A large portion of the books I read are old. Not flare jeans, but really old. And if they aren't written a long time ago, they are at least set a long time ago. But when I heard about a mystery set in the Panama Canal building zone, I was intrigued. Here was a time and place I knew very little about. I was a bit confused because it seemed like it was being described in various ways - sometimes a suspenseful historical mystery and other times a Christian romance novel. I wanted the first, not the second. So I took a gamble. And I did okay.
In terms of history, Saffire did a great job of capturing the environment of 1909, the various cultural zones of the panama canal, the politics and differing levels of society. There were a few scenes where I felt like I could close my eyes and picture it all completely. The mystery was decent. I got lost on the details a bit and at times wondered exactly what was supposed to be happening in the plot which isn't usual for a mystery buff like me but I wasn't really disappointed in the end, at least with regards to the mystery. And it certainly isn't a typical Christian romance. As I said, for me that's a plus but if you pick it up expecting that, you'll be disappointed. I actually can't really figure out why the romance part was stuck in there at all. It felt like he wanted to write a historical mystery but the publishing company wanted a romance so he appeased them.
Overall, I really wanted to like it but it just fell short. There was so much initial potential with our main character, James Holt, his backstory and the current decisions he faced. I liked the title character Saffire although she didn't play as large a role as you might expect. There were a few other interesting characters as well. It just didn't quite get pulled together in the end. And while I hardly want to be hit over the head with religion when I'm reading a novel, I'm not sure why this would be described as a Christian novel. The author started us down a path that should have led to ideas of consequences and redemption but never developed it. This is probably one of most disappointing types of books to read. I'd rather hate a book outright that be disappointed by an almost but not quite good read. But I do want to learn more about the Panama Canal now and I would definitely consider reading something by this author in the future.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
*I know that song is really about the Erie Canal but every time my brain thinks the word canal, it sings that song. True story. Which is another negative to this book, although hardly one I can blame the author for.