Slugger, the final chapter in Martin Holmen's Stockholm trilogy was hard to put down.
Harry, the ex-boxer and former jailbird-turned-debt collector and private detective, finds himself immersed in the solving of the murder of his former lover and priest Gabrielsson.
The rector was stretched out like Jesus Christ with hands and feet pierced with iron and a Star of David drawn in blood above his head.
Pre-WWII is the scene. Nazis, local gangsters and police corruption define the milieu — layered with anti-Semitism as Jews are blamed for Harry’s friend's murder. Prostitutes, booze and back yard abortions are constantly on the periphery of the plot.
Harry also has a dalliance with a young boxer and the outcome is tragic. We see a glimpse of Harry’s soft side after he is ordered to march a young woman to a back-yard abortionist but once there decides to give her some funds and allows her to escape her fate.
Enter Ma, the head of one of Stockholm’s local gangs who attempts to convince Harry to work for her in exchange for a passage to America — which is one of his dreams. Harry learns gun smugglers and gold exchanges and that Gabrielsson’s stance against Nazis may have caused his death.
Ma and Harry work together to discuss their plans for dealing with the bosses of other local gangs. Harry wonders if he is going to do another stint in prison but pushes on in his fight against corruption and the rise of Nazism.
The writing style of Holmen is incredibly descriptive and blunt, so much so that you can picture the scene in your mind. This novel was compelling as the need to learn Harry’s fate took over, while the plot rushed towards the climax — which took a tragic final turn.
Martin Holmen's Slugger was published in 2018 and can be purchased here.
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