Purgatory Chasm
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Purgatory Chasm (Conway Sax #1)

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  252 ratings  ·  81 reviews
“Tander Phigg was an asshole, but he was also a Barnburner. Barnburners saved my life. I help them when I can. No exceptions.”

The job seems simple. Conway Sax, a no-nonsense auto mechanic with a knack for solving difficult problems, has never liked obnoxious blowhard Tander Phigg. But a promise is a promise. Tander's a Barnburner, a member of the unique Alcoholics Anonymou...more
Hardcover, 292 pages
Published May 10th 2011 by Minotaur Books (first published April 28th 2011)
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Scott Rhee
Making his worthwhile debut in the "private eye" genre, Steve Ulfelder brings to mind the best of classic Robert B. Parker and, going way back, hard-boiled authors like James M. Cain or Jim Thompson. Ulfelder's novel "Purgatory Chasm", besides having one of the coolest titles I have heard in a while, introduces readers to a name that I believe we may hear more of in the future: Conway Sax. Not your typical private eye. In fact, not a private eye at all. He's a big, surly auto mechanic, former ra...more
Jeffrey
Feb 03, 2012 Jeffrey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mystery readers who like characters with a different skill set from typical pi
Shelves: mystery, read-in-2012
Dick Francis made a living for many years drawing detectives from various walks of life other than the typical ex police officer, from the toy store designer, the ex jockeys, the pilot or the accountant.

In Steve Ulfelder’s first novel, the detective turns out to be Conway Sax, a former race car driver, who hit the booze so hard that he now makes his money as an auto mechanic. Sax is the member of the Barnstormers, a hard core alcoholic anoymous group, that took Sax in when he had hit bottom. Sax...more
Jamie
[b] Purgatory Chasm [/b] Steve Ulfelder

4 stars

I liked this - eventually. The things that bothered me probably won't matter to normal people lol.

I liked the main guy is a mechanic, the relationships in the book are nicely written, although there does seem to be a lot of characters for what is a fairly short book and the general writing style is engaging. The cars are written like characters - as they should be and most of the car stuff is accurate and to me, funny in the right places:)

I did put...more
Sue Wargo
Loved it. Interesting to read something set so close to home. Have been to Purgatory Chasm many times in my life. Author even mentioned Thompson Speedway. Sometimes when the author draws on places and things that are very familiar it can make you be hypercritical. But this is a well done first effort with an atypical sleuth. Plan to have a tissue handy at the end. Looking forward to your next book Mr. Ulfeder.
Mina MacLeod
I picked this up in the bookstore, intending to see if I liked the flow. Despite being written in first-person, I'd breezed through eight pages before deciding it was worth buying. It didn't take long to devour it from there. I've been in a mystery/supernatural mood, so this tantalized my palate. What's refreshing about Conway is that he's just a guy -- a regular man with a knack for solving people's problems and a deep-seated sense of loyalty. He's not a smart-ass, he's not a pop-culture savant...more
Hallie
Massachusetts author Steve Ulfelder sets his debut novel, "Purgatory Chasm,"in suburbs west of Boston. His protagonist is Conway Sax, an expert auto mechanic who once raced for NASCAR but "drank myself out of a ride before I made the big time." In a weak moment, Conway promises to help the blustering Tander Phigg recover his "baby"(a 1980 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9)from a sketchy foreign motors repairs garage where it's been sitting for eighteen months, supposedly awaiting repairs.

Conway thinks P...more
Austin Morgan
Jun 10, 2011 Austin Morgan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Someone looking for a gritty mystery
Shelves: first-reads
Steve Ulfelder’s Purgatory Chasm is a great way to start off a writing career. I get to read a lot of debut novels, frequently before they are published. I feel this gives me more experience in identifying some of the foibles new authors frequently work through in the first books. I didn’t see any of the typical beginner jitters from Steve Ulfelder. Then I googled Steve and found out he is not kicking off a writing career, he has been a journalist for 20 years. Of course converting journalism to...more
Gina
Goodreads Decriptions- “Tander Phigg was an asshole, but he was also a Barnburner. Barnburners saved my life. I help them when I can. No exceptions.”

The job seems simple. Conway Sax, a no-nonsense auto mechanic with a knack for solving difficult problems, has never liked obnoxious blowhard Tander Phigg. But a promise is a promise. Tander’s a Barnburner, a member of the unique Alcoholics Anonymous group that rescued Conway, and when a Barnburner has a problem, Conway takes care of it. Besides, al...more
Beth
PURGATORY CHASM: A MYSTERY by Steve Ulfelder begins with the narrator, Conway Sax, complaining about Tander Phigg, a person Sax knows through Alcoholics Anonymous, who asked him for a favor. Phigg wants Sax to get Phigg’s car back from a repair shop and his money, $3,500, refunded. It wasn’t a good beginning. But the story gets better soon after when Sax goes to the repair shop.

