Queen of the South

Queen of the South

4.2 47
by Arturo Pérez-Reverte

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Few authors inspire the kind of passion that Arturo Pérez-Reverte does. Reviewers, readers, and booksellers alike have embraced his fiction as the perfect blend of suspense and literary ambition. A global bestseller, he is one of the most admired and widely read authors in the world. And his stunning new novel is his best yet.

A remarkable tale, The…  See more details below


Few authors inspire the kind of passion that Arturo Pérez-Reverte does. Reviewers, readers, and booksellers alike have embraced his fiction as the perfect blend of suspense and literary ambition. A global bestseller, he is one of the most admired and widely read authors in the world. And his stunning new novel is his best yet.

A remarkable tale, The Queen of the South spans continents, from the dusty streets of Mexico to the sparkling waters off the coast of Morocco, to Spain and the Strait of Gibraltar. A sweeping story set to the irresistible beat of the drug smugglers' ballads, it encompasses sensuality and cruelty, love and betrayal, as its heroine's story unfolds.

Teresa Mendoza's boyfriend is a drug smuggler who the narcos of Sinaloa, Mexico, call "the king of the short runway," because he can get a plane full of coke off the ground in three hundred yards. But in a ruthless business, life can be short, and Teresa even has a special cell phone that Guero gave her along with a dark warning. If that phone rings, it means he's dead, and she'd better run, because they're coming for her next.

Then the call comes.

In order to survive, she will have to say goodbye to the old Teresa, an innocent girl who once entrusted her life to a pinche narco smuggler. She will have to find inside herself a woman who is tough enough to inhabit a world as ugly and dangerous as that of the narcos-a woman she never before knew existed. Indeed, the woman who emerges will surprise even those who know her legend, that of the Queen of the South.

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Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Internationally acclaimed writer Arturo Pérez-Reverte, author of The Club Dumas, has crafted another intense, dramatic, literary suspense tale. Teresa Mendoza's boyfriend, Güero, might be known as "the king of the short runway" because of his talent for getting drug-laden small planes in and out of incredibly small spaces. But Teresa seemed destined to never to be queen of anything. Life with Güero offered passion, excitement, and a way out of poverty…but it also carried with it the inescapable prospect of danger. Teresa knew Güero relished the risks of his job. He even raised the stakes by skimming extra profits off the drug lords he worked for. That's why he gave Teresa a cell phone that would only ring only if he was dead…a clear signal to Teresa that she was next on the list. When that phone rings, Teresa runs for her life, hoping the world will be big enough to hide her. So begins a journey that will transform this innocent barrio beauty into a woman who is tough and powerful enough to make her own rules -- the woman known as the Queen of the South. Sue Stone

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Penguin Publishing Group
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The Queen of the South

By Arturo Pérez-Reverte

G. P. Putnam's Suns

Copyright © 2002 Arturo Pérez-Reverte
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-399-15185-0

Chapter One

I fell off the cloud I was riding

I always thought that those narcocorridos about Mexican drug runners were just songs, and that The Count of Monte Cristo was just a novel. I mentioned this to Teresa Mendoza that last day, when (surrounded by bodyguards and police) she agreed to meet me in the house she was staying in at the time, in Colonia Chapultepec, in the town of Culiacan, state of Sinaloa, Mexico. I mentioned Edmond Dantès, asking if she'd read the novel, and she gave me a look so long and so silent that I feared our conversation would end right there. Then she turned toward the rain that was pittering against the windows, and I don't know whether it was something in the gray light from outside or an absentminded smile, but whatever it was, it left a strange, cruel shadow on her lips.

"I don't read books," she said.

I knew she was lying, as no doubt she'd lied countless times over the last twelve years. But I didn't want to insist, so I changed the subject. I'd tracked her across three continents for the last eight months, and her long journey out and back again was much more interesting to me than the books she'd read.

