The Queen of the South

This international best-seller is a vivid, authentic portrait of a young Mexican woman, Teresa Mendoza, who, through luck, pluck and desire, becomes a legendary figure in the world of narcotics transporting. Based largely on fact and told in a Citizen Kane-like fashion that spans decades and continents, it switches between a reporter’s efforts to understand this mysterious woman’s life and flashbacks that reveal it and is much more than an action thriller. Perez-Reverte, a Spaniard who worked for many years as a war correspondent while writing a series of successful novels, is as interested in character as much as plot, and his portrait of a woman who thrives in a brutal and dangerous male-dominated world while trying to discover her own lost innocence is complex and absorbing. It’s also one of the most astute illuminations of the bizarre and brutal world of narcotraffickers, in Mexico and in Europe, that I have read.