Reviewed April 20, 2012.
Blackstone Audio, 2011. Originally published in Norway in 2007. 9 CDs.
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Non-Fantasy Fiction
I've always loved a locked-room mystery. This one is a snowed-in mystery. And we've got even more classic feel with a train wreck starting it all and a paralyzed detective who thinks she is done with police work. But then one of the train passengers is murdered.
At first, I didn't like the narration. She was reading the lines like a computer. But then I realized that former police detective Hanne Wilhelmsen would talk like that. She's withdrawn almost completely from people since the day when she got shot, the day that ended her career. And once I realized that was intentional, I enjoyed the narrator very much. I definitely wouldn't have pronounced the Norwegian names correctly if left to my own devices, for a start.
The story is very atmospheric and brilliantly written. Hanne was traveling through the mountains to see a specialist about some additional difficulties. Due to ice, the train went off the tracks. Only the engineer was killed, and she describes the crowd's reaction to the accident and how they are all brought to a hotel in the mountains and hunker down after the storm builds to hurricane force and they are surrounded by snow. That first night, one of them is murdered. Hanne is recognized as a former police officer, so against her wishes, she is asked to help solve the crime.
One thing I particularly liked: Hanne comments on how the hotel owner grows during the disaster, and the reader can't help but realize how dramatically Hanne has grown, going from not wanting to speak to anyone to taking charge and solving the crime.
This book is gripping and fascinating and gives modern twists to classic mystery themes. I was listening to the last CD on the way to work and absolutely hated having to shut it off in order to be on time. That evening, I took the audiobook inside so I could finish without any further waiting.
This would have been fun to read during a winter storm -- though perhaps that would have made me paranoid, since the book made you almost feel you were experiencing the blizzard yourself. If you want to cool off, this would be good summer reading! Chilling in more than one sense of the word. But with characters you enjoy watching rise to the occasion.