Down for the Count, Martin Holmén
The second in the Harry Kvist series, DOWN FOR THE COUNT follows CLINCH, with the third book, SLUGGER, now available in Australia as well. Think deepest darkest dirtiest noir, of the hardest possible bitten variety, and this series fits the definition perfectly. Add longing for love, and a touching sense of loyalty as well. Harry Kvist is an unlikely hard man, although his initial description would seem to fit the bill. He's a boxer, a brawler, a heavy and a hard man. In DOWN FOR THE COUNT he's leaving behind his latest prison sentence to return to his small flat, above the funeral directors, with his beloved dog, and hopefully his latest love. Doughboy as he refers to him, is due to be released from the same prison not long after Kvist and he's obsessed, excited, full of longing for his young lover, full of hope for their future together.
The Stockholm of 1935 that he returns to is familiar in many ways - most of the same people are still working where they were when he went into prison, many of them happy to see him return home. One of his oldest friends, however, has been murdered and Kvist thinks all is not right with the investigation into that death. At the same time the scourge of Nazism is starting to make itself felt on the streets of his hometown which makes it a dangerous place for a hard man like him, a known homosexual, an enforcer, somebody determined to get to the bottom of the death that has offended his sense of right and wrong, and sets him up against the highest echelons of Swedish society.
Whilst it's not absolutely necessary to have read the first novel - CLINCH, it will certainly help, and if you're a fan of dark, twisting and difficult tales, then it will be well worth your time. Having been absolutely blown away by that first book I was really pleased to find SLUGGER, the third, in my incoming mail a little while ago, although annoyed with myself when I discovered DOWN FOR THE COUNT had come and gone without my noticing. Harry Kvist is a fabulous character, despite the toughness and the unrelenting drive of the man, he's touching and whilst not exactly sympathetic, understandable. His world is dark, and it always feels like it's about to get a lot darker, and yet he remains loyal, in his way. Faithful, in his way. Straight up and down, in his way. Hopeful, in his own, beaten down, complicated and complex, dark and darker way.
Harry Kvist walks out of the gates of Langholmen jail into the biting Stockholm winter of 1935. He has nothing to his name but a fiercely burning hope: that he can leave behind his old existence of gutter brawls, bruised fists and broken bones.
But the city has other ideas. Nazis are spreading their poison on the freezing streets, and one of Kvist's oldest friends has been murdered. Before he can leave Stockholm's underworld for good, he must track down the killer. As Kvist uncovers a trail of blood leading to the highest echelons of Swedish society, the former boxer finds himself in a fight to the death with his most dangerous opponent yet.