Something’s fishy about this place, Sax discovers. And when he talks to the owner, Sax gets his head bashed. He does ca...more
Darcia Helle
Purgatory Chasm starts off with tremendous promise. The writing is smooth, with lots of well written dialogue that moves the story forward while also giving us a great feel for the characters. Ulfelder's style is quick and uncluttered, immersing us in the story as the suspense builds.

Unfortunately, it all fell apart for me early on. I didn't find the plot or the characters' behavior believable.

Some highlights:

- Conway Sax is street smart, independent, on parole, jobless, and inexplicably gets t...more
Amy
Great debut mystery! Reviewed for Library Journal.

Conway Sax is a former race car driver who lost everything because of his alcohol addiction. After a stint in jail and a newfound sense of belonging with his Alcoholics Anonymous group, he is finally getting his life back in order. When one of his AA associates asks for his help, he is unable to refuse despite his dislike for the man. What starts off as a simple negotiation evolves into a murder investigation and the unraveling of deadly family s...more
Janet
Don’t you hate it when a “friend” you don’t really like asks you for a favor you don’t really want to do? So does former alcoholic, former NASCAR driver and current auto mechanic Conway Sax. But when Tander Phigg asks him to help recover a much loved vintage Mercedes from an unscrupulous auto shop, Conway knows he can’t refuse. Phigg is a founding member of the Barnburners, a group of recovering alcoholics who are the backbone of the Alcoholics Anonymous group who helped Conway sober up and Conw...more
Bahimiron
I'm not a huge mystery fan, so take this with a grain of salt.

A fantastic debut from a great new talent. Steve Ufelder takes Framingham, MA, a town I mostly know for Shopper's World (Jordan's Furniture is right across the street and listed as being in Natick, what's up people?) and the closest Wal-Mart to Boston, and brings it to life as the hometown of one Conway Sax, former racecar driver, former drunk, former mechanic and currently a guy who helps out members of his local AA chapter, the Barn...more
Kathleen Hagen
Purgatory Chasm, by Steve Ulfelder, b-plus, Narrated by Mark Boyette, Produced by Audible Inc.., downloaded from audible.com.

This is a debut mystery in a series about Conway Sas, trained as a mechanic and with a prison record, and, by his own description, a drunk. But he kicks the habit and joins A.A. The group he finally hits upon as perfect for him is called The Barn Burners, and is made up mostly of guys who either have a prison record or have something to hide, but who are all sober. They ha...more
Kathleen
I was fascinated to learn that Purgatory Chasm is a real place in Massachusetts. Purgatory Chasm the book is a fast-paced mystery novel whose main character, Conway Sax, is a sometime auto mechanic with a past involving alcohol and time in prison. And Conway Sax is a Barnburner, a member of a select group of AA members who will do anything for each other.

Author Steve Ulfelder tells the story in first person, giving us the sense of speed and obsession that pervade the whole novel. We know from t...more
Stephen
Changed my initial feelings about this book. Originally thought the pace was slower than I liked. However as one gets into the last quarter of the book, the pace quickens and you have to pay attention as the story lines all come together.
Conway Sax , ex-con and ex-alcoholic has his life together. ...a job , a girl friend, Charlene, when things start to happen that connect him to his past. He is friendly to members of his AA group which is call the Barnburners, when a member, Tander Phigg is fou...more
Amandaj
I got Purgatory Chasm from a first reads giveaway. Conway Sax, a devoted member of an AA group called the Barnburners is determined to find out the mystery behind a fellow members (Tander Phigg) suspicious death. Just before Tander's death, Tander contacts Conway for a favor. Once Tander is dead Conway still keeps his promise to help him, because that is what Barnburners do; they always have each others back no matter the circumstances. Along the way to finding the truth of Tander Phigg's death...more
Michael Puttre
This is a spoiler-free review.

Steve Ulfelder's debut novel surprises with its tight, disciplined writing and pitch-perfect dialog. I have not read many (any?) crime-mystery novels, so I was prepared for some over-the-top noir passages, particularly in a freshman outing (think Calvin's 'Tracer Bullet' alter ego). I needn't have worried. Ulfelder offers up rapid-fire descriptions that never stray into caricature.

The title intrigued me because I live and work in the same region of Central Massachu...more
Patty Blount
Steve Ulfelder’s PURGATORY CHASM is a mystery that grabs you with this opening line: “There are drunken assholes and assholes who are drunks.”

