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Purgatory Chasm    by Steve Ulfelder order for
Purgatory Chasm
by Steve Ulfelder
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Steve Ulfelder makes an impressive debut with a most unusual protagonist in Purgatory Chasm. Ex-race care driver Conway Sax - an alcoholic and the son of an alcoholic (who abused him as a child) - has found redemption and a purpose in life through the Barnburners, a most unusual Alcoholics Anonymous group. He is in a familial relationship with Charlene (also a Barnburner) and her daughter Sophie, but is reluctant to fully commit.

Conway will never refuse to help a Barnburner. So when the thoroughly unlikeable (but reputedly wealthy) Tander Phigg asks him to recover his 1980 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 from the repair shop that has held onto it for eighteen months without completing the contracted work, he agrees. Of course, Phigg was lying and Conway ends up with a big lump on his head. What's worse, it turns out that his client is broke. And soon Tander Phigg is dead.

After Phigg's son Trey shows up (from Vietnam) along with his wife and cute three-year-old son, he and Conway start digging into Tander's flamboyant past 'in Manhattan's modern art' scene. Then Conway's own father re-enters his life again, only to betray him - again. There are international drug dealers and more deaths in this convoluted plot which culminates in a long overdue meeting between father and son at Purgatory Chasm.

Once you open Purgatory Chasm, you will find it very hard to put down. Steve Ulfelder is a new author to watch and I hope he will give us more of Conway Sax and his close-knit Barnburners.

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