Scribbling poetry and toking on a joint, Leo Varela has few expectations in his life other than a nowhere job as a mental health tech at Jefferson Memorial Hospital for indigents and a pregnant girlfriend who makes him happy. The past is left behind, dead and buried at Lonesome Point in Belize, where brothers Patrick and Leo grew up in the shadow of Ivan Varela's shady used car dealership. Now Patrick is Miami-Dade County Commissioner and considering a run for mayor. The two brothers couldn't be more different and both are content with the distance that defines their relationship.
Unfortunately the past arrives at Leo's job in the person of Freddy Robinson, a former acquaintance in Belize and ex-con who harbors no affection for Patrick, his attorney. Accompanied by his muscle, Freddy has a job for Leo that involves one of the patents on Leo's ward. No explanations, just demands. And threats, very painful threats. Hoping to escape in a comfortable marijuana haze with the least resistance, Leo balks, unwilling to be a pawn to the past, his brother's ambitions or Freddy's boss's demands.
Leo is the perfect protagonist in an escalating tale of violence, an easy going soul forced to reassess the direction of his life and his commitment to the future. Vasquez takes charge from the first page in a compelling thriller that is part noir and part gutsy writing, Leo tapping into an inner strength that has thus far eluded him. It's all there in the dialog, Freddy's not-so-subtle maneuvers, Leo's frustrating exchanges with Patrick, and the irrevocable actions of one dark night at Lonesome Point in Belize. Surrounded by shuffling patients on the night ward and coworkers as unhinged as their charges, Leo has few options, but refuses to submit to his fate in a mad rush to evade Freddy that ends in a shocking, satisfying denouement. Fresh and deliberate, Vasquez is a writer to watch. Luan Gaines/2009.