To say I was disappointed would not be quite accurate-reality often pales in comparison with legends. So in my profession the word "disappointment" is always relative-reality and legend are just the raw materials of my work. The problem is that it's impossible to live for weeks and months obsessed with someone without creating for yourself a definite, and invariably inaccurate, idea of the subject in question-an idea that sets up housekeeping in your head with such strength and verisimilitude that after a while it's hard, maybe even unnecessary, to change its basic outline. We writers are privileged: readers take on our point of view with surprising ease. Which was why that rainy morning in Culiacan, I knew that the woman sitting before me would never be the real Teresa Mendoza, but another woman who was taking her place, and who was, at least in part, created by me. This was a woman whose history I had reconstructed piece by piece, incomplete and contradictory, from people who'd known her, hated her, and loved her.

"Why are you here?" she asked.

"I'm still lacking one episode of your life. The most important one."

"Hm. One 'episode.'"


She'd picked up a pack of Faros from the table and was holding a plastic lighter, a cheap one, to a cigarette, after first making a gesture to stop the man sitting at the other end of the room, who was lumbering to his feet solicitously, left hand in his jacket pocket. He was an older guy, stout-even fat-with very black hair and a bushy Mexican moustache.

"The most important one?"

She put the cigarettes and the lighter back down on the table, perfectly symmetrically, without offering me one. Which didn't matter to me one way or the other, since I don't smoke. There were several other packs there, too, an ashtray, and a pistol.

"It must be," she added, "if you're here today. Must be really important."

I looked at the pistol. A SIG-Sauer. Swiss. Fifteen 9-millimeter cartridges per clip, in three neat staggered rows. And three full clips. The gold-colored tips of the bullets were as thick as acorns.

"Yes" I answered coolly. "Twelve years ago. Sinaloa."

Again the contemplative silence. She knew about me, because in her world, knowledge could be bought. And besides, three weeks earlier I'd sent her a copy of my unfinished piece. It was the bait. The letter of introduction so I could get what I needed and finish the story off.

"Why should I tell you about that?"

"Because I've gone to a lot of trouble over you."

She was looking at me through the cigarette smoke, her eyes slightly Mongolian, somehow, like the masks at the Templo Mayor. She got up and went over to the bar and came back with a bottle of Herradura Reposado and two small, narrow glasses, the ones the Mexicans call caballitos, "little horses." She was wearing comfortable dark linen pants, a black blouse, and sandals, and I noticed that she was wearing no diamonds, no stones of any kind, no gold chain around her neck, no watch-just a silver semanario on her right wrist, the seven silver bangles I'd learned she always wore. Two years earlier-the press clippings were in my room at the Hotel San Marcos-the Spanish society magazine ¡Hola! had included her among the twenty most elegant women in Spain. At about the same time, El Mundo ran a story about the latest police investigation into her business dealings on the Costa del Sol and her links with drug traffickers. In the photo, published on page one, you could see her in a car with the windows rolled up partway, protected from reporters by several bodyguards in dark glasses. One of them was the heavyset guy with the moustache who was sitting at the other end of the room now, looking at me as though he weren't looking at me.

"A lot of trouble," she repeated pensively, pouring tequila into the glasses.


She sipped at it, standing up, never taking her eyes off me. She was shorter than she looked in photos or on television, but her movements were still calm and self-assured-each gesture linked to the next naturally, as though there were no possibility of improvisation or doubt. Maybe she never has any doubts about anything anymore, I suddenly thought. At thirty-five, she was still vaguely attractive. Less, perhaps, than in recent photographs and others I'd seen here and there, kept by people who'd known her on the other side of the Atlantic. That included her profile in black-and-white on an old mugshot in police headquarters in Algeciras. And videotapes, too, jerky images that always ended with big gruff gorillas entering the frame to shove the lens aside. But in all of them she was indisputably Teresa, with the same distinguished appearance she presented now-wearing dark clothes and sunglasses, getting into expensive automobiles, stepping out onto a terrace in Marbella, sunbathing on the deck of a yacht as white as snow, blurred by the telephoto lens: it was the Queen of the South and her legend. The woman who appeared on the society pages the same week she turned up in the newspapers' police blotter.

But there was another photo whose existence I knew nothing about, and before I left that house, two hours later, Teresa Mendoza unexpectedly decided to show it to me: a snapshot wrinkled and falling apart, its pieces held together with tape crisscrossing the back. She laid it on the table with the full ashtray and the bottle of tequila of which she herself had drunk two-thirds and the SIG-Sauer with the three clips lying there like an omen-in fact, a fatalistic acceptance-of what was going to happen that night.

