This story is set in the middle of a raging February snowstorm in Norway. A train traveling from Oslo to Bergen derails near the railway station at Finse, which is 1222 meters above sea level, hence the title of the book.
The narrator is Hanne Wilhelmsen, a retired police inspector who has been paralyzed from the waist down since a shooting four years earlier and is now confined to a wheelchair. She lives a rather quiet, isolated life with her partner, Nefis, and their daughter, Ida. She was traveling alone, however, to see a medical specialist, and was evacuated along with other survivors of the crash to the train station hotel. Altogether, there were 269 people on board, and at first, only the train driver died.
As the blizzard kicks up and the passengers become good and snowbound, the death count begins to climb as well. A few die from delayed traumatic injury, but there are also a couple of murders. Since Hanne is the only one with any police experience, she, along with a solicitor and a doctor, try to conduct an investigation and apprehend the killer before more people die.
Discussion: This is apparently the seventh installment in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series. It is the first to be published in the U.S. however. Even so, I had no trouble getting into the story. On the other hand, it sort of ends in medias res – the crime is solved, but all the other pending plot lines are simply dropped. I can only think that because it is a series, they will be picked up in some later book. As it was, however, it left me feeling quite bewildered and a bit robbed.
Evaluation: Holt does an excellent job in making you feel the bitter cold of the wind and the inexorable onslaught of endless snow. She also nicely chronicled the change in atmosphere as the days wore on among those who were trapped. I wasn’t all that taken with Hanne however, nor of any of those trapped along with her; in any event we didn’t get to know any of them all that well. Hanne makes plenty of asides about the Norwegian character and Norway’s social institutions, but some of it may seem puzzling to the American audience. There was also a bit of what I thought of as silliness to make the book more politically timely and internationally relevant. But really my biggest complaint is, as I stated in the Discussion, the story just stopped. In the middle of what was happening. Without carrying out the plotlines. Only the murder, which seemed only a minor subplot in view of the storm and the interaction of personalities confined to the lodge, was brought to a resolution. I was left dissatisfied.
Published in the U.S. by Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2012