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The Queen of the South
ISBN 0330413120 / 9780330413121 / 0-330-41312-0
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The Queen of the South is the latest in an impressive line of quite mesmerising novels by Arturo Perez-Reverte in which he has refined and enriched a narrative tradition stretching back to his great forbears of the past. In books such as The Fencing Master and The Dumas Club, the author demonstrates that he is a master of finely-honed storytelling techniques, impatient with the thin gruel we are so often served up today, and eager to cram his books with the kind of fastidious detail and exuberant plotting that was once the norm. The latest book has all the panache of its predecessors, with a new ambition--apart from the trials of his beleaguered heroine, we are given the intriguing insights of her mysterious biographer.
Güero Dávila and his lover, the initially docile Teresa Mendoza, are caught up in the drug smuggling activities of the ruthless Mexican cartels. But when Dávila tries to play both ends against the middle, he ends up dead--and Teresa finds herself on the run, in mortal fear for her life. In Spain's sultry and dangerous city of Melilla, she encounters another man engaged in the drugs trade, the dispassionate Galicain Santiago Fisterta. He draws her into his activities, and Teresa is soon involved in the hashish trade. But her destiny is not to be the ugly, meaningless death of Dávila; she is a woman who will achieve a remarkable reputation--if she can stay alive.
It isn't just the impeccable scene-setting of this dangerous Latin world that makes The Queen of the South such an impressive read; it's also the perfectly judged dialogue (of which there is a great deal)--Perez-Reverte is a master of idiom, and everything here rings true. The compelling central narrative of Teresa is set against the perceptions of her anonymous narrator, and the result is a fascinating mélange; over-ornate, perhaps, but always utterly involving. --Barry Forshaw [via]