As for that last photo, it really was the oldest of all the photos ever taken of her, and it was just half a photo, because the whole left side was missing. You could see a man's arm in the sleeve of a leather aviator jacket over the shoulders of a thin, dark-skinned young woman with full black hair and big eyes. The young woman was in her early twenties, wearing very tight pants and an ugly denim jacket with a lambskin collar. She was facing the camera with an indecisive look about halfway down the road toward a smile, or maybe on the way back. Despite the vulgar, excessive makeup, the dark eyes had a look of innocence, or a vulnerability that accentuated the youthfulness of the oval face, the eyes slightly upturned into almondlike points, the very precise mouth, the ancient, adulterated drops of indigenous blood manifesting themselves in the nose, the matte texture of the skin, the arrogance of the uplifted chin. The young woman in this picture was not beautiful, but she was striking, I thought. Her beauty was incomplete, or distant, as though it had been growing thinner and thinner, more and more diluted, down through the generations, until finally what was left were isolated traces of an ancient splendor. And then there was that serene-or perhaps simply trusting-fragility. Had I not been familiar with the person, that fragility would have made me feel tender toward her. I suppose.

"I hardly recognize you."

It was the truth, and I told it. She didn't seem to mind the remark; she just looked at the snapshot on the table. And she sat there like that for a long time.

"Me, either," she finally said.

Then she put the photo away again-first in a leather wallet with her initials, then in the purse that was lying on the couch-and gestured toward the door. "I think that's enough," she said.

She looked very tired. The long conversation, the tobacco, the bottle of tequila. She had dark circles under her eyes, which no longer resembled the eyes in the old snapshot. I stood up, buttoned my jacket, put out my hand-she barely brushed it-and glanced again at the pistol. The fat guy from the other end of the room was beside me, indifferent, ready to see me out. I looked down, intrigued, at his splendid iguana-skin boots, the belly that spilled over his handworked belt, the menacing bulge under his denim jacket. When he opened the door, I saw that what I took as fat maybe wasn't, and that he did everything with his left hand. Obviously his right hand was reserved as a tool of his trade.

"I hope it turns out all right," I said.

She followed my gaze to the pistol. She nodded slowly, but not at my words. She was occupied with her own thoughts.

"Sure," she muttered.

Then I left. The same Federales with their bulletproof vests and assault weapons who had frisked me from head to toe when I came in were standing guard in the entry and the front garden as I walked out. A military jeep and two police Harley-Davidsons were parked next to the circular fountain in the driveway. Five or six journalists and a TV camera were under a canopy outside the high walls, in the street: they were being kept at a distance by soldiers in combat fatigues who were cordoning off the grounds of the big house. I turned to the right and walked through the rain toward the taxi that was waiting for me a block away, on the corner of Calle General Anaya.

Now I knew everything I needed to know, the dark corners had been illuminated, and every piece of the history of Teresa Mendoza, real or imagined, now fit: from that first photograph, or half-photograph, to the woman I'd just talked to, the woman who had an automatic lying out on the table.

The only thing lacking was the ending, but I would have that, too, in a few hours. Like her, all I had to do was sit and wait.

Twelve years had passed since the afternoon in the city of Culiacan when Teresa Mendoza started running. On that day, the beginning of a long round-trip journey, the rational world she thought she had built in the shadow of Güero Davila came crashing down around her, and she suddenly found herself lost and in danger.

She had put down the phone and sat for a few seconds in cold terror. Then she began to pace back and forth across the room, opening drawers at random, blind with panic, knowing she needed a bag to carry the few things she needed for her escape, unable at first to find one. She wanted to weep for her man, or scream until her throat was raw, but the terror that was washing over her, battering her like waves, numbed her emotions and her ability to act. It was as if she had eaten a mushroom from Huautla or smoked a dense, lung-burning joint, and been transported into some distant body she had no control over.

Blindly, numbly, after clumsily but quickly pulling on clothes-some jeans, a T-shirt, and shoes-she stumbled down the stairs, her hair wet, her body still damp under her clothing, carrying a little gym bag with the few things she had managed to gather and stuff inside: more T-shirts, a denim jacket, panties, socks, her purse with two hundred pesos. They would be on their way to the apartment already, Güero had warned her. They'd go to see what they could find. And he did not want them to find her.

