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Shotgun Lullaby (Conway Sax Mystery) Hardcover – May 14, 2013

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Product Details

  • Series: Conway Sax Mystery (Book 3)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (May 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250028086
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250028082
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,143,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Conway Sax, former race-car driver turned Massachusetts mechanic, is a recovering alcoholic and a member of the Barnburners, a tightly knit group that is an offshoot of AA. Gus, a new member of the group, bears a striking resemblance to Sax’s estranged son, prompting Sax to become his sponsor and champion. Gus lives in a halfway house, and, when three of his housemates are murdered, Sax correctly figures that Gus was the real target. There are a lot of suspects: Gus’ wealthy father, his trophy wife, the crime family Gus ripped off, and a con man from Texas. Sax may have his drinking under control, but not his temper, which gets him into a few near-death situations and some trouble at home. The bodies keep piling up, and the action is nonstop as the volatile Sax attempts to turn fixer. This action-packed story moves lightning fast, and Sax makes an appealingly damaged protagonist. Dennis Lehane and Robert B. Parker fans will enjoy Ulfelder. --Stacy Alesi


Praise for Shotgun Lullaby

“A bloody good yarn, one infused with the blood that binds and the blood that spills.  Ulfelder, an amateur race driver and co-owner of a company that builds racecars, once again takes the checkered flag in this gripping and addictive novel.” –Richmond Times-Dispatch

“A real page turner.” –Dayton Daily News

“Outstanding… Ulfelder has constructed the persona of his hard-edged but sympathetic lead carefully enough to ensure a long series run.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Ulfelder’s hardscrabble central Massachusetts is a fully realized, unusual setting, and Conway Sax is one of the most interesting, complicated protagonists in the contemporary mystery arena. Exceptional characterization and a quickly zigzagging plot make this a must-read for anyone who loves modern noir. This series is a natural choice for Dennis Lehane fans or for readers who like their antiheroes with a heart of gold.” --Library Journal, starred review

“Ulfelder creates interesting, sometimes flawed characters and this is no more evident than with Sax… Ulfelder gives us several well-placed twists. Don’t bet the bank you know whodunnit and what’s going to happen next in this book. Chances are you don’t.” –Mystery Scene

“This action-packed story moves lightning fast, and Sax makes an appealingly damaged protagonist. Dennis Lehane and Robert B. Parker fans will enjoy Ulfelder.” --Booklist


“Ulfelder hits hard and fast, sometimes below the belt, with his fantastic third Conway Sax novel. Sax is an original: flawed, self-aware and undisciplined. He leads the reader on a merry chase through a maze of suspects until he narrows it down to the real perpetrator.” –RT BOOK Reviews, 4 ½ stars

“Dark, soulful and violent.” --Kirkus

Shotgun Lullaby… [is] Ulfelder’s best, most tightly written story so far, following on the successful heels of his first two books, Purgatory Chasm and The Whole Lie…. The book is riveting because Ulfelder knows how to write: His prose is uncluttered, the dialog matches real-life talk and the humor is actually funny, with a welcome absence of wisecracks. Sax is riveting because he’s struggling, and we can recognize some of his failings as ours…. In Lullaby, a final harrowing scene brings all of Sax’s messy contradictions to bear in one breath-holding moment readers won’t soon forget. It’s a testament to the author’s skill that we keep hoping Sax will pull things together. We want him to slow down and breathe deeply, and we’re still on his side. Shotgun Lullaby will make an indelible impression on all readers up for a great ride.” --BookPage

“Gritty, intense, completely original. Ulfelder nails the voice, nails the story, and pushes Conway Sax, his unforgettable main character, beyond his breaking point. Shotgun Lullaby Y is more than just a page-turner of a mystery—it’s a masterful study of a good guy gone bad, and his heart-breaking struggle to be good again.” --Hank Phillippi Ryan  Agatha, Anthony & Macavity winning author of The Other Woman

“Steve Ulfelder is one of the most street-smart authors writing crime fiction today. Shotgun Lullaby is a thrill ride that hits the gas hard on page one and races all the way to a heart-pounding finish.” –Paul Doiron, author of Bad Little Falls

Shotgun Lullaby is exactly as tough, and exactly as full of heart, as the title suggests. Steve Ulfelder is a major talent.” –Timothy Hallinan, author of The Fear Artist


Praise for The Whole Lie


“The Massachusetts gubernatorial race forms the backdrop for Ulfelder’s excellent sequel to his Edgar-finalist debut, Purgatory Chasm… Readers will want to see more of Ulfelder’s tough but vulnerable lead, whose narration offers a warts-and-all view of his multifaceted character.” – Publishers Weekly, starred review

Praise for Purgatory Chasm

*** Nominated for the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery 2012 ***
*** Nominated for RT Book Review’s Best First Mystery of 2011 ***

“Conway Sax is a has-been racing driver, an ace auto mechanic, a recovering alcoholic and a refreshing new character solving hardcore crimes….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.” –Associated Press

“The redemption that every flawed person tries to find in life enhances the complex plot that percolates in former journalist Steve Ulfelder's exciting mystery fiction debut. And Purgatory Chasm is certainly loaded with myriad flawed characters and their avenues to redemption, starting with Conway Sax… Purgatory Chasm moves at a brisk clip as Ulfelder smoothly steers his plot from one hairpin twist to the next. Ulfelder… adds just enough automobiles lore to spice Purgatory Chasm, but not overwhelm it. Ulfelder brings a gritty, uncompromising view to his hard-boiled debut. At the same time, the author makes Conway both tough and vulnerable, a man who has made too many mistakes in his life and, unfortunately, will make even more. Purgatory Chasm is a superb beginning for an author who shows much promise.” –South Florida Sun-Sentinel


“Ulfelder's debut combines elements of the thriller with tales of tangled families. Violence runs through the novel, but Ulfelder tempers it with compassion — and evocative prose. Purgatory Chasm may be hardboiled, but it's heart-wrenching, too.” –Richmond Times-Dispatch


“Working throughout is the edgy, self-effacing voice of a flawed main character, a good guy with plenty of baggage who’s just trying stay alive and to get it right this time.” –The Boston Globe


“A surprising and satifying hard-boiled crime novel, the author’s first, and both grimly realistic and exciting… If the author can sustain this level of invention and vivid writing, this is a great career a-borning.” –The Sullivan County Democrat


“A gritty razor sharp new voice in crime fiction.” –The Keene Sentinel


“Ulfelder couples precise, evocative prose with an original private investigator in his compelling hard-boiled debut…. Ulfelder smoothly navigates the many plot twists, and effortlessly introduces wrinkles in his protagonist's backstory that enhance the character. Fans of Michael Koryta's PI crime novels will find a lot to like.” –Publishers Weekly, starred review


"Conway is one of those tough but tender, emotionally damaged protagonists that calls out to certain mystery readers.... Ulfelder’s first novel gets a thumbs up." --Booklist


“A promising debut… with one of the funniest, punchiest, most memorable -- and for this paper unprintable -- first sentences in recent murder mysteries.” –MetroWest Daily News


“Steve Ulfelder's debut novel weaves a gritty tale of justice and redemption.” –Fall River Herald News


“Ulfelder’s debut grabs you from its wryly hilarious opening line and keeps going full throttle till the finale.  His characters are deep and realistically rendered – sometimes painfully so – and the broken family dynamics are right on the money.  Ulfelder writes so well that even non-NASCAR fanatics will get something out of the car talk and racing scenes.  Can’t wait for book two!” – RT Book Reviews, Top pick, 4 ½ stars


“This outstanding debut by a former journalist and racing enthusiast is gritty and fast-paced, with an intriguing plot and believable characters. Ulfelder has introduced a solid new protagonist, and the many race car anecdotes add to the novel’s allure. It will appeal strongly to readers of Loren D. Estleman and Ross MacDonald and those who enjoy hard-boiled detective mysteries.” –Library Journal, starred review


“Fathers and sons, American style…. The protagonist is… strong, engaging and fully realized… A promising debut.” --Kirkus


“The tough, working class setting and the no-nonsense, wisecrack-free tone will get under your fingernails, and fans of George Pelecanos will dig the eye for workingman, hands-on detail that race car driver and first-time novelist Ulfelder exhibits—whether Conway is drywalling a house, stumbling through a murder investigation, or simply trying to do the right thing, there’s a veracity and empathy that shows the author himself isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty; or apply a little elbow grease when it comes to plotting… More, please.” –Mystery Scene


"Genuine characters and intense action--a serious crime novel with serious edge." – Patrick Lee, New York Times bestselling author of The Breach


Purgatory Chasm grabs you at the gate and doesn’t let go, careening through a top-notch whodunit to an ending you don’t see coming. A debut this good makes you wonder what Ulfelder’s holding back for the next race.” –Sophie Littlef...

More About the Author

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.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
5 star
4 star
3 star
2 star
1 star
See all 18 customer reviews
A lot like real people.
The plot in this one keeps you guessing until the very end.
Max Everhart
Another gem by Steve Ulfelder!
M. Meyer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bobman623 on May 17, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Conway Sax is as close as 95% of readers will ever come to violence, a much smaller percentage to alcoholism and a very large percentage to a really good writer morphing into a truly great one. I'm in my late 60's and read 4 or 5 books a week and Steve Ulfelder's Purgatory Chasm is the best first novel that I have ever read and he has only gotten better with the next two. I won't go into character development and such because you just want to know if you should read it. Oh yes, you should. Buy all three and delve into Conway Sax, everyman extraordinaire.

I honestly believe that Steve Ulfelder is creating his own genre, Nouveau Noir and it promises to be one hell of a ride.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Max Everhart on December 14, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Conway Sax, a recovered alcoholic with a checkered past, is a man who pays for his sins one favor at a time. In Shotgun Lullaby, the third book in the series, the initial favor is squaring a small car loan debt for one Gus Biletnikov, a wiseass college boy who recently joined the Barnburners (think: Alcoholics Anonymous, but even more intense). After Sax erases the debt with his fists, he takes a keen interest in helping Gus stay sober and get back on his feet, for the young Biletnikov reminds Sax of his own estranged son. But the real problems start when Biletnikov falls off the wagon. First, someone guns down a kid staying in Biletnikov's room at Almost Home, a halfway house for people fresh out of a rehab or jail. Figuring (correctly) that Biletnikov was the actual target, Sax vows to find out who is after Gus Biletnikov...and why. This leads to problems with the sordid cast of characters in Biletnikov's orbit, which includes a gorgeous, but hatable step mother, a smooth-talking con man, a burnt-out drug dealer whose in love with Gus, and a father-son duo of gangsters. The plot in this one keeps you guessing until the very end.

But what makes this installment of the series stand out is the depths to which Sax is willing to go to redeem himself and, at least in part, to do penance for his past transgressions. Loyalty is not just a word with Conway Sax; it is a lifestyle. True, Sax has a black and white view of the world and is intensely loyal. He is also prone to fits of rage and violence, but he is not a violent or immoral man. Similar to the violence depicted in Breaking Bad, the violence in this novel is not gratuitous; every punch thrown, every gunshot fired, every life taken costs Sax something, and, by extension, costs the reader something.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T.D. Hart on May 23, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
When I read Steve Ulfelder's first book, Purgatory Chasm, I thought, "Very good for a first try. Tight plot, engaging hero, lots of make-you-cry-then-laugh moments." Apparently, the Edgar committee agreed, as did numerous critics. His second book, The Whole Lie, was even better.

Shotgun Lullaby blows them both away. (Caught the pun, did you?)

Rather than give a plot rundown and spoil the ride, let me say this: Possibly for the first time, I completely bought into Conway Sax's motivation for helping young Gus out of a jam. This story felt real. All the characters (and I mean ALL--hint, hint) had a reason for being there. Even the motion--the driving from one town to the next--seemed natural and necessary.

If I had to offer critique (and it's darned hard) I'd say the relationship with Charlene has lost some of its edge. Conway Sax is horribly damaged. But Charlene is supposed to be sober and wised up. The relationship is terrible for her, so I don't understand why she's stuck around this long. By the end of the story I'm not rooting for them to stay together.

But you can be damned sure I'm going to read the next book to find out if they do.

Now that I finished Shotgun Lullaby (stopping only long enough to refill my coffee cup and visit the head), I'm going to read it again--and hopefully dissect why it's such a fantastic, non-stop thrill ride.

Cheers...T.D. Hart
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Conway Sax is on a tear again, caught up in the not-so-subtle directives of his renegade AA group, the Barnburners, a supposedly "old school" gang that takes its sobriety seriously, expecting members of the "Meeting after the Meeting" to adhere to certain principles. For Sax, ex-alcoholic, machinist and believer in his personal mission to go the extra mile for those in recovery, this often means treading dangerous territory, a landscape more familiar to criminals and junkies with no inclination to consider the ramifications of their actions. Sax has walked this thin red line in previous novels, just this side of indulging in the behavior he forsook with sobriety, always taking responsibility and claiming he doesn't like it, but apparently unable to break from the adrenalin-fueled dramas that pull him in time after time.

This time, the young man Sax has taken under his wing is Gus Biletnikov, an ex-junkie with a wealthy father and a clouded history, who allows Sax to drive him home to a halfway house, Almost Home, only to find a crime scene and three dead bodies. Someone has made a point with a shotgun. Conway is increasingly convinced Gus was the real target. The fact that Gus reminds Conway of his estranged son, Roy, does much to override Sax's reservations, but before long, Gus does what addicts do; then another violent crime occurs and Sax is off on a mission to find a killer who favors shotguns as a way to make his point.

Veering between rationalization for his faulty decisions and the "red mist" of rage that sometimes overtakes him, Conway Sax is a guy riddled with his own demons and a habit of saving others without doing too good a job cleaning his own house.
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