I don’t get ARCs to read very often and it’s always a treat when I do. I was especially excited this time because it’s a debut novel from one of Janet Reid’s clients. I’m going to assume everyone knows who the Sharkly One is. I’ll just say that her clients write damn good books.
The whole thing started a month or so ago when Janet’s godsend, Meredith Barnes, mentioned on Twitter that they had “plans” for the Working Stiffs. I wasn’t sure whether to jump up and down or shudder with fear. Not long after that, Bente forwarded an email from Meredith asking if one of their clients, Steve Ulfelder, could do a guest blog or two. Of course I said yes.
Today’s post is my review of his debut mystery, PURGATORY CHASM. Steve will be back for an interview on Thursday, May 12th. Hopefully, Steve will stop by today and say hello.
The protagonist of PURGATORY CHASM is Conway Sax, a former racecar driver, mechanic, and alcoholic. He belongs to an AA group called the Barnburners. When any of the Barnburners has a problem, he make it his mission to fix it. As Conway says, “Barnburners saved my life. I help them when I can. No exceptions.”
When Barnburner Tander Phigg asks Conway to retrieve his old Mercedes from a shop called Das Motorenwerk, he agrees, even though he thinks Phigg is an asshole. When Phigg ends up dead, Conway becomes a suspect because he was the last person to see him alive.
PURGATORY CHASM is one of those books I had a hard time putting down. It grabbed me with the first line and I had to keep reading to find out what kind of trouble Conway was going to get into next. And there was plenty of trouble. There were loads of twists and turns and an ending I didn’t see coming. I thought about it long after I finished the book.
Every character was well-drawn and compelling. Conway is a guy you just have to root for. His friend, Randall—an Iraq war veteran with a prosthetic leg—is Conway’s conscience and tries to keep him on the straight and narrow. Charlene is Conway’s on-and-off girlfriend. She’s been disappointed by him several times, but somehow their relationship survives. I especially liked the relationship between Charlene’s daughter and Conway. Even minor characters who only make one-time appearances are interesting.
If you like P.I. novels with lots of action, compelling characters, and an ending that will blow you away, PURGATORY CHASM is definitely a book you need to pick up.
Steve Ulfelder is a race driver and co-owner of Flatout Motor Sports in Framingham; a company that builds race cars. He was a business and technology journalist for 20 years. In addition to trade and automotive magazines, he wrote for the Boston Globe, Boston magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, and many others. For more about Steve, visit his website at http://www.ulfelder.com/. PURGATORY CHASM, his first novel will be released on May 10, 2011.