Leo Varela has the heart of a poet. Leo lives in Miami, as does his older brother, Patrick, a Miami-Dade County Commissioner who is currently a potential candidate for mayor, both men natives of Belize. Other than the terrible family secret they carry from their youth and their father’s shady activities and questionable acquaintances in Belize, the brothers have little in common: “Memories were long and difficult and always lying in wait.”
Unfortunately, Freddy Robinson, a connection from Belize, shows up at Leo’s place of employment at Jefferson Memorial Hospital’s mental health annex, where Leo is a tech on the night shift. Freddy makes particular demands that throw Leo into conflict with his future and a desire to leave the past in Belize far behind. A small-time crook, Freddy brings along extra muscle to make his point and brooks no argument from Leo, glibly threatening violence and blackmail if he doesn’t cooperate.
Content to drift from one night shift to the next in a haze of marijuana, a few joints to take the edge off reality, a pregnant fiancé and a gift for writing poetry, some actually published, Leo has no idea how to combat Freddy’s demands, or his threats, very real and very painful threats. Turning to his untrustworthy, politically savvy brother, Patrick, Leo is caught in the middle of an impossible situation, a pawn between rival factions who put an old man’s life at risk.
Vasquez takes control of his riveting tale from the first chapter, where the two brothers face some ugly truths at Lonesome Point in Belize and neither are ever the same. Leo Varela is a relatable protagonist, a simple, uncomplicated man who entertains few moral ambiguities, a man cruising through life suddenly confronted with a choice he can’t live with.
Surrounded by shuffling patients on the night ward and coworkers as unpredictable as those they care for, Leo struggles to come up with a plan. As the brutal movers and shakers manipulate to their advantage and Patrick worries for his future, Leo discovers a hard core of resistance that defies the odds against him. Fearless in a final shocking denouement, Leo steps up.
Part noir, part just gutsy, real writing, Vasquez is a writer to watch, delivering a solid thriller that smacks of broken promises, the cool cynicism of those who prey on the weaknesses of others and one man’s refusal to take the easy way out.