A review of “Golem” by P.D. Alleva

Full disclosure – I was provided an advanced reader’s copy of this book by the authors but have voluntarily provided a review. All opinions are my own.

A nightmare you can’t wake up from

As a newly minted detective in 1951, John Ashton is determined to do his best. Older than the average officer and of questionable skill, Ashton knows that he must make an impression to prove his place in the ranks. So, when he is tapped to investigate the disappearance of the district attorney’s daughter he dives right into the case. But, with the prime suspect currently committed in Bellevue he doesn’t have high hopes. Still determined to crack the case, he seeks an audience with the eccentric sculptor Alina Francon. As he listens to her story that at times seems more like the ravings of a madwoman than anything else Ashton cannot help but wonder if the events are real. But gypsies, secret societies with prominent and influential members, and child kidnapping seems so unfathomable in 1950’s New York City and even more during the gilded age of the past. Nevertheless, Alina’s testimony takes Ashton on a quest back to the scene of the main crime and other locales including the sprawling Francon mansion in search of answers. What he discovers is an entity older than anyone can imagine with roots deeper than just what is seen on the surface, and this entity will stop at nothing to remain secure in its influence.

When I was first asked if I would be interested in reading Golem, I hesitated. While horror and psychological thrillers are a few of my main genres, I have historically stayed away from anything with an overly occult theme. Not to say that I have never read an occult themed book, but that they are not my preferred. So, already outside of my comfort bubble I delved into a story that was as suspenseful and intriguing as it was sinister. The main narrative is told in two parts, balancing Ashton’s current day quest to locate the district attorney’s daughter with Alina Francon’s detailed narrative of the past, including her involvement with Golem and the events at the Clairfield Hotel which led to her eventual incarcerated state. Throughout the entire novel Alleva created a world that was so extremely vivid that I felt is if I were in the story, not merely reading it. Add in the fact that the Clarifield Hotel was based off of an actual location in New York only helped to enhance the story as I found myself attempting to locate historical photos to further immerse myself. I’m not sure if it was due to my initial misgivings about the subject matter or thanks to Alleva’s graphic depictions, but there were several parts of Golem that I had a hard time reading and may have read them through my fingers and with an extra light on in the room.

After having finished, I am left wondering if this is the last time we will see Golem, and if Alleva does decide to revisit this cast of characters in a later book I will step once again out of my comfort bubble and dive back in. If you like psychological thrillers, police procedurals or eerie occult horror so malevolent it will make your skin crawl and keep you awake at night, PD Alleva’s Golem would be a great choice.

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