1222 by Anne Holt…

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When Scribner asked me to review this book,
I jumped at the chance 1222to read Anne Holt‘s latest crime story 1222.

The basic story line is that a train crashes in Northern Norway during a horrific snow storm and the survivors are taken to a nearby hotel until the blizzard subsides. (The title comes from the fact that they are 1,222 feet above sea level.) All seems well until a priest is found murdered just outside the hotel door on the morning after the crash.

Hanne Wilhelmsen, a wheel-chair bound retired detective, is one of the survivors. She carefully observes the other passengers and pieces together what happened. The interesting wrinkle in this book is the other characters’ willingness to talk near Hanne as if she wasn’t there – likely because they see her as lesser because of her wheelchair – but it ends up being how the mystery is unraveled. The other irony is that Hanne enjoys watching people but not so much inteacting with them – quite a challenge when trying to interview witnesses and suspects.

Hanne is a little grumpy and I kept forgetting that she was a woman. That’s not good or bad – just my experience.

Amping up the drama and mystery is the fact that the passengers from the private car on the wrecked train have been isolated on a separate level of the hotel.

To be honest – because that is what I promised to be here – I had a hard time buying into the idea that this hotel would have been totally stocked full of supplies to support a train load of people for several days when it was practically empty of people, except for staff members. Beyond that, the story is engaging and the unfolding connections between people are interesting.

This is the eighth book in a series but the first one translated into English. So English readers are likely missing out on some historical information/backstory on Hanne Wilhelmsen – but I think that’s okay. If you like a mystery – especially an isolation mystery where the people are bound together by circumstances/location and cannot escape each other – you will likely enjoy this story.

 

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott……

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by Anne LamottAnne Lamott is a (pretty well-known) writer and she writes this book to encourage others to write. She doesn’t even demand that writers write better – at least not at first. She just wants us to write.

It’s wonderful.

It’s funny in unexpected ways. Many times I read a line and thought, a second later, “now that was funny”. Anne Lamott writes with a humor that is natural and seeps into her words. I love her conversational tone and her advice is fabulous.

In Bird by Bird, she gives us permission to write a “shitty” first draft – because we must. We must get something down on paper and then fine-tune it. She reassures us that she knows no-one who can write perfectly the first time. Well, she admits to knowing one person who can do it – but she doesn’t like her very much.

The gist of her message is that we should take our writing bit by bit. Anne shares the story of her brother writing a paper for a school project. He waited until the last minute, of course, and was overwhelmed by tackling the whole world of birds at once. Her father simply said to him, “take it bird by bird”. He encouraged his son to write in little bits. That’s great advice for life, too, by the way.  One thing at a time.

Readers also get insights into plot, character development, jealousy, and tons ‘o writing stuff. There is a lot to learn between the pages but it never feels like a text book. Anne shares her knowledge through stories and examples that really “show, instead of tell”.

Even if you hope to never pick up a pencil again, you can enjoy this book.

This is another book that I will give as a gift to friends. It’s all sorts of yummy!