Clinch by Martin Holmén - Published by Pushkin Vertigo in 2016 - ISBN: 978 1 782271 92 5
This English language translation is the author’s first in a gritty Scandi noir trilogy featuring heavy drinker Harry Kvist, anti-hero, bi-sexual ex-boxer with a load of personal baggage and a nose for trouble and detection. The story, narrated in the first person, is rooted in 1930s squalid Stockholm with its grime, slums, bootleggers and gangsters magnificently probed and exposed, a fascinating amalgam of the grinding conditions of the desperate destitute and the hedonism of the decadent elite that is light years away from today’s egalitarian city. When one bitter winter’s day Kvist is assigned to chase up defaulter Zetterberg and beats him up to teach him a lesson, he becomes the prime suspect when, shortly afterwards, the debtor is found brutally murdered. Kvist is implicated; he’s hauled in for questioning by the police and worked over but is reluctantly released when they can pin nothing on him. But he knows he’s still in their sights and the hunt is on to nail those who’ve framed him.Kvist’s determination to search for the one credible witness who can provide him with a cast iron alibi brings him face to face with Stockholm’s gambling dens, seedy brothels, pimps and luxury hotels via betrayals and his sexual encounters with men (an act illegal at the time and classified as a mental illness) and an ageing, needy actress.The author doesn’t pull any punches and readers of a squeamish disposition may prefer to look away but that said this does prove to be a very promising atmospheric debut that moves at a good clip and, despite Kvist’s many character flaws, he is mesmerizing and one wants him to live to fight another day.
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax