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Friday 1 December 2017

‘Down for the Count’ by Martin Holmén

Published by Pushkin Vertigo,
20 July 2017.
ISBN: 978 1 782272 18 2 (PB)

Harry Kvist walks out of Langholmen Prison, Stockholm, and into trouble: his neighbour Beda Johansson has been murdered, apparently by her son, Petrus, except that there seems to have been no investigation, and a sinister assassin seems determined to stop Harry re-opening the case …

This atmospheric noir novel is narrated in the present tense by Harry himself: tough, uncompromising, trying to better himself and get out of the violence of the streets, away from his boxing career, yet unable to stop himself getting involved in situations where violence will be his first option. He’s in love with a fellow prisoner, Doughboy, getting out in only a week, but realistic about whether his lover will remain gay when he’s released, and he also thinks often of his daughter, who emigrated to America. The writing has a fierce intensity, with frequent snapshot images of people and places that immerse the reader in wintry Stockholm in 1935. The Nazi party is just starting to take hold there, and the awareness of what is coming adds extra tension to the story. This is the second in Holmén’s Stockholm trilogy, with references to the first novel, but the plot is complete in itself, cleverly twisted and well-clued, and with a satisfying ending.

A Nordic Sam Spade thriller, beautifully written, with fast action, memorable characters and a vividly described setting. It reads well as a stand-alone, but you might want to begin with Clinch. Highly recommended.
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor
Martin Holmén is a Swedish author of noir fiction. His critically acclaimed debut - the first instalment of the Harry Kvist trilogy - Clinch was released in Sweden and Australia in 2015, and the United Kingdom and France in 2016. The second one Down For The Count was published in 2017, and the third and finishing installment Slugger is due 2017.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

A review of her recent book Ghosts of the Vikings can be read here.

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