“Purgatory Chasm: A Mystery” (Minotaur), by Steve Ulfelder: Conway Sax is a has-been racing driver, an ace auto mechanic, a recovering alcoholic and a refreshing new character solving hardcore crimes.
Sax is trying to put his life back together after boozing himself off the racing circuit and out of a moneymaking repair shop specializing in fine cars.
These days his concern is rehabilitating a house on the wrong side of Framingham, Mass., and establishing a relationship with a woman and her daughter who are becoming increasingly important to him.
Sax has another overriding loyalty _ to the Barnburners, an Alcoholics Anonymous group that helped him get straight. Sax would do anything for a Barnburner, even a lowlife blowhard like Tander Phigg.
So when Phigg asks him to retrieve his beloved Mercedes-Benz and the money from the repair shop that was supposed to fix it, Sax reluctantly steps up.
A self-described grease monkey, Sax uses that ability to size up the shop that has Phigg’s car, and the people running it.
After that, things turn complicated and bloody.
Sax is very much a blue-collar hero _ hardworking and down-to-earth _ who finds himself in an increasingly dangerous situation that eventually has him fighting for his life.
Ulfelder, a race car driver and co-owner of a race car building company, doesn’t overload the book with technical jargon or inside information. Non-racing and non-car fans will appreciate his hero as well as his crisp plotting, hard-boiled style and realistic dialogue.
In his debut novel, Ulfelder deftly solves a mystery, and explores how family ties are established and what they mean.
“Purgatory Chasm” is a book that holds interest on many levels.