Before she stepped outside the gate, she paused and looked out, up and down the street, indecisively, with the instinctive caution of the prey that catches the scent of the hunter and his dogs nearby. Before her lay the complex urban topography of a hostile territory. Colonia las Quintas: broad streets, discreet, comfortable houses with bougainvillea everywhere and good cars parked in front. A long way from the miserable barrio of Las Siete Gotas, she thought. And suddenly, the lady in the drugstore across the street, the old man in the corner grocery where she had shopped for the last two years, the bank guard with his blue uniform and twelve-gauge double-barreled shotgun on his shoulder-the very guard who would always smile, or actually, leer, at her when she passed-now looked dangerous to her, ready to pounce. There won't be any more friends anymore, Güero had said offhandedly, with that lazy smile of his that she sometimes loved, and other times hated with all her heart. The day the telephone rings and you take off running, you'll be alone, prietita. And I won't be around to help.

She clutched the gym bag to her body, as though to protect her most intimate parts, and she walled down the street with her head lowered, not looking at anything or anybody, trying at first not to hurry, to keep her steps slow. The sun was beginning to set over the Pacific, twenty-five miles to the west, toward Altata, and the palm, manzanita, and mango trees of the avenue stood out against a sky that would soon turn the orange color typical of Culiacan sunsets. She realized that there was a thumping in her ears-a dull, monotonous throbbing superimposed on the noise of traffic and the clicking of her own footsteps. If someone had called out to her at that moment, she wouldn't have been able to hear her name, or even, perhaps, the sound of the gunshot.

The gunshot. Waiting for it, expecting it with such certainty-her muscles tense, her neck stiff and bowed, her head down-that her back and kidneys ached. This was The Situation. Sitting in bars, among the drinks and cigarette smoke, she'd all too often heard this theory of disaster-discussed apparently only half jokingly-and it was burned into her brain as if with a branding iron. In this business, Güero had said, you've got to know how to recognize The Situation. Somebody can come over and say Buenos días. Maybe you even know him, and he'll smile at you. Easy. Smooth as butter. But you'll notice something strange, a feeling you can't quite put your finger on, like something's just this much out of place-his fingers practically touching. And a second later, you're a dead man-Güero would point his finger at Teresa like a revolver, as their friends laughed-or woman.


Excerpted from The Queen of the South by Arturo Pérez-Reverte Copyright © 2002 by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
“John Le Carre meets Gabriel Garcia Marquez…Pérez-Reverte has a huge following…and it’s spreading.” —The Wall Street Journal

“A modern-day epic…bearing the unmistakable ring of authenticity and a slam-bang narrative sure to resonate with legions of appreciative readers…All the core elements, after all, are here: love, violence, betrayal and honor.” —Los Angeles Times

The Da Vinci Code and The Rule of Four…pale in comparison with Pérez-Reverte novels…Pérez-Reverte shines in some white-knuckles action sequences…but his greatest triumph is [his] heroine.” —Time Out New York

“Pérez-Reverte’s literary thriller explodes with history, heartbreak [and] determination…An epic suspense story of heart and grit.” —Entertainment Weekly (Editor’s Choice)

