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Customer Review

In recent years, Scandinavian crime novels have become a publisher's gold mine, but not all have the high quality of some of the original `discoveries'. On the basis of this book, I would place the author firmly in the latter category. Except for the snowstorm that lasts for several days, there is almost nothing in the story that distinguishes it as being Scandinavian. It has much in common with the traditional mysteries of Agatha Christie where an assorted group of unrelated people is assembled in a country house for one or more of them to be murdered.

In this case the venue is a hotel in a remote location in Norway that is accessible only by train (are there still such places?). About 200 people are forced to take shelter there when their train is derailed and the blizzard means they are trapped for a few days. The group includes the narrator of the action, Hanne Wilhelmsen, a retired former police detective. She is a bitter person, who has retreated into a claustrophobic world of her partner and their daughter, after she was paralysed and wheelchair bound following being shot in the line of duty. She stays downstairs in the lounge throughout the story and this gives her the opportunity to observe the other passengers and their interactions, very much like Miss Marples.

Then a murder occurs of a leading religious figure in the Norwegian church, quickly followed by a second murder of someone who knew the first victim. The two killings cause tensions and antagonisms within the group to surface, all observed by Hanne. Helped, or possibly hindered, but the musings of a dwarf doctor who is tending her injured leg, Hanne gets involved in solving the crimes, although the way she goes about it is totally unconvincing. It consists of writing few names on a scrap of paper and staring at them, and having fleeting conversations with a few of the passengers and hotel staff. There is very little sense of systematic police detective work and a total lack of tension. Eventually, the storm subsides and a small group of detectives arrives by helicopter. At this point, remarkably, Hanne is allowed to publicly question various `suspects', and explains to the assembled passengers `who done it' and why (again, very Agatha Christie), but there is no real tension leading up to this revelation, and it is all too predictable.

There is also a side story about a private carriage that was attached to the train, whose passengers were taken off first and appears to be guarded by armed men in an inaccessible part of the hotel. This mystery is only party resolved when the passengers are finally evacuated by helicopter, but its inclusion in the book adds nothing to the plot. There are a few loose ends left at the end, but not of sufficient interest to make me give them much thought.

Overall, this is a disappointing book and does not compare with the best of Scandinavian thrillers.
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Product Details

3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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