Martin Holmen’s Clinch… gritty, stylish Scandinavian noir from one of Sweden’s hottest emerging authors.
Clinch Synopsis :
Stockholm, the 1930s.
Former boxer Harry Kvist makes a living chasing bad debts and looking for runaway girls, and has a penchant for rough sex with both men and women.
When Kvist is wrongly accused of murder, he is forced to navigate the shanty-towns, speakeasies, brothels and contraband stores of Stockholm’s underworld, in a desperate search for the only person who can save him.
Torn between his broken past and his desire to survive, between his pride and his misery, Kvist risks his life in a violent quest for justice.
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BOOK REVIEW by Tony Ziemek
1930s Stockholm. The grubbiness, the poverty, the organised and petty crime are the same as every city in the developed but stalling world of the 1930s. The difference here is in the uniquely Swedish details that give texture and depth to the more familiar noir conventions. There are of course, the evocative suburb and street names (Sibirien, Karduansmakaregetan), cigar brands, aquavit and the Husqvarna, that turns out to be a gun, not a sewing machine.
Harry Kvist, the central character is also more than might be expected. He scratches out a living at the violent margin between debt-collection and crime but also has convictions for cottaging (amongst others).
However, central to the plot is Harry’s relationship with a woman. Doris Steiner is a wealthy, married (and heroin-addicted) former film star. Initially, this relationship seems slightly improbable but is convincingly resolved as the plot develops. Doris introduces Harry to a world of Cadillacs and unfamiliar food in fine restaurants:
The oysters are brought in with lemon and special knives. I watch Doris and then try to follow her example. After a few botched attempts I finally manage to munch down the mess. I like the taste. I like the constancy as well, the way the pulp grows in your mouth. Pieces of shell crunch between my teeth, sort of like when you’ve bitten off someone’s ear.
Not an obvious comparison to most of us but nicely summarising Harry.
Clinch was published in September 2015, simultaneously in Swedish and English. The translation by Henning Koch is seamless and has none of the occasional jarring notes when translators struggle with idiomatic expressions. It is absorbing in both plot and atmosphere and I look forward to the next installment.
UPDATE: Book 2 in this series, Down for the Count, now available also.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
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Genre: Crime-Detective, Mystery, Thriller, Translation
~ Tony Ziemek is the lead editor of Ed Fresh Editorial Services.
About the Author, Martin Holmen
Martin Holmén teaches History and Swedish in Stockholm. Before studying and becoming a teacher Martin worked as a waiter and bartender, but confesses that he doesn’t remember much of that time. Clinch is his first novel. Martin is already hard at work on the second instalment, Down for the Count.
Other reviews of Clinch
* Receiving this book from the publisher did not impact the expression of honest opinions in the review above.