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The Queen of the South 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
Aygee More than 1 year ago
The Queen Of The South by Teresa Mendoza isa gripping story about a girl picked up off the streets into the heart of power. She loved, lost, and the pattern repeated just when you thought she was home free. On a warm day in Sinaloa, Mexico, a cell phone rings and wakes her up from her fairytale. With the help of unlikely companions and incompassionate lovers, she makes her way to top while her world turns upside down. They got her lover, then they came after her too. The drug trade and its connections throughout Mexico, Latin America, and the Mediterranean come alive. Flashing back to her earlier life, the novel reveals Teresa as an uneducated but attractive twenty-three-year-old in Mexico, in love with Guero Davila, a Chicano pilot from San Antonio involved in shipping coca. Working through a cartel enjoying the complicity of the police, the Ministry of Defense, and even the President of the Republic, Guero is known as "the king of the short runway," a pilot able to drop from the skies, make a pickup or a connection, and be gone almost instantly. Guero had always told her, "If this [phone] ever rings, it's because I'm dead. So run. As far and as fast as you can, prietita¿And don't stop, because I won't be there anymore to help you." When she suddenly gets the call, she follows Guero's instructions to the letter, racing to deliver important papers to Don Epifanio Vargas, in exchange for her life, and running, with Vargas's help, through Mexico City into Spain. I would reccomend this amazing book to anyone who loves to read. When she suddenly gets the call, she follows Guero's instructions to the letter, racing to deliver important papers to Don Epifanio Vargas, in exchange for her life, and running, through Mexico City into Spain. The way Teresa relates to topics really engaged me and I could defiantly relate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I decided to read this after watching the series on TV, and the book was very good! It's definitely worth reading!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The theme of the book centers on how the main character Teresa Mendoza must run for her life in order to survive. She must become someone new, someone who has the strength and the will to make her way to the top in a world mainly occupied by dangerous men. The story begins in the town of Cualican, state of Sinaloa, in Mexico, when Teresa receives that ominous phone call: her boyfriend Guero Davila, pilot for the drug narcos, has been killed and she had better start running of she¿ll be next. With the help of a friend Teresa ends up in Spain. Throughout the first 300 pages there is a strong sense of how Teresa manages to find the will to survive through all that¿s happened to her. It is clearly depicted how she manages to keep going even through all the pain that has entered her life and which she keeps within herself. It is unclear whether Teresa saw herself developing into many different women or just one strong woman managing to persevere with her life. In Spain Teresa rises to the top as she sets up the largest transport system of drugs in the Gibraltar Straight. As people became dependent on her, her many names included Queen of the South, La Mexicana, Queen of the Drug Trafficking Straight, and Czarina of Drugs. In other words, in a world of men Teresa became the Queen. She infiltrated society, paying people off and understanding the certain rules and codes to the entire trade which can never be conceived unless you are a part of the business. When Teresa first arrived in Spain she was the soft spoken, observant, worldly, and independent with her prim Mexican accent. As Teresa becomes stronger she looks to herself and her future as being independent and without men. After looking back on her life and past dependencies she begins not to hope, not to dream, and not to trust because it makes you vulnerable. I enjoyed this book immensely for many reasons. The book did ramble a bit for the first 300 pages but then the last 100 became significantly exciting. There was no doubt that the story was full of mystery with unimaginable twists and turns everywhere: ¿As he walked away, he added, `Then there¿s the mystery right? ... What happened at the end with O¿Farrell and with the lawyer¿. [...] `What happened with all of them¿.¿ (p.292). As you progress through the book you learn that anything is possible: ¿ `In fourteen or sixteen hours a lot of things can happen...¿ ¿ (p.416). I loved how there was a lot of foreshadowing throughout the entire book. There first few pages were definitely no disappointment: ¿[...] and the SIG-Saucer with the three clips lying there like an omen-in fact, a fatalistic acceptance-of what was going to happen that night.¿ (p.8). I liked how the book came full circle on several accounts but I also enjoyed how it was written. Much of the book is written in the third person, which is Teresa¿s story itself, but then there are parts that are told in the first person where you read about this reporter finding out the facts and interviewing people about Teresa Mendoza so that he can write a book about her life, which you ironically happen to be reading. It¿s interesting to read about how this man pieces her life together, and sometimes you find out things when he does and other times he finds out things that you already know. So all-in-all I really enjoyed this book. The major lesson in this book is that no matter what happens one can always adapt, change, or become a new person in order to survive in this world. I personally also learned that anyone, seen from a certain point of view, could be a good person. Not that I didn¿t know this before, but one can also learn that the world is a difficult place with complicated rules and it¿s sometimes easier to understand these rules, and life itself, through a book. There are thousands of books out there just waiting to be picked up, and though it may seem hard to grasp the full intended meaning of them, you can still obtain a sense that they contain an important li
