with a baby on her lap and a ski pole stuck through her thigh. With no feeling below her waist Hanne was unaware of the injury.

Rescuers work efficiently to transport the guests to an almost empty resort hotel as a fierce winter storm, we would call it a blizzard in Saskatchewan, envelops the town.

With heavy snow and strong wind forecast for several days the travelers will be forced to sit out the storm at the hotel.

It is the first time I have read a form of country home mystery caused by a blizzard. It is a setting I can clearly identify with after 63 Saskatchewan winters. Holt writes with the conviction and experience of a person who has experienced a ferocious storm that makes even venturing outside dangerous.

Everyone who has grown up or lived in Saskatchewan can appreciate the fury of a blizzard. I have experienced days when you could barely see buildings across the road and, when it was dark, could see nothing.

Survival is dependent on shelter. You cannot stay alive in the open during a blizzard. The cruel wind will work its way through any clothing and any exposed flesh will start freezing in minutes.

Buildings are rarely threatened by blizzards. As long as you are inside with heat and electricity a blizzard can be an adventure.

For the train passengers the excitement of surviving the wreck and being storm stayed swiftly abates.

When Church minister, Cato Hammer, tries to encourage the passengers to be thankful he is basically shouted down.

Hanne is unpleasant. She refuses a room insisting she stay in her chair. She is abrupt with those wanting to talk to her. She is rude to anyone wanting to help her. Her prickly personality soon leaves her alone in the busy hotel.

Dr. Marcus Streng, who has treated her injury and confidently stated she will recover, ignores her barbs and visits with her. Since he is a dwarf Hanne can hardly think he is condescending towards her because of her disability.

When Cato is found murdered Hanne, a homicide officer in the Oslo police until she suffered the spinal injury that left her a paraplegic, hotel and local leaders look to her. She is uninterested in an investigation but cannot escape the compulsion of a lifetime to carefully observe those around her.

She is aided by Geir Rugholmen, a lawyer from Bergen who has come to his apartment to work on his kitchen for a week and aided in the rescue. He is clearly a good man but I did not find he caught my attention.

With the investigation almost a non-investigation and the sleuth an uninterested investigator the plot was slow moving until the last 100 pages.

There were few characters I really liked in the book. It was actually a long way into the book before I started to like Hanne. She had been so determined to be aloof. Gradually Holt won me over as Hanne slowly involves herself in the investigation. It should not matter that Hanne was not really likeable but her attitude affected me.

I was pleasantly surprised there was a conference at the end of the book of the type Nero Wolfe specialized in to uncover the murderer. Hanne is a worthy successor to Wolfe in publicly analyzing the evidence and identifying the killer.

Were The Lion’s Mouth not on the table beside me I am not sure if I would read another in the series. 1222 was an alright book but no more for me.


  1. This book felt like an outlier to me too (I read it first because it was translated first), and if you are looking for more political or more of a thriller or police procedural, Holt's other books in the Wilhelmsen series or the Vik & Stubo series feel twistier to me. I was just looking over my reviews, and I realize it's been awhile since I've read the Wilhelmsen series, but while waiting for translations to be released, I read the three Vik & Stubo books, which I quite liked.

    BTW, I think you're brave for reading a blizzard book this time of year. The snow melted in the Michigan woods about 2 months ago, and I'm soaking up as much warm weather as I can!

    1. RebeccaK: Thanks for the comment. My next post will be a review of The Lion's Post. I will think about the Vik & Stubo series.

      No problem reading about winter when I am sitting on my deck listening to the birds sing and a soft wind blowing around me.

  2. You have an interesting point, Bill, about Hanne Wilhelmsen's prickliness. She is hard to like at first, and I think Holt did that deliberately. But like you, I started to see more to her. And you're right; that snowstorm is effectively done. Anyone who's ever lived through a real one will relate to that part of the novel.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I have this contrariness in me. I do not want sleuths to be bland but I do not want too prickly.

  3. I have this book, Bill, but I won't read it until I have read more of the earlier books in the series, although you did make me curious. I read the first one, Blind Goddess, but I have not reviewed it yet. I had mixed reactions, but I liked it well enough to continue with the series. I did like the first book in the Vik and Stubo series better.

    1. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. I look forward to your review of Blind Goddess. Holt has produced such varied reactions in readers.

  4. I liked this book, but its complexity and Hanne's prickly personality made her more interesting than the usual detective's. I like variety in crime fiction.
    Reading about a formerly healthy investigator who becomes disabled and then bitter is understandable. Her entire life changed, and she cannot do what she used to do and wants to do.
    But her intelligence and investigating skills haven't left her.

    People with disabilities, like everyone else, aren't always pleasant and gracious. And if Salvo Montalbano can get cranky and obnoxious -- and lose the social graces -- while he deals with his aging crisis, surely a severely disabled smart investigator can be a curmudgeon, too.

  5. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. Curmudgeons can be interesting but if there is only darkness in their lives I find it harder to keep reading.

  6. True. Montalbano and Nero Wolfe are curmudgeons but not all the time.

    I think reading about Hanne's life's developments book by book will explain why she is so bitter.

    I think about the woman here who was an Olympic swimmer, Amy Van Dykstrem (I'm guessing at the spelling), and was then in a terrible accident. She's now in a wheelchair but works hard every day to try to walk and has a very upbeat, driven personality.

    I wonder about the differences in people and characters when confronted by terrible adversity.