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.