Book Review: Golgotha by Phil Hore
Author: Phil Hore
Publisher: Odyssey Books
1916, the Western Front.
There are some crimes that transcend the horrors of war, and the rumour of a soldier being found in no-man's-land crucified to a church door threatens to cause a mutiny in the trenches. To placate the troops, allied HQ orders four soldiers pulled from the ranks of each army to investigate the crime and bring the perpetrator swiftly to justice. What a Canadian ex-Mountie, an Australian beat cop, a constable from Scotland Yard, and their military intelligence commander discovery will not only save the lives of the comrades, but may well save the entire war.
Phil Hore has an interesting premise with Golgotha and an approach to “World War” fiction that differs from most I’ve read. The characters are gritty and Hore has shared them with us, warts and all. They’re not necessarily pleasant characters, not particularly honest, but down-to-earth and as stark as the battle scenes they inhabit. As far as crime novels go, Golgotha is fast-paced, not afraid to broach almost taboo stereotypes and slides enough factual, evidence-based events into the action to satisfy the armchair war-historian.
Unraveling the mystery of the crucified soldier is handled well. Did it happen or is it a rumour? Who can be trusted? And the inevitable question of why? Who stands to gain? What purpose is served? In finding the answers to these questions, the disparate team of investigators uncover a startling conspiracy that goes far beyond the original mystery.
Each of the protagonists comes to us fully fledged and we’re given hints at their backgrounds. Stoicism seems part of their make up. They present as men who mask their inner-thoughts and any form of softness through necessity. They're survivors, living on a battlefront where life is hard, time for introspection is fleeting, and friendships are made and lost on the impact of a bullet.However, I would have liked to see more character development, more time taken with the backstories, and more insight into what was going on inside their heads.
Golgotha could easily be the start of a great crime series and, if it is (and the title certainly suggests it), I hope the author will explore his characters more deeply (and then share that with the rest of us). By making those connections between character, story, and reader, Hore could indeed be onto a good thing with huge possibilities.
Overall, well written and well researched. If you enjoy Matthew Reilly books, I think you’ll like this one as well with its similar pacing style.