Richard Bausch’s novella is a slice of war: World War II, the Italian Campaign.
It could be a three person play. Joyner, a soldier with prejudices; Asch, a non-practicing Jewish soldier; and Marston, the immediate commanding officer, who is the “good soldier”. They are ordered to do a reconnaissance up a hill, that becomes a mountain, in search of retreating German troops, after the surrender of Italy. They capture an elderly Italian on the road who becomes the guide up the mountain. It is uncertain whether he is guide or collaborator.
At the heart of the story are two crimes against humanity. Both witnessed by all three. One is a singular event that contextually had some temporal provocation and the other an unprovoked mass killing. As all three were more directly involved in the first, it dwells on their minds more than the second.
It is not their primary concern however. They are trying to survive being hunted.
This is an entertaining page turner with good character development.
The author is a well-regarded short story writer. Among his fans are Richard Russo, Richard Ford and Colim Toibin.