Book Review: Golem by PD Alleva

Horror novels are tricky things to get right. It’s difficult to provide a jump-scare when reading, but if you have too much gore or violence or any of that, you can desensitise the reader. Getting the perfect amount of fear, disgust, horor, is an artform. One that I think PD Alleva manages quite well in Golem.

1. Thoughts on the plot

This book follows John Ashton, circa 1951, who was recently promoted to detective and given a case of a missing child to investigate. His only lead is socialite Alena Francon, who has been in Bellevue sanatorium for years. She tells him the story of a statue she brought to life, a demonic force trying to infiltrate the world, using children as hosts for its army. Ashton must investigate, but it’s hard to believe someone who has been locked up in a psychiatric facility.

The plot was far more intricate than I expected, in the best of ways. We got to see both Ashton’s investigation and Alena’s push towards incarnating Golem and what happened afterwards. The different perspectives on everything was fascinating, with different visceral reactions to the situations Golem put them in. There was not a great deal of suspense in this story, except in the ways that the characters reacted to things, but the novel did manage to evoke feelings of fear, disgust, pain—all the cornerstones of a good horror novel—at nearly every turn.

2. Thoughts on the characters

I really liked both primary characters in this story for entirely different reasons. Ashton, because he has a certain amount of cleverness that takes him far, but is tempered by his suspension of belief about the truth of the matter. Alena, on the other hand, is fully open to the truth and her unrelenting statement of the truth leaves her in a precarious situation with the rest of society. Both are capable characters, and both are fascinating to read.

3. Favourite part

The setting of this book was great to read. I have rarely read a horror novel set in a historical time, and this one was as realistic as if I were living it myself.

4. Critique

I don’t really have a critique for this novel as far as characters and prose and such go, and the plot was quite good. I did have a question regarding the golem mythos, as I was taught ages back that golems were creatures of protection, raised from clay and created with the name of God in their mouths. I have not seen a situation where the golems turn on their creators, but my knowledge of Jewish lore is minimal at best. So it’s not really a critique, but more of a question. Otherwise, this book was very well done.

Overall, Golem is a novel that delves into the world of lurid desires, myths come to life and overlooking the things that stand right before you. A great book.