Megan Casey Reviews 1222 by Anne Holt


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.

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Danika reviews 1222 by Anne Holt


When I first saw this book mentioned on Queer Books Please’s list Lesbians In Cold Places: A New Genre, I was already super enthusiastic about the list itself. I like seasonal reads (hence my October binge on horror), and combine that with lesbian main characters? Sold! Then I read the description of 1222 and found that it fulfills one of my favourite tropes: the Closed Circle. And it was compared to And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie, which I read last month and enjoyed. So an And Then There Were None-esque story about people snowed into a creepy hotel, with a lesbian main character who is in a wheelchair? You could not have hooked me any more than you already have. And maybe that build-up was the problem, because I did not enjoy this one nearly as much as I was expecting.

For one thing, this is a mystery, but it is not similar to And Then There Were None. There are more than a hundred people in the hotel, and to avoid spoilers, let’s just say it’s not as if a large percentage of those people end up dead. Also, they are only stranded for a few days, so the stakes weren’t as high as I was expecting. And then there’s the main character, Hanne, who is utterly unlikeable. I enjoy flawed characters, so I don’t need main characters to be likeable in order to appreciate the read–I found the main character in the Red Tree delightfully causter–but Hanne is a complete misanthrope. She looks down on other people. The line that made me recoil is when she is describing her housekeeper: “But I’m not fond of Mary. She is simply there, like a human piece of furniture, and I have learned to live under the same roof as her. That’s enough for me: Nefis, Ida, and a tired, dried-up whore who cooks our meals.” Later she calls a little person a “dwarf” and continually describes him as looking absurd and clownish, even when she begins to like him. She calls all religion a “scourge”. And on a slightly different note, there is pitbull hate in this book, which I don’t appreciate. And, [spoilers, highlight to read] there are only three people of colour in this book, all minor characters, who all end up being revealed to be carrying concealed weapons. [end spoilers]

I also realized that this is actually book eight of the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, but 1222 did a good job of filling me in on the basics of her backstory so that I didn’t actually feel like I was missing anything. The action starts off strong: the book begins with the train Hanne is on crashing. Unfortunately, I did feel like the rest of the book was a little bit slow. I found the characters difficult to keep track of, because most of them I just didn’t care about. To be fair, I didn’t see the resolution of the mystery coming, and it did all make sense, but I wasn’t invested. (Also, the very end was… a little outdated now.) Overall, I can recognize the writing quality itself was good, but without being interested in the plot or the characters, I didn’t find it to be very compelling. I’ll admit that I haven’t read a ton of mysteries, so that may affect my outlook, and other book blogs seem to give 1222 a high rating. Maybe a mystery buff who likes anti-heroes would enjoy this one, but I would recommending passing on this Lesbians In Cold Places read.