Purefinder by Ben Gwalchmai is a demanding and difficult read, but in a very positive way. It cast an almost instant hypnotic spell that compelled me to carry on reading. Our hero, Purefoy, is oddly, untimely and very suddenly blamed for the death of a child. As he is running away from the alleged crime and on his way back to the workhouse he is caught and arrested by Murphy, an Irishman who, through the threat of violence, becomes his master for the rest of the book.
The pair tour the terrifying, crowded, claustrophobic and truly gruesome historic London of 1858, walking from one area to the next, meeting gangs and other obscure people. There is a sense of helplessness, hopelessness and fear about Purefoy that reminded me of Franz Kafka‘s writing, of Cormac McCarthy and Jean-Paul Sartre.
Breathtakingly intimate and obscure, the story takes many turns and shows us different types of hell prevailing in the London of 1858. Written with authentic and artistic use of language, the novel felt all too real, although it sometimes made it necessary for me to stop and read a paragraph again to ponder about the meaning behind what was written.
The colourful characters are varied and interesting, the setting believable and the mystery of what is behind this trip and where it will end kept me on tenterhooks until the end. Having lived in London once, I enjoyed joining the trip through the various corners and imagining them as they would have been 150 years ago.
The psychological terror, grief, fear and thread in their respective gothic colouring together make for excellent horror writing. The historic aspects are equally well accomplished and I should imagine the book doing well with fans of either genre.