Blood Lake, by Kenneth Wishnia, is a complex and gritty tale of murder, poverty and corruption in troubled Ecuador. Written from the point of view of a revolutionary activist turned private investigator, the style of writing left me questioning if this were intended as a serious political drama or a satire. The characterisations contain a deluge of clichés such that by the time I was a quarter of the way through I was hearing the narration in the voice of Naked Gun’s Frank Drebin. I was surprised by this as the protagonist, Filomena Buscarsela, is female.
Much of the action takes place amongst the dirt poor, hungry and often feral residents of a swamp. These supposedly family orientated down and outs appear willing to sell their souls for the price of a beer. Life is cheap and, despite the many descriptions of violence and death, I found it hard to empathise with their plight. There were too many people double dealing to know who was who. At no point in the book did I really understand why our leading lady was so damn determined to avenge the murder of someone she hadn’t been in contact with for 20 years.
The last book I read persuaded me that I never wish to visit Nigeria, this one has done the same for Ecuador. Much of the story dwells on the hardship, corruption and violence that are a way of life in this country although perhaps this is not typical. Filomena herself said:
‘Don’t get me wrong, there are nice parts of Guayaquil. I just never visit them.’
As she is in the country with her teenage daughter in order to catch up with family and be a tourist I couldn’t help but wonder why not.
Filomena worries a lot about carcinogens from the likes of smokers or burning tyres, all while deliberately putting herself in the way of people with guns who have no qualms about killing. She is portrayed as a hardboiled detective concerned about her daughter, yet continually runs risks that are liable to bring retribution on her whole family.
Perhaps I took it all too seriously, I really didn’t quite know what to make of this book. It was not one that I could just keep reading, not a page turner. Whilst being well enough put together it did not draw me in as I would have liked. Filomena risked her life for a cause and it was never really explained why.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.