Panther’s Breath

A Novel

Fiction - Mystery - General
496 Pages
Reviewed on 06/23/2018
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

Panther’s Breath: A Novel by Lee Martin is a blend of coming-of-age, mystery and murder, and romance, a tale with well-developed characters and themes. After the death of their mother, Sam Haygood and his sister, P.J., find themselves growing up in a world they never envisaged, and while their grandfather, Homer, is cold and unfriendly, their step-mom, Mavis, is warm and tender. Sam is sixteen while his sister is just eight years old. During the summer, Sam gets a job working for Victor Dorsey and soon discovers that his boss is actually a mobster. He is pulled into a dangerous world of crime that will threaten his entire family. But can the love of a woman help him find himself and meaning where there is chaos and pain?

The reader is introduced to the protagonist right off the bat, a kid losing his mother at fourteen, and moves on swiftly to provide background information on the mother, a woman who was always “tired and wasted” and sickly after the birth of P.J. It is interesting that Sam started work at a very tender age, an element of the narrative that will have great implications in both the story and character development. Readers get insights into the family dynamics of the protagonist and the fact that he was born into a difficult home. The setting is beautiful and the author captures elements of places and the weather, like the Tennessee winter which took its toll on the mother. I like the way the author writes about the themes of family and love and growing up.

The humor enriches the narrative and readers will enjoy seeing the world from the perspective of the young protagonist. Here is an example of a humorous conversation between Sam and his sister. One feels the naivety and, while chuckling at the innocence of the younger sister’s statement, one notices the irony: “Bertie then said I was your half-sister. I got mad at her and pushed her down. I’m not a half person, Sammy; I’m a whole human being.” The writing is gorgeous and filled with interesting dialogues. Panther’s Breath: A Novel is a well-crafted, somewhat gritty, humorous tale that entertains. Lee Martin creates characters that remain with readers.