Good morning and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Last Train to Helsingør by Heidi Amsinck. My thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation to join.
Last Train to Helsingør is a collection of scandi-noir short stories and today, I have an extract of one of those stories to share with you but first, here is the all-important bookish information.
Author : Heidi Amsinck
Title : Last Train to Helsingør
Pages : 216
Publisher : Muswell Press
Publication date : February, 2018
Copenhagen is a mysterious city where strange and sinister things often happen. Menacing and at times darkly humorous there are echoes of Roald Dahl and Daphne du Maurier in these stories, many of which have been specially commissioned for Radio 4.
From the commuter who bitterly regrets falling asleep on a late-night train in Last Train to Helsingør, to the mushroom hunter prepared to kill to guard her secret in The Chanterelles of Østvig.
Here, the land of ‘hygge’ becomes one of twilight and shadows, as canny antique dealers and property sharks get their comeuppance at the handsof old ladies in Conning Mrs Vinterberg, and ghosts go off-script in The Wailing Girl.
a story from the collection Last Train to Helsingør by Heidi Amsinck
Introducing the story:
A blizzard sweeps across Copenhagen. Warm and secure in the hotel kitchen, Bent spends his night shift as he always does, mostly drunk, mostly asleep – until a peculiar call from the hotel’s penthouse suite disturbs him from his boozy slumbers.
“Bent had finished most of the bottle and was nodding off in the head chef’s chair when the ringing began. He stared at the telephone on the desk in front of him, but the ringing was coming from further away, an old-fashioned sound he had never heard before.
He emerged unsteadily from the cubicle into the gleaming white of the kitchen, scratching his head.
Perhaps it was coming from reception? He knew the night manager had not been able to come in because of the snow.
Whoever it was sounded impatient. As soon as the ringing stopped, it started again.
He went through the corridor with the red carpet gingerly, for the long-dead dignitaries observing him from their frames on the wall made him uncomfortable. He wasn’t supposed to stray from the kitchen.
But the ringing was not coming from reception. The light was turned down low, the room deserted and silent.
Bent pressed his forehead against the door to the street, breathing vodka mist onto the window pane and drawing a face with his finger.
The snow was heavy in the cone of street light. There was no sound but the wind. No cars outside, no buses, no people, just a silvery penumbra rimmed by darkness, the buildings across the square as obscure as a distant forest.
It must have been the wind he heard, whistling around the corners of the hotel. That was the trouble with the drink, you couldn’t trust your ears, your own eyes. He yawned, scratched the stubble on his scalp, and headed back to the kitchen.
On the radio they were talking about the blizzard as though it were the end of the world. Not since 1978, they said, had the country seen snow like it.
He had just settled back down when the ringing started again. He swore under his breath, switched off the radio and listened hard, hands behind his ears: he heard the water gurgling in the ancient pipes, the humming of the giant fridge, the dripping tap in the pastry section, but still he could not place the sound.
A thought came to him. There was bound to be a telephone in the dining room, though who could be ringing it at this time of night, in this weather?
The room was vast, and the empty chairs seemed to glare at him disapprovingly, making him nervous. Snow was trickling down the window panes, drawing strange patterns on the walls, the white tablecloths and the arched ceiling with the artificial sky. Blue light twinkled in the chandeliers, the crystal glasses and the silver, as though the entire room were under water. Bent had to lean over for a while, with his elbows resting on his knees.
In the end, he found the telephone in the pantry, next to the dumbwaiter they no longer used. It was an old-fashioned telephone mounted on the wall with a sign above it saying Penthouse. It began to ring again, urgently, as he stood there looking at it. Bent did not know the hotel had a penthouse.
Hesitantly, he lifted the receiver. ‘Hello?’
The voice on the other end was faint, scratchy and female, barely audible over the yapping dog in the background. It reminded Bent of something, lost in the depths of his memory.
‘I wish to place an order, and make it quick.’”
If this has whet your appetite and you’d like to read more, Last Train to Helsingør is available to buy!
Heidi Amsinck, a writer and journalist born in Copenhagen, spent many years covering Britain for the Danish press, including a spell as London Correspondent for the broadsheet daily Jyllands- Posten. She has written numerous short stories for radio, including the three-story sets Danish Noir, Copenhagen Confidential and Copenhagen Curios, all produced by Sweet Talk for BBC Radio 4, which are included in this collection .
A graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London, Heidi lives in Surrey. She was previously shortlisted for the VS Pritchett Memorial Prize. Last Train to Helsingor is her first published collection of stories.