Saturday, 18th November 2017
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Author Martin Holmen: Published by Pushkin Vertifo : Price e11.25

Harry Kvist is happy to be leaving Langholmen Prison after serving a stretch for a year and a half although he is not so happy to be leaving his prison lover behind. But himself and Doughboy have made a plan that in a week's time when Doughboy is released the two of them will meet up and try and forge some sort of life together.

This isn't going to be easy because it is 1930's Stockholm and homosexuality is very much frowned upon. But Harry has one thing on his side, he is a champion boxer who has never lost a match. Indeed one of the first things that he does when he leaves the prison is to go and arrange to have some matches chalked up for himself so he can earn some easy money.

So, all he has to do within the week is to keep himself out of trouble so that he can meet Doughboy and get on with his life with someone that he has come to care about very much.

However his plans begin to crumble when he finds out that one of his oldest friends has been murdered in the time that he has been in prison. A laundress by the name of Beda she was sort of a substitute mother to him over the years that he knew her and someone who never judged him. The worst part of the whole affair is that her son, who is deaf and dumb, was blamed for it and was sent to the city lunatic asylum.

If things couldn't have been made any worse he gets a letter, months old, from Beda asking if anything happens to her would Harry look after her son.

Now Harry feels under an obligation to do something and to look into the murder case which doesn't even seem right to him in the first place.

He manages to track down Beda's estranged daughter and gets her to help him in trying to find out what really happened the night that Beda was murdered. And that means breaking into the lunatic asylum to try and find her son and see what sort of information he might have. They do break into the asylum but not before a killer gets to the son and slits his throat. Now the two of them know that something is definitely not right but trying to unravel the mystery is another thing.

In between all of this Harry gets into all sorts of scrapes and is even badly stabbed at one point. Their only clue is the car the killer is driving around in, a Rolls Royce, meaning that whoever is behind the killings has means and is probably someone with a high position. Little does Harry realise just how high up the conspiracy goes or what is behind it.

Intensely atmospheric and full of period detail but with a contemporary edge 'Down for the Count' is a wildly entertaining read.

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