The first interesting thing I want to mention is that Anne Holt’s series is listed as The Hanne Wilhelmsen Novels. Not The Hanne Wilhelmsen Mysteries or The Hanne Wilhelmsen Adventures. The publisher—a traditional mainstream press—wants us to view these books as literary. In other words, something above the more lightly taken mystery genre, and certainly above the lesbian mystery subgenre. This is a bit troubling.
Holt is a good writer, though; way better than the average, and 1222 is an exciting and suspenseful novel that fits squarely into the class of Scandinavian writers like Jo Nesbo, Stieg Larsson, and Hennng Mankell. I generally read the first book in a series first, but for some reason, 1222 was the only one that was affordable. This may have helped this review, because I suspect that the protagonist, Hanne Wilhelmsen, has changed greatly since her inception over twenty years previous. This Hanne has left her active years as a police detective behind and is now a wheelchair user due to a crippling injury she received on the job. This Hanne is someone who wants to be left alone with her disability and not have people staring at her or offering sympathy.
She is on a train trip to see a specialist in a northern city in Norway when her train derails during a fierce storm and all the passengers are forced to wait for help in a nearby hotel. Then the storm turns into an actual hurricane, threatening thee hotel itself. Then someone is killed. Although Hanne has no desire to participate in finding the killer, she seems to be the only one who can.
The mystery is actually set up as a veritable whodunit—with the reader getting clues at the same time Hanne gets them. And I suspect tat when she gets the final clue, the reader will guess the murderer at the same time Hanne does. This spoils nothing. The setting—a hundred-year-old resort hotel, the varied and well-drawn characters, and the dangerous story, would be worth reading about even if there were no mystery at all. The truth is, I felt like I had been put through a ringer—a very cold one—before I had even finished half of this entertaining novel.
Although Hanne identifies as a lesbian—and there is a wannabe lesbian teenage suspect—there is no sex in this book, nor is there any attempt to feature a gay lifestyle in any of the characters or even in Hanne’s inner thoughts. I suspect I will have to read some of the initial offerings in this series to learn more about this side of Hanne’s life.
Quibbles aside, I would give this book high marks (if I gave marks at all) and I am anxious to go through the rest of the books in this awesome series, several of which have yet to be translated into English. Holt is a superior writer and deserves to be on anyone’s Top-25 list of Lesbian Mystery writers. It is to be hoped that her publisher will in the future be aware that this genre is an important one and not try to fool potential readers into thinking that it is something else.
For other reviews by Megan Casey, see her website at http://sites.google.com/site/theartofthelesbianmysterynovel/ or join her Goodreads Lesbian Mystery group at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries