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Sunday, 2 January 2011

Books - 1222 by Anne Holt

Star rating – 5/10

Hoping the catch the tidal wave of current popularity that Scandinavian crime fiction is enjoying, on the coat tails of Larsson, Mankell, and Nesbo, the next hopeful is Anne Holt, who has just had her novel ‘1222’ translated into English. It is far from Holt’s first book, this being the 15th published book for the former Norwegian minster for justice, who has already sold over 5 million books in Europe. ‘1222’ features the former policewoman Hanne Wilhelmsen, who is paralysed from the waist down and wheelchair bound after an in the line of duty shooting, that also ended her career.

It owes more than a nod to the typical Agatha Christie type scenario where all the murders and possible suspects, occur in a lock in situation, with the sleuth in attendance in a Poirot style set up. After a train derailment in a remote part of the country, the passengers have to make their way to a nearby hotel as a fierce blizzard rages for days, thus making them virtual prisoners for the crimes to come. The plot thickens with the realisation that the train contained a locked compartment, which was emptied first, who occupants are being kept a closely guarded secret. Some suspect that members of the royal family are caught up in the drama.

Hanne Wilhelmsen is about to find out what is going on. She is a typical depressive, anti social detective with problems in her personal life, although with a nice Ironside twist that leaves her bitter about the loss of her beloved career, and with plenty of opportunity to observe the goings on around her.

The problem is that Holt is nowhere near as skilful as Christie in making this story interesting enough. There are almost too many people in the plot, with little in the way of built up characterisation, save a little too much stereotyping, to make us very interested in them, or have feelings of sadness or shock when they start to get killed. This is not Holt’s first Wilhelmsen novel, and is apparently a departure from her usual format. It would be good to have the series translated from the beginning of the story, and to read more from Holt without the artificial Christie type set up. It takes a master to make it work, and unfortunately this is not a crime masterpiece.

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