“Isthmus” by Gerard Lasalle is a novel set in Panama in the middle of the 19th century. Shipping and travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific was made more available with the building of the Panama Railroad in 1855. Even though the route was made easier travelling by train, the trip was still extremely dangerous because of marauding, murderous bandits. Until the Panama Canal was completed in 1914, the railroad was the most profitable investment opportunity ever.
This novel deals with the Panama Railroad and one trans-isthmus trip. Mr. Lasalle brings the most notorious mercenaries of the period into this novel. Social justice dealing issues were brought to the forefront by the Church and revolutionists seeking to liberate the people of this area from the rich landowners. Each train trip across the isthmus was ripe for the picking by these men because shipments of goods and gold were easy prey. So also were kidnappings of men, women and children in order to obtain ransom for them. These bandits were extremely vicious. This novel is the story of a group of these murderers, victims, and their rescuers. Detailed history of each character begins the novel and as the story progresses, Mr. Lasalle treats each character individually as their stories develop.
I thought this novel presented a very vivid picture of the people of South America and the political atmosphere of the time. I am glad that each character’s story was individually expanded throughout the book, however, I found myself lost at times. I must say that Mr. Lasalle painstakingly described the events thoroughly. I received a print copy of this book from Smith Publicity and a Kindle copy from NetGalley.com in return for my honest review.