bonana5211 More than 1 year ago
The Queen of the south is an amazing attention grabbing piece with twists and turns that keep you wanting more every page. It all starts with one little phone call that sets her dreams into nightmares and leaves her with a heart wrenching loss of her one true love Guero Davila. He was "the King of the short runway" as many people knew him as and he was heavily involved with drugs specificly cocane.As her hands shake as she reads the note he gave her she makes sure to follow every detail to the last letter and makes her way out of comfort of her home in Mexico to the greatest parts of Spain in order to bring these papers to a man by the name of Don Epifano Vargas and along with the death of her loved one she finds she not only has to deal with one death she has to make sure her life does not end in the same way Gueros did.This book is deffinetly not for everyone and would only recomend this book to people who have a true love for reading and can figure out details and bigger words because the context of this book is not something younger people should unless they are up for a challenge. I liked and disliked this book for several different reasons, I like it because the idea of a mystery tied in with s sort of romeo and juliet situation is in some ways good throughout the book and also bad. I also liked the fact that they had some things you wouldn't have seen coming like one that she could be pregnant and many other things. I didn't enjoy this book because i felt like it was a bit above my head in a sense and i had to think and reread some pages because i didn't quite understand what she was trying to get across especially in the beginning when she describes this dream or idea of her lover enjoying the beach in his beach chair and also some other things such as some conversations around 466 and so forth. Now reading this i don't think i would read it again but it was something i am glad i challenged myself with and learned a few things as well like all about the drug trades in Mexico,the Mediterranean, Latin America. For Teresa Mendoza I believe that in writing she loves to connect the characters emotions with the readers feelings towards their favorite character and find those little things that impact them or they could relate to and that is another reason why i did make it through the book and still happend to enjoy most parts of it
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valmiriam45 More than 1 year ago
Teresa Mendoza is a character that csught my attention, not only because of her personality, but, for her deliverance. A young woman who gets involve with a man who was earning a living by dealing drugs and all of a sudden she enters a universe of violence; betrayal; fear; opulence; and passionate love that marked her for ever. She did not know any better......she followed a dangerous path after loosing her beloved "El Huero" and she became the Queen of the South. There is a lot of discrimination in the book, and we get caught in the trama in which a mexican woman has to deal with life in order to survive. We lived her fears; cried her tears and laughed with her... Excellent piece of literature !! Well created characters....!!! A good book to read.
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I really recommend it book and advice you to read it but not only to read it but also to see the to series on channle 52 telemundo 10:00pm
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
De Brea Thomad More than 1 year ago
This book kept me running. A great storyline and a beautiful character make this book #1
Brianna29 More than 1 year ago
The book Queen of the south by Arturo Pérez-Reverte,is the story of Teresa Mendoza and how she becomes to find herself but in a very dangerous way,the story starts shortly after she hears that her beloved Guero has been killed,and its up to Teresa to save herself which leads her to meet some very interesting characters and travel to Spain. I really liked this book because it really keeps you on the edge of your seat and if you are getting bored it picks up and the writer did an excellent job describing all the emotional problems that Teresa was suffering from.I didn't enjoy how the book would start back in the present at the beginning of chapters it made it very confusing. I learned how you can make your own future and how truely nothing is impossible and how if you think something is in you grasp you can reach it. I would highly recommend this book because it is a great read and if you enjoy dark literature then you will definately enjoy it,however i wouldn't recommend it if you don't like drug usage or reading about it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MCHR More than 1 year ago
A window into a lifestyle is what Arturo Perez-Reverte has given us in his novel "The Queen of the South". The drama, the intricacies and suspense of the life of people involved in drug-dealings, arms-dealings, drug-fighting, corruption... love and death. The bets that a woman from a small town Mexico makes on life and death, on her chances to stay alive in circumstances that are againts her. The life that she chooses seem the inevitable result of a succession of events that leave her no choice... or does it? The only option for Theresa in this job is keeping alive and she will do whatever it takes to protect herself and the life she has achieved. For her and the people around her, attachments are to be avoided, relationships don't last --unless it is a business relationship that is profitable and has to be secured at all costs, otherwise, love in her live comes and goes, loyalties being more important than profits, and alliences with groups that survive among deathly rivalry. The enemies of her enemies are her allies....and surprises unfold that make her take drastic decisions that mark turning points in her life and no one can make it out of this lifestyle unscathed, as Theresa would soon discover.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago