Blog tour: The Purgatory Poisoning by Rebecca Rogers
This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
‘How do you solve your own murder when you’re already dead?
‘Purgatory (noun): 1. Where the dead are sent to atone; 2. A place of suffering or torment; 3. A youth hostel where the occupants play Scrabble and the mattresses are paper thin.
‘When Dave wakes up in his own personal purgatory (St Ives Youth Hostel, circa 1992), he’s shocked to discover he’s dead. And worse – he was murdered.
‘Heaven doesn’t know who did it, so with the help of two rogue angels, Dave must uncover the truth.
‘As divine forces from both sides start to play the game, can Dave get out of this alive? Or at the very least, with his soul intact?’
In The Purgatory Poisoning, by Rebecca Rogers, we meet Dave Walsh, an ordinary man in his late thirties who’s just died and found himself in his own particular purgatory: a youth hostel in Cornwall where he stayed with his parents and younger brother Andrew in 1992, when he was ten.
He’s not alone: there are a handful of other residents whose purgatory is the same location, though they see and hear things there that he can’t and vice versa, because they were there at different points in time when they were alive.
They receive regular updates on their progress to Heaven or Hell from Angel Gobe (who looks uncannily like Michael Palin), but Dave warrants special attention because Gobe and his apprentice Angel Arial are mysteriously blocked from seeing who murdered him.
The angels therefore arrange for Dave to replay the last hour of his life - when he was poisoned at a dinner party - to find out whodunit.
I found The Purgatory Poisoning very entertaining and imaginative. Rogers’ model of what happens after death is inspired and thorough, from the notion that an individual’s personal purgatory is the place where they committed their first good or bad act that really affected someone else; to the vast Heaven’s Hub, God’s switchboard where all human behaviour is monitored; to the diabolical habitats of and problems caused by demons.
I especially liked the juxtaposition of David and his family and friends’ average, suburban, typically British lives and settings with the supernatural elements of angels and demons. As well as making for quirky and humorous scenes whenever the two worlds collided - putting me in mind of Gabby Hutchinson-Crouch’s Rooks novels, which I adore - this gave the angels opportunities to make amusing observations about life on Earth.
These observations come from a place of curiosity about, and affection for humans, reminding me of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s excellent Good Omens. I enjoyed Gobe and Arial’s interactions with Dave and one another a lot.
Dave is pitched perfectly as the main character precisely because he’s so ordinary. Flawed and blundering, he’s neither saintly nor evil, and for a long time, he can’t even remember what he did that was good or bad enough to make that fateful family holiday his “Point of Decision”.
He - and the reader - struggles to comprehend that anyone would hate him passionately enough to poison him (the prime suspect is his ex-girlfriend Rose’s unpleasant new partner, Ian).
What’s more, the odds are stacked against Dave uncovering the truth, especially under enormous time pressure, as he can be so awkward and clumsy, so the tension goes off the charts during this part of the story. I wanted Dave to succeed, not only because I wanted to know who murdered him, but also because I didn’t want the angels to get into trouble with God, or for Dave to end up in Hell.
The Purgatory Poisoning is entertaining and inspired.