WHERE EAGLES DARE NOT PERCH is the story of three individuals who become embroiled in some of the darkest, most haunting experiences a war can bring about. Set in 1864, the novel closely follows Zachary Webster, a sharpshooter in the Union army who was once innocent but is now a cold-blooded killer. Jedediah Stiller is a humongous ex-whaler with a deadly grudge. And Catherine Bradford is a woman who experiences unspeakable evil on her quest to come between these two men in their inevitable convergence.
Author Peter Bridgford was a teacher for twenty years, and he dedicates his novel partially to his students who encouraged him “to turn one of [his] boring history lessons into a… book.” The novel in question is hardly ever boring, often providing readers with descriptions of wartime inhumanity and carnage in vivid detail. One can always expect a new, sinister twist as the long novel unfolds, tempting the reader to consider which of the three main characters is being tortured the most.
Still, this feels needless at times, causing one to wonder at the point of describing all this violence and carnage. There is no genuine connection created between the reader and the characters throughout all of these experiences, as the book hardly ever focuses on what characters are feeling. If the author had considered what it would truly have been like to experience these events, rather than just reporting them from a distance, the book may have felt less like a series of horrors with little to no purpose. The novel tries to emphasize the concepts of forgiveness and redemption in the final chapter, but after so much drawn-out barbarity, the sudden attempt at an uplifting ending feels tacked on.
Finally, there are moments that would make many modern readers cringe, whether it is the idea that people who have experienced sexual violence should bury their feelings in silence or the phonetically written dialogue of escaped slaves. Though this story takes place during the late 1800s, it was published in 2018, which means it should have one foot in the present while assessing the past. This is not the case with WHERE EAGLES DARE NOT PERCH, which feels like it was written without any consideration of the current cultural climate, and instead, hopes to imitate classic novels from the turn of the century, which, of course, it cannot be.
Peter Bridgford’s effort reads like a Quentin Tarantino-style Civil War reenactment: while it’s hardly ever boring, it is heavy on violence and light on substance.
~Julia Tilford for IndieReader