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1222 by Anne Holt - Fiction
From Norway's bestselling female crime writer comes a suspenseful locked-room mystery set in an isolated hotel in Norway, where guests stranded during a monumental snowstorm start turning up dead.
A TRAIN ON ITS WAY to the northern reaches of Norway derails during a massive blizzard, 1,222 meters above sea level. The passengers abandon the train for a nearby hotel, centuries-old and practically empty, except for the staff. With plenty of food and shelter from the storm, the passengers think they are safe, until one of them is found dead the next morning.
With no sign of rescue, and the storm continuing to rage, retired police inspector Hanne Wilhelmsen is asked to investigate. Paralysed by a bullet lodged in her spine, Hanne has no desire to get involved. But she is slowly coaxed back into her old habits as her curiosity and natural talent for observation force her to take an interest in the passengers and their secrets. When another body turns up, Hanne realizes that time is running out, and she must act fast before panic takes over. Complicating things is the presence of a mysterious guest, who had travelled in a private rail car at the end of the train and was evacuated first to the top floor of the hotel. No one knows who the guest is, or why armed guards are needed, but it is making everyone uneasy. Hanne has her suspicions, but she keeps them to herself.
Trapped in her wheelchair, trapped by the storm, and now trapped with a killer, Hanne must fit the pieces of the puzzle together before the killer strikes again.
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As it was only the train driver who died, you couldn't call it a disaster. There were 269 people on board when the train, due to a meteorological phenomenon that I have not yet understood completely, came off the rails and missed the tunnel through Finsenut. A dead train driver comprises only 0.37 per cent of this number of people. Given the circumstances, in other words, we were incredibly lucky. Although many individuals were injured in the collision, these injuries were mostly minor in nature. Broken arms and legs. Concussion. Superficial cuts and grazes, of course; there was hardly one person on board who wasn't physically marked in some way after the crash. But only one fatality. Judging by the screams that ripped through the train minutes after the accident, one could have gained the impression that a total disaster had taken place.
I didn't say anything for quite some time. I was convinced that I was one of only a few survivors, and besides I had a tiny baby I had never seen before in my arms. It came flying from behind when the impact occurred, brushed against my shoulder, and hit the wall right in front of my wheelchair before landing on my lap with a soft thud. In a pure reflex action I put my arms around the bundle, which was yelling. I started to get my breath back, and became aware of the dry smell of snow.
The temperature dropped from unpleasant static heat to the level of cold that threatens frostbite within a remarkably short time. The train listed to one side. Not very much, but enough to cause pain in one of my shoulders. I was sitting on the left in the carriage and was the only person in a wheelchair on the entire train. A wall of dirty white was pressing against the window on my side. It struck me that the enormous quantities of snow had saved us; without them the train would have jackknifed.
The cold was debilitating. I had taken off my sweater back in HØnefoss. Now I was sitting here in a thin T-shirt, clutching a baby to my chest, as I realized it was snowing into the carriage. The bare skin on my arms was already so cold that the whirling, blue-white flakes lay there for a chilly second before melting. The windows had caved in all along the right-hand side of the carriage.
The wind must have increased in strength during the few minutes that had passed since we stopped to allow people to get on and off the train at Finse station. Only two passengers had disembarked. I had noticed how they leaned forward against the wind as they struggled across the platform towards the entrance to the hotel, but it didn't seem any worse than normal bad weather up in the high mountains. Sitting here now, with my sweater tightly wrapped around the baby and with no chance of being able to reach for my jacket, I was afraid that the wind was so strong and the snow so cold that we would freeze to death within a very short time. I curled my body over the tiny baby as best I could. With hindsight I can't actually say how long I sat like that, without any contact with anyone, without saying anything, with the shouts of the other passengers like disconnected fragments in the dense howling of the storm. Perhaps it was ten minutes. It might have been only a few seconds.
A woman was glaring furiously at me and the child, which was entirely pink, from its cardigan to its tiny little socks. The small, clenched fists that I was trying to cover with my own hands, along with the furious, yelling face, had a pale pink tinge.
The mother's face, on the other hand, was blood-red. A deep cut in her forehead was bleeding freely. That didn't stop her from grabbing the baby. My sweater fell to the floor. The...
1222By: Anne Holt