In the Heat
by Ian Vasquez
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Kindle Edition ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312378097
Date: 01 April 2010 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Thirty-five-year-old Miles Young is desperate for cash and a chance to make a comeback as a professional boxer. Isabelle Gilmore, a money launderer for Belizean gangsters, hires him to find her teenage daughter Rian and the money she's stolen from her. Supposedly, Rian stole only $10,000. Unknown to Miles, it is more than thirty times that amount and it belongs to notorious drug dealers. The closer he comes to locating the elusive Rian, the closer him and his loved ones come to dying.
After reading Ian Vasquez's Mr. Hooligan--a disturbing, gritty slice of Caribbean noir--I was compelled to read his Shamus award-winning debut, In the Heat. Once again, I traveled to the exotic locale of Belize, a Central American country snuggled between Mexico lying to its north and Guatemala to its west and south. On the east of Belize is the Caribbean Sea with its many cays; it is a paradise for tourists who enjoy snorkeling, scuba diving, and boating. There are also the rain forests and its rivers which are perfect for hiking and canoeing, respectively. Also flowing through Belize are drugs from Mexico. Like a third world county, there seems to be a lot of poverty. Miles lives in Belize City and everyone seems to know each other.
I felt much sympathy for Miles, a single father who is struggling to raise his three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Lani, on his own; his mentally ill wife has abandoned them, having moved back in with her parents in Miami. He is feeling the pangs of having spent his entire life boxing, despite his parents' advice against it, and not having anything to show for it except some local fame. Like so many other former athletes his age, he doesn't have any marketable skills that will help him find a career that will successfully support him and Lani. He does have a girlfriend, Alicia Gomez, who is determined to remain close to his side during his hardships. There is also his faithful trainer and promoter Sammy.
Another character that will elicit sympathy within the reader is seventeen-year-old Rian. She has eloped with her muscle-bound, gym trainer boyfriend, Joel Tablada. She, like Miles, is desperate for a new life. She loves her mom who is an unscrupulous control freak obsessed with wealth. However, Rian is tired of their constant fighting. One can't help but wonder who does Isabelle love more, her daughter or the large sum of money her daughter stole? Like Rian, all of us at times have wished we could flee from our problems. A bag of money would make the temptation even more difficult to resist.
Rian, however, isn't the only child who's been hurt by parents involved in illegal drug trafficking. Despite his huge muscles, Joel is a crybaby who is still afraid of his bullying father, Marlon Tablada. Harry Rolle, son of notorious drug lord, Arthur Rolle, is a spoiled punk with low self-esteem; oftentimes he is a lose canon who can't control his temper.
There are a few murders, several of which are implied. Only one is graphically depicted in gory detail. However, there is a lot of tension as the lives of certain characters, such as Miles and Rian, are put in danger. There is also much of what I call soap opera-like drama. There is a touch of eroticism, occurring mainly between Rian and Joel. Romance blossoms between Miles and Alicia. I can't forget sweet Lani who is thrown into the plot for the 'adorable factor'. Indeed, Ian Vasquez, copy editor at the St. Petersburg Times, knows how to craft a superb crime drama.
In the Heat is highly recommended for fans of noir, especially those with exotic locales. Readers can be rest assured that Belize is accurately described since Vasquez was born and raised there. He was never an amateur boxer but his uncles were.
Ian Vasquez is currently hard at work on his next novel, Cities Never Seen, which is tentatively scheduled to be published sometime early next year. Unlike his other three novels, this one is not set in Belize. A Florida chef, whose marriage is disintegrating, is badly injured when his restaurant is destroyed by arsonists. Upon trying to rebuild his life, he learns that the fire was connected to a longtime friend who is an ambitious, albeit corrupt, city politician.