Pérez-Reverte at his best is a matchless entertainer. But this, his weakest novel, is a major disappointment.

THE QUEEN OF THE SOUTH

The perilous arc of a powerful woman druglord’s career, painstakingly traced by the Spanish author of such brainteasing thrillers as The Club Dumas (1998) and The Seville Communion (1999).

Pérez-Reverte’s sixth is a dual narrative in which we observe Mexicana Teresa Mendoza’s rise to power after the death of her drug-running pilot boyfriend Güero Davila, and also receive summaries of her progress from an unnamed journalist who’s interviewing both her former criminal contacts and law enforcement officers who spent 12 years pursuing her. It all moves much too slowly, because Pérez-Reverte’s obviously thorough researches betray him into an almost encyclopedic disclosure of exactly how the international drug trade operates—and because Teresa’s successive accomplices and lovers are thinly sketched, scarcely characterized at all. This is unfortunate, since there’s considerable dramatic potential in such vividly conceived figures as courtly “narco” godfather Epifanio Vargas, freelance drug-runner Santiago Fisterra (who supplants the late Güero in Teresa’s bed), Teresa’s bisexual prison cellmate and later partner Patricia O’Farrell, and criminous attorney (and Teresa’s next lover) Teo Aljarafe. “La Mexicana” (a.k.a. The Queen of the South) herself is fairly opaque, her strength and resolve asserted rather than dramatized. And Pérez-Reverte skirts absurdity by charting her development into a passionate reader, beginning with her jail-time immersion in The Count of Monte Cristo (“Edmond Dantes is me”). The action, fairly generic, moves from Mexico to Spain’s southern coast, the Strait of Gibraltar, and Morocco, peaking in a dangerous episode in the Black Sea. Still, Pérez-Reverte comes through with a smashing climax in which Teresa learns the truth about Güero, faces down the elusive Don Epifanio, and puts her own spin on her deal with USDEA officials (“Cooperation in exchange for immunity”). Too little, too late.

Pérez-Reverte at his best is a matchless entertainer. But this, his weakest novel, is a major disappointment.

Pub Date: June 7, 2004

ISBN: 0-399-15185-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

Did you like this book?

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more