It’s officially vacation time, and whether you’re hanging in a hammock or backpacking across the continent, there’s no question that summer is always better with a good book.
Normally, you might turn to a list of new releases to find an upload to your Kindle or a download from your Audible, but this year, we’re recommending a book from 2002.
Fourteen years ago, Spanish novelist Arturo Pérez-Reverte published La Reina del Sur, the story of Teresa Mendoza, a poor woman from Mexico who rose to be one of the most powerful drug smugglers in the world. The book became an international smash, was translated into 40 languages worldwide, and was the basis for the wildly popular Telemundo series of the same name.
Now the story of Pérez-Reverte’s unlikely narca comes to USA Network in the form of the new drama Queen of the South starring Alice Braga. Picked by Variety as one of the “8 New Shows to Get Excited About This Summer,” Queen will hopefully become your new Thursday night obsession. But in the meantime, we think you should make it your next beach book too, and here’s why:
The book is very different from the show. USA’s Queen takes enough liberties with its source material that you don’t have to worry about spoiling the show. In fact, some of the main characters on the show don’t even exist in Pérez-Reverte’s original and vice versa.
You will visit exotic locations. One the of the pleasures of reading is its ability to transport you to a new place and time with the turn of a page. In the novel, you will travel from Mexico to Europe to Northern Africa as Pérez-Reverte vividly describes sampling tapas in a Spanish plaza, zipping across azure seas in a speedboat, and serving time in El Puerto de Santa Maria.
It has an interesting structure. Pérez-Reverte is known for “intelligent thrillers,” and when you read Queen, you’ll understand why. He intricately constructs Teresa’s life through parallel narratives from Teresa's point of view, as well as from the research of an intrepid reporter, allowing you to piece together who this character really is based on how others see her -- and how she sees herself.
Everybody loves an underdog story. We’re not spoiling anything by saying that Queen of the South is about one woman’s unlikely rise to power. Through good luck and very, very bad luck, Teresa’s journey is hardly typical, but it never ceases to be satisfying.
Pérez-Reverte knows how to write female characters. Our estimable author makes all of the women in his book strong, smart, fierce, vulnerable, courageous, and -- most of all -- human. Teresa isn’t the only important female role in Queen. Her partner Patty also has a fleshed out backstory and captivating narrative.
It’s a page-turner. Most importantly, you will never be bored reading Queen of the South. Pérez-Reverte’s novel is packed with all the elements that make for a book you won't want to put down: suspense, romance, coming-of-age, betrayal, death. You may finish the novel in a couple of days, so fortunately, the TV series will last you the whole summer!
Queen of the South premieres on Thursday, June 23, at 10/9c on USA Network. Learn more about the show here!