Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. One of the more popular tropes in crime fiction is when the past comes back to haunt characters in the present. And it’s easy to see why that’s popular; it can be suspenseful when it’s done well, and it can add a layer of character development to a story. Let’s see how it plays out, and turn today’s spotlight on Ian Vasquez’ Lonesome Point.
Brothers Leo and Patrick Varela grew up in Belize, the sons of a successful car dealer and his wife. But they’ve both moved to the US, and now live in the Miami area. Patrick has become a successful attorney and Miami-Dade County commissioner. He’s got a very good chance to become the next mayor of Miami, and after that, there are all sorts of possibilities. He’s being supported, too, by some very influential people.
For his part, Leo is a poet, who also works at Jefferson Memorial, which is a mental hospital. He and Patrick don’t spend a lot of time together, and don’t move in the same circles. But they are bound together by their past, and it comes back to haunt them one day.
Leo gets a visit from Freddy Robinson, whom he knew in Belize. Robinson has come to ask Leo to release one of the patients, a man named Herman Massani. Massani is in seclusion, in the hospital under doctor’s orders, and Leo tries to explain that he can’t release him. Besides, he wants nothing to do with Robinson, who’s become a convicted felon. But Robinson insists. He says that Massani has some information about possible voter fraud. If it’s true, it implicates Patrick. And, Freddy says, his ‘associates’ want that information. Again, Leo refuses. But Robinson insists on it, hinting that everyone has secrets, including the Varela brothers.
And he’s right. The Varela brothers have been keeping a dark secret from their past in Belize – a terrible incident at a place called Lonesome Point. And Freddy is threatening their security. Leo contracts Patrick, who wants to wait and see what will happen. But soon enough, events start to spin out of his control. They spin out of Leo’s control, too. It’s clear now that someone is playing a very dangerous political game – one that threatens both brothers.
As the stakes get higher, the Varela brothers have to decide what they’re going to do. And their choices end up putting them in opposite camps. Now, Leo finds himself in desperate danger from the people who want Herman Massini. He’s also got to deal with his brother. In the end, we learn about what really happened at Lonesome Point, and how it plays out in Miami.
After a short prologue, the novel progresses in two timelines: the earlier years in Belize, and the modern day. Readers who prefer only one timeline will notice this. And in both timelines, the story unfolds bit by bit, so that at the same time as we follow events in Miami, we also follow events in Belize.
The story is told from both Patrick’s and Leo’s perspectives (third person, past tense). So, we get to learn something about each brother. Both have been deeply affected by their past, but in different ways. Patrick is a married father, and eager to live out ‘the American Dream.’ He’s been quite successful, and he’s learned how the political system works, and who to call to get things done. But he’s not as much in control of things as he thinks he is.
For his part, Leo is not as ambitious. He has no burning urge to advance, and is content with his partner, Tessa, and looking forward to the birth of their first child. He’s somewhat philosophical, and more reflective than his brother.
But this novel isn’t a slow-moving, reflective novel. There is action in the story, and in places, it resembles a thriller. There’s also some ugly and brutal violence committed by ruthless people. Readers who dislike ‘onstage’ violence will notice this.
Another element in the novel is the ‘backroom dealing’ and other machinations that are so much a part of politics. In that sense, you might argue that it’s a cynical look at how people get into office, who puts them there, and how much power they really have once they’re there.
As the story moves along, we learn about the Varela family. And we see how past incidents impact the adult Varela brothers. That, too, is an element in the novel. In the way they interact, the way they approach the world, and so on, we see how lasting the effects of the past are.
The dual settings of the story are also an element in the novel. Vasquez is actually from Belize, and he places readers there clearly. The Miami/Dade County setting is also distinctive, and Vasquez highlights its Caribbean culture.
Lonesome Point is the story of two brothers bound together by a terrible incident from their past. It shows the impact of the past on the present, and how each brother has become the person he is because of that past. It shows the underside of politics, and the consequences of trusting the wrong people. But what’s your view? Have you read Lonesome Point? If you have, what elements do you see in it?
Coming Up On In The Spotlight
Monday, 15 May/Tuesday, 16 May – Sisters of Mercy – Caroline Overington
Monday, 22 May/Tuesday, 23 May – Fatal Enquiry – Will Thomas
Monday, 29 May/Tuesday, 30 May – Never Buried – Edie Clair