Ulfelder follows Purgatory Chasm with another thriller featuring Conway Sax, sober bad boy who belongs to the “Barnburners,” an “after-meeting” AA group pledged to support each other whenever a member asks for help, no matter the problem. Sax slid along the edge in Purgatory Chasm, and though he’s secure in his commitment to sobriety, some of his actions in this novel tread perilously close to his old ways. A mechanic opening a new business, Conway has settled into domestic bliss with Charlene Bollinger and her two daughters, life running smoothly.
Everything is as it should be until Savannah Kane comes to town, awakening memories of an old love affair, an addictive rush of sex and risk. Last time Conway helped her disappear; now, a few years later, she has come with another request. From the same “after the meeting” AA group, Savvy wants Conway to accompany her to a meet-and-greet with Bert Saginaw, another of her ex-lovers. Bert is currently running for office in the upcoming Massachusetts gubernatorial race, second on the ticket as Lieutenant-Governor. Saginaw is being blackmailed in an attempt to derail his political ambitions and sorely needs Conway’s help, according to Savannah. Since Savvy is a “Barnburner,” Sax is in: “Bert Saginaw has a little John Edwards problem. And I’m Reille Hunter.”
Before long, paradise begins to show signs of wear, Sax in trouble with a suspicious Charlene and slacking on the job, in over his head with the seductive Savvy and her politically compromised boyfriend. When Savannah Kane is found murdered, Conway knows in his heart that he won’t quit until he finds her killer and makes him pay. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game of blackmailers, killers, scheming politicians and assorted other interests, the campaign a hotbed of rivalry and betrayal that astounds even the world-weary Sax. When another dead body turns up, it’s clear that someone is ruthless enough to kill to get what he wants.
In a series of feints and counter-feints, Conway snoops through Saginaw’s activities, background, family and current state of financial affairs, turning up more potential problems that he has anticipated. Between car chases and confrontations, Sax runs full speed ahead, savoring the adrenaline rush he remembers from his drinking days and dancing perilously close to the edge of his hard-won sobriety. This isn’t a guy who takes direction well, hard-nosing his way into the secrets of those who would rather hide them and eventually watching more than one career go up in flames. Fast-paced and hard-hitting, Ulfelder knows this territory well, pushing the limits and pulling back just in time. Sax might even escape intact and still sober this time, his debt to Savannah paid in full.