cover image Saffire


Sigmund Brouwer. Waterbrook, $14.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-307-44651-0

Brouwer's (Thief of Glory) captivating tale of intrigue, set in Panama in 1909, is tinged with romance, grounded in historical accuracy, and anchored by a powerful protagonist. James Holt's colorful past includes stints in Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. When his old friend, now President Roosevelt, entices him to investigate sabotage at the Panama Canal construction site, Holt quickly finds conspiracies and collusions far darker than even Roosevelt imagined. While Panamanian revolutionaries attempt to wrench control of the canal from the U.S., white American Holt becomes more concerned with Saffire, a young mixed-race girl whose mother has mysteriously and improbably abandoned her. Holt is a complex hero of unmistakable integrity, driven by devotion and compassion and yet haunted by regrets. His steadfast determination makes him a courageous defender, but that same grit can become dangerously prideful. Holt occasionally needs a rescue himself. There are certainly inspirational elements to the story, but it doesn't delve deeply into religious or spiritual concerns. Brouwer's finely crafted, ethical tale will appeal to readers of historical fiction who appreciate clear divisions of good and evil. (Aug.)