Book features greatest character of all time
September 28, 2005
“Queen of the South” by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Were you ever disappointed that the outlaw heroes of thriller novels are never heroines? Grand plans, great escapes, extreme danger and the possibility of unsurpassed glory are usually obtained by women vicariously in a supporting role. Well, here is a change – Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s “Queen of the South.”
This is a raw adventure novel that you wouldn’t want to give to your grandmother or anyone likely to be offended by the many un-translated profanities. As a wild ride, this novel takes the reader through the world of crime on three continents. Precarious disaster lurks around every corner as a young woman desperately tries to survive and find some significance in life. I would recommend this novel to anyone who has a taste for both literature and naughty adventure stories.
The novel begins in Sinaloa, Mexico with Teresa Mendoza, a dead drug-runner’s girlfriend, running for her life from the cartel. It follows her flight to Morocco and her journey to southern Spain. The story is framed as a journalist’s quest to uncover the life story of Teresa after she has become notorious, while the narrative oscillates between interviews that the journalist conducts and narrative of Teresa’s adventures.
The novel is excellent because it is character-driven in a way that I have rarely encountered. Rather than strive to reveal every aspect of a fully formed character to the reader, Pérez-Reverte carefully portions out insight into the nature of his protagonist to successfully create an elusive figure that is the driving mystery of the piece. Who is Teresa Mendoza? It is clear that Teresa is tough, she is a person that one could refer to as “a survivor,” but is she a smart woman playing dumb? Is she a dumb woman who is lucky? Is she a kind person forced by circumstances to be brutal? Is she a ruthless person occasionally given to mercy?
Of course, the literary aspects of Teresa’s character are offset nicely by high-speed boat chases neat the Strait of Gibraltar, run-ins with the Russian Mafia, and clandestine business deals fraught with betrayal. It would not be complete without hot romance, valiant death and an unexpected twist. Teresa rises to all these challenges in a way that is both admirable and suspenseful for the reader.
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I have to say that Teresa is one of my favorite characters of all time.
I want to be Teresa Mendoza in the same way little kids want to be Spiderman.