From its murky beginning on a Belize beach, to its bloody climax in a Hillsborough County field, Lonesome Point is very strong on atmosphere and sense of place. Its plot, about politics, crime and two brothers with a haunted past, is less convincing. And the brothers are, alas, less interesting than the people who surround them.
Nevertheless, Lonesome Point has a lot going for it. It's a tribute to the author's gifts as a writer that he keeps us reading even despite those less than compelling lead characters.
Those would be Patrick Varela, a politician who aspires to higher office in Miami, and Leo Varela, a failed poet, college dropout and stoned psych ward orderly who tokes to forget.
Just what he wishes to forget is part of the mystery. We know in a general way early on what Patrick is trying to cover up, and the author makes it explicit halfway through. But while we assume that Leo's ghosts are somehow related to Patrick's, we aren't given the truth until the last few pages.
That may not be cheating, but it doesn't make Leo any more coherent, either, and it's Leo with whom we spend most of our time, while other, potentially more compelling characters — Freddy the hood, Bernard the thug with a conscience, and Patrick's wife, who used to be Leo's girl — languish in the background.
This is the second novel by Ian Vasquez, himself a Belize native and former psychiatric ward worker whose current day job — night job, actually — is on the copy desk of the St. Petersburg Times. His first novel, In the Heat, was set in Belize and featured a washed-up boxer dragged into the role of private eye. Lonesome Point, despite its flaws, is a promising second step, made stronger by its Florida setting.
David L. Beck is a St. Petersburg writer and editor.