Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Panama Murders by Pendelton C. Wallace

First Line: Moving like a wraith among the rocks and cactus surrounding the seven-acre compound, her skin-tight bodysuit and cybernetic helmet changed colors to match the background when she paused in the dark, making her more shadow than solid.
Catrina "Cat" Flaherty has come to an island off the coast of Panama to visit her friend and former co-worker who now lives there. The libidinous ex-pat lifestyle makes her raise an eyebrow from time to time, but she's certainly enjoying the sun, sand, and sea. However, the former private investigator can't help noticing that people are disappearing from the island without saying a word of goodbye. They just sell their property and go. Something tells her that a serial killer is on the loose, and since the local police could care less, it's up to her to bring the killer to justice.
An email alerted me to this fourth book in the Catrina Flaherty P.I. series, and since I was in the mood to read a book set in a country I'd never "visited" before, I bought a copy of The Panama Murders and began to read. What I found was a book with problems, yet one that had a story that kept me reading clear through to the end.

The only problem I had in beginning this series at the fourth book was the main character's repertoire of "mad skills." I wasn't familiar with what the almost fifty-year-old was capable of, so I was startled a time or two when Cat Flaherty lashed out with a new trick. This woman had been a police officer in Seattle, and when she and several other women won a huge sexual harassment lawsuit, Cat went into the private investigation business. That ended when she discovered that her lover was a serial killer. She turned him in, turned over her business to her co-worker, and flew down to Panama to lick her wounds.

I really enjoyed the setting of The Panama Murders. Yes, it had the usual lazy cops who refused to do anything, but there was that sun, sand, and sea (along with hatching baby sea turtles and noisy howler monkeys) to distract me. Another distraction was the libidinous, clothing-optional, ex-pat lifestyle that Cat found herself in the middle of. I did tire of the author's penchant for describing all the large physical attributes of the various characters, but the lifestyle was interesting. Almost everyone was keeping a secret, usually about why they no longer lived in the U.S. No one used their last names, and this is the one thing that Cat had the biggest problem remembering. Another plus in the book's favor is that it's based on a true story, and it's easy to see how the people's lifestyle played right into the killer's hands.

But then the cracks in the story started to widen. One character, Interpol's Most Wanted criminal-- a female assassin known as Spyder-- just happened to be on the island, and I can't quite understand why. She had nothing to do with the main storyline. It could be that she made her initial appearance in a previous book in the series, but the book wasn't written as if there were the case. She really didn't need to be there.

Alternating chapters detailed the serial killer's journey from the United States to Panama and made it very easy to deduce the person's identity among the ex-pats, and speaking of serial killers, Cat's former lover whom she turned in after learning he was a killer, is out of jail and determined to track her down to exact his revenge. More than once, I was "treated" to this character choking a woman to death while he was raping her. Yes, that's one way of finding out what a loathsome excuse for a human being he is, but I think there are many better ways of accomplishing that.

The last 15% of the book was spent in author's notes, acknowledgments, introductions to his other books and series, and the first chapter of his latest book-- not just once but three times. Combine this with more sloppy editing concerning bad spelling and poor word choices, and you've got me losing patience.

After outlining the problems I found with the book, you're probably wondering why I finished it. I must admit that I am, too. But I will say in my defense that the author does have talent. His story is compelling, and he made me care about his main character. I'm almost tempted to read another of his books. 


The Panama Murders by Pendelton C. Wallace
Victory Press © 2021
eBook, 388 pages
Private Investigator, #4 Catrina Flaherty mystery
Rating: D+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


  1. OK. You read it so I don't have to. And it doesn't sound like it has redeeming features.

    1. It has a few, but you have to look for them. I like it less and less the further I'm away from it-- probably because I'm reading a very well-written book now.

    2. Can't wait to hear about this one.

      I'm reading Survive the Night on library Overdrive, and I can't decide what to think. I'm irked at the protagonist because she's not taking advantages of opportunities to run.

  2. Oh, I am sorry to hear that you didn't enjoy this more, Cathy. It did have the promise of a good story, and I like the setting very much, too. But that's the thing, isn't it? If the plot doesn't work, and things are too convenient, it pulls the reader right out of the story. Or at least this reader.

  3. My first reaction was similar to yours: interest because I haven't read any mysteries set in Panama. But the rest of your review convinced me that this is not the book to change that status.

    Related note: why there isn't a sub-genre of books set during the building of the Panama Canal is an on-going question for me. So much was involved in getting that waterway built - including figuring out that mosquitoes transmit malaria - that you (well, I, at least) would think more authors would be drawn to it.

  4. I try to finish my books (as much as I possibly could) but its irritating when the book does not do anything for me. Thank you for the review.

    1. You're welcome. I did learn at least one thing from the book: I don't want any part of an ex-pat community if it's anything like the one in The Panama Murders!


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!