three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
12-Sept-Oct-2004
user_rating: 
0
A-QueenSouthTeresa Mendoza’s phone is ringing, which is definitely not a good thing. Her boyfriend, a daredevil drug runner, said that if she ever heard that phone ring, it means he’s dead and the killers are after her. With one call, young Teresa’s life takes a pivotal turn. She leaves Mexico for Southern Spain and in desperation delves into the perilous, male-dominated world of drug trafficking. Her new world involves assassins, ruthless smugglers, former KGB mobsters, and even a stint in prison. A reporter trying to uncover the infamous "Queen of the South" tracks Teresa’s transformation from sidekick to kingpin over a 12-year period.
Putnam. 544 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0399151850

Entertainment Weekly 4 of 5 Stars
"… an epic suspense story of heart and grit." Karen Karbo

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"… combines a heart-stopping narrative with fully realized characters, and the result will satisfy the author’s fans and newcomers alike …. The novel is redolent of the sun and dust of its climes, and the action scenes are nothing short of heart-stopping." Robin Vidimos

Los Angeles Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"There is a decidedly visual quality to the most trenchant scenes, with speedboat sprints through the Strait of Gibraltar and Spanish customs helicopters in hot pursuit …. The novel takes on the texture of a modern-day epic …." Nicholas A. Basbanes

Salon.com 3 of 5 Stars
"The Queen of the South proceeds according to an unusual rhythm; passages of gasping suspense alternate with brooding psychological rumination ..." Laura Miller

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"Like the great 19th-century French novelist [Alexandre Dumas] whom he so openly and unapologetically emulates, Pérez-Reverte is drawn to elaborate plots adorned with numerous subplots, full-speed-ahead narrative, outsized characters and a degree of intellectual seriousness not ordinarily associated with bestseller-list fiction. …Unfortunately, though, The Queen of the South labors under a debilitating structural problem." Jonathan Yardley

Newsday 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Frequently sloppy and sometimes flat, the novel is nevertheless a stylish entertainment, so long as one’s standards are not as unforgiving as Teresa’s." Justin Davidson

Critical Summary

Spanish author Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s sixth thriller, modeled after Dantès’ story in Alexandre Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo, received mixed reviews. For some critics, it’s a rip-roaring read that showcases an impressive insight into the international drug trade. In fact, the author draws such vivid, convincing details and "knows so much about drug running it’s gotta be illegal" (Salon.com). But a few critics disliked the incongruities of the structural set-up. It makes no sense why the first-person narrator, a reporter chronicling Teresa’s story, can articulate Teresa’s emotions, sexual experiences, and interior dramas, which the novel meticulously mines. Put that quibble aside and the novel is rich, compelling, and, yes, thrilling.

Supplemental Reading

AS-ClubDumasThe Club Dumas | Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1997): A literary thrilled in every sense–a rare book hunter is called in to authenticate a handwritten chapter from Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. Suspense and mayhem follow.

AS-RevengeRevenge | Stephen Fry (2002): 3.5 of 5 Stars Nov/Dec 2002. If you like riffs on Count of Monte Cristo, you’ll enjoy this remix, set in England between 1980 and 2002. A prep school boy’s jealous schoolmates plant marijuana on him; he is soon implicated in a complex I.R.A. scheme, and is whisked away to a Scandinavian insane asylum. Two decades later he reinvents himself as a high-tech guru.