As you all know I’m a big fan of the New Blood Panel at the festival and am always keen to read these before the event. However to be honest none of them really jumped out at me this year. Obviously wanting to ensure I completed the challenge I still continued and therefore recently finished The Clinch by Martin Holmen.
This is not my usual fair. The cover shows a boxer, and it’s a historical setting which I’m not a fan of usually. However I’m glad I persevered as this was fascinating. Set in 1930s Stockholm, Harry Kvist is an ex-boxer earning a living by collecting debts for people. Mainly this involves him finding people who have defaulted on bike payments, and him repossessing the bikes. Sometimes however he is asked to collect bigger debts, which is how he ends up paying a visit to Zetterberg. Unfortunately the following morning things take a turn for the worst and suddenly Kvist becomes a prime suspect in a crime. His only alibis are either the man he spent the night with, which would send them both to prison, or a prostitute who saw him, but she isn’t around.
Despite my dislike of boxing I really enjoyed this novel. The character of Kvist was a big contradiction in my head. He was standoffish, thuggish and fairly unpleasant, however somehow you still routed for him and wanted things to go his way.
The most fascinating element for me though was the history of Stockholm. My knowledge of the area is pretty limited, mainly drawn from reading writers such as Camilla Lackberg so it was a different perspective to see it from a historical point. There is a lot of description which although does at times slow the story down, for me made it interesting. The writing and setting gave it a distinctly dark feeling, at times claustrophobic, which is made more so by the limited friendships that Kvist seems to have.
It’s quite a graphic novel, but then it is obvious from the description and the cover that this is going to be the case and I don’t always think that is a bad thing. Clinch is the first of a trilogy and I will be interested to see how the books pan out. Martin Holmen said in the New Blood panel that the second and third novels are well on their way so there shouldn’t be too long to wait.