A political thriller that seems even more current today than the day it was written, Milena by Jorge Zepeda Patterson, subtitled The Most Beautiful Femur in the World (Restless Books), tells a tale of international corruption at the heart of the sex trafficking world.
We’re brought into this sordid scene through the title heroine (real name: Alka), a Croatian beauty kidnapped by a Russian mafia-affiliated ring, who has managed to escape this harsh life by hooking up with the powerful publisher of a Mexican newspaper. When the old man dies, however, her former captors strive to retrieve Milena, forcing her to go into hiding. Also looking for her are the Blues, three former childhood friends who each have their own reasons for doing so.
First of these is Tomas Arizmendi, the newly appointed news chief of the old man’s paper, El Mundo, who sees both a story and chance to protect the legacy of his former boss. Second is Amelia Navarro, a strong-willed leftist politician who has made sex trafficking one of her personal crusades. More ambiguous is Jaime Lemus, a slippery intelligence expert who see the onetime high-end prostitute as a possible fount of information about a number of power people. While we as readers wish to see our title heroine found and rescued, it’s up in the air as to which of this trio will be able to best protect her.
Author Patterson, himself a reporter in Mexico, is unsparing in his depiction of the brutal conditions faced by young women who get manhandled by sex slavers. Our resourceful heroine, to survive this soul-destroying world, first connects to a powerful moneyman who hands her dangerous assignments outside the sex trade. She travels across Europe to Mexico, which gives us a glimpse of the vastness of the business – and its connection to both Western and Soviet criminal entrepreneurs.
In addition to flashbacks depicting Milena’s progress in her sordid world, we’re also provided periodic chapters written by the woman herself: dramatic monologues attributed to the various men in her life. These writings, which don’t mask the identifies of their speakers, provide yet another reason for those on all sides to find her.
Complex and suspenseful, with a strong supporting cast of would-be rescuers, johns and thugs, Milena proves both thought-provoking and gripping, an expose of a world few of us thankfully experience.