London 1858, Purefoy sets out on a quest to find his wife. After being blamed in the street for the death of a child, he is taken by a mysterious stranger, Murphy, in an unexpected and entirely different direction, which leads him into the heart of the city’s notorious underworld.
Scratching an existence at the very bottom of the pile in the ruthless society of Victorian London, Bryn ‘Purefoy’ Llewes, is a ‘purefinder’, a scavenger who collects excrement from the streets. The opening of this powerful story is utterly gripping and compels the reader to join Purefoy in his enforced exploration of the city’s most sordid and hidden corners. The evocative and sensuous descriptions depict the smells and sights of London in all its fascinating horror as the reader is immediately transported into the seedy back streets to accompany Bryn on his journey into the unknown with his enigmatic guide.
As the novel unfolds the fast-moving pace maintains momentum as the travellers visit beerhouses, opium dens, tanneries and gin palaces. With an authentic Dickensian feel and almost like being in Doré’s engravings, the senses are assailed as Murphy leads Purefoy inexorably through dank courtyards and labyrinthine alleyways, encountering a procession of colourful and often threatening characters.
Purefinder is a dark tale of sin, loss, awakening and retribution. Edgy, with menacing undercurrents, cleverly constructed nightmare sequences and a striking blend of genres, it is a refreshingly original novel. Ben Gwalchmai’s style is confident and beautifully crafted, as he evokes the atmosphere of London’s seedy underbelly with brilliant, and often shocking, prose and close attention to detail. His use of language is particularly rich, including some Welsh dialogue.
Ben Gwalchmai is an outstanding storyteller, who is brave enough to write historical fiction in an unusual and unsettling way. I would highly recommend this book to all who dare undertake the journey.
Purefinder is available now.
Many thanks to Cosmic Egg Books for an advance copy