Former NASCAR driver and mechanic Conway Sax is a recovering alcoholic, drug addict, and parolee whose unwavering loyalty to his fellow Barnburners (AA group) – even when they’re assholes who are drunk - sucks him into retrieving a Mercedes from a local garage where it’s been held for months with no explanation.

Yeah, I questioned the wisdom of getting in...more
Lauren Grimley
As a reader: Well, I've already publicly announced my weak spot for fictional bad boys (Character Crushes, 4/12), so it's no surprise that I fell in love with Conway Sax just about the same time I realized he was trouble. That said, this is not chick lit like much of what I read and review here. Conway Sax is a man's man, and the story, writing style, and characters might actually put the novel in the opposite category (rhymes with chick lit, only crasser). The flawed hero makes for a fascinatin...more
Lisa
This is a taut, breathtaking debut featuring recovering alcoholic Conway Sax, a member of an AA group that takes care of its own,in every sense of the word. When Conway agrees to help an old-timer reclaim his car from a questionaable auto shop, this simple favor turns into a nightmare after the old-timer is murdered. Then more murders occur and Conway is knee-deep in it. Mixed up in all the mess is his awkward, touching and at times frustrating reunion with his alcholic father.

Conway has major...more
Deb
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Ray Daniel
When Conway Sax fixes your truck it stays fixed. When he builds a house it stays built. And, when he says he'll get your car back from a disreputable mechanic, by God, he gets that car.

Reminiscent of Spenser and Crash Davis before him, Conway Sax is the kind of man who knows who he is, knows how to do a job right, and does what he say's he'll do. He's the kind of man who has a story to tell, but doesn't need to hear himself talk.

Purgatory Chasm is the perfect book for a guy like Conway Sax, bec...more
Peacejanz
A first novel from a gifted writer. And a mystery! Good character development. Good clues among the beatings and the dead men. And a very good disguise for the bad guys. This is the first of a series about Conway Sax, a felon, a 12 stepper, and a good heart. If you love mysteries, get this one now!
Ellen
Loved this book, especially the opening sentence “There are drunken assholes and assholes who are drunks.” The author, Steve Ulfelder, is the father of my boys' friend and I was skeptical about a "first novel" but was very pleasantly surprised. He came to our book club meeting last night and gave us all the background and how he came up with the idea for the story. A great page turner, and quick read, with good character and plot development along with a couple of side stories. It takes place in...more
Zora
Very good first novel about a recovering alcoholic tough guy trying to figure out what happened to one of his AA friends. Though the blurbs suggest this is hard boiled, it isn't dark and depressing and anti-human as some books that get categorized as hard-boiled. The protagonist, despite his comfort with violence, is a caring guy and the author lets us see goodness in weak characters. I enjoyed reading it very much and found it fast-paced. Only a few hours after finishing it, I started seeing th...more
Chi Dubinski
In Ulfelder’s excellent first novel, auto mechanic Conway Sax is asked by Tander Phigg, a member of his Alcoholics Anonymous group, to try to get his classic Mercedes back from the shop that’s had it for a year. But when Conway turns up at the garage, he gets whacked on the head. When he tracks down Tander to ask what’s really going on with the car, he finds Tander strung up by his necktie, an apparent suicide.
The author has perfectly captured the down-at-the-heels desperation of a former New En...more
Adia2728
*I won an advanced copy via a first reads giveaway.

I found myself wondering what the heck was going to happen next for poor Conway. The guy just seemed to keep getting into bad situations. (Although he was bringing them on himself.) This book did move a little slow for me in the middle but then it really picked up at the end and delivered a good punch! The author did a great job of delivering all the answers at the end, but not in a way that made it feel abrupt. (Some endings come up too quick....more
Denise
I'm originally from Massachusetts, and I love reading books that are set in the area, so the title of this book immediately drew my interest. The premise sounded intriguing and did not disappoint. I know very little about the mechanics of cars and car racing, but most everything was sufficiently explained so I did not feel lost in those details. The plot itself moves quickly and the timing of pivotal details kept me both interested and suspicious, and I loved how everything tied together in the...more
Monica
"There are drunken assholes, and there are assholes who are drunks. Take a drunken asshole and stick him in AA five or ten years, maybe you come out with a decent guy."

So begins the story of of Conway Sax, ex-race car driver, ex-drunk, ex-con, decent guy. He has a new life as a mechanic, he's fixing up an old house, he has friends, a girl friend, and a fierce loyalty to the Barnburners, the hard-core AA group that saved his life.

A promise to help out another Barnburner lands him in the middle of...more
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A former journalist, Steve Ulfelder is now co-owner of Flatout Motorsports, a company that builds and services race cars, and an amateur race driver. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University and lives in Massachusetts with his family.

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