A Rio de Janeiro orphan and an American hoping to reconnect with his roots cross paths with each other and with a powerful drug lord in Wilson’s (Dating for Life, 2013) crime thriller.
Sixteen-year-old Lucas Rocha and his siblings are devastated when their mother finally succumbs to AIDS. Another tragedy follows mere weeks later: eldest brother Patricio, after stealing to support his family, incites the wrath of a death squad paid by local business owners. Lucas witnesses Patricio’s murder and then becomes the sole caregiver for his twin 6-year-old sisters, Fernanda and Inez. Meanwhile, Daniel Burke, an American who spins financial news for a Wall Street investment firm, is visiting Brazil, the country of his birth parents, whom he lost when he was 4. His introduction to the country comes when Lucas shines his shoes and then helps himself to a tip—Daniel’s wallet—before sprinting away. There’s an upside, though: Daniel takes his complaint to airport information center clerk Gabriela Serrano and finds that they share an undeniable, mutual attraction. Desperate for money, Lucas willingly becomes crime kingpin Antonio “Dez” Cruz Mendez’s drug runner. The teen’s first gig doesn’t go well; he narrowly evades local authorities while carrying bags of cocaine and cash, and more than one person ends up dead. Daniel’s and Lucas’ lives later intersect again, but soon Lucas must save someone that Dez has kidnapped. Although both lead characters are dynamic, Lucas is more engaging; his life has greater hurdles to overcome, and he confronts a moral dilemma that his own mother verbalized on her deathbed: “Sometimes good people do bad things for a greater good.” He also displays his religious conviction: “Forgive me for adding to your plate,” he tells Jesus Christ during a prayer, without a hint of cynicism. Daniel, meanwhile, spends most of his time simply learning about Brazil and wallowing in romance, but he, like Lucas, ultimately gets entangled in Dez’s criminal enterprise. Despite Wilson’s characters’ occasional malfeasance, his prose dwells on the country’s beauty; for example, a Sunday morning boasts “the scent of fresh-mowed grass and fruit from the farmer’s market” and “lush green trees [that] glistened from sporadic rains.”
A commendable genre piece with grounded, convincing characters.