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Winner of the Premio Planeta—the Spanish-speaking world’s richest literary prize
“The spirit of Stieg Larsson visits Mexico City" (Kirkus): Milena, or The Most Beautiful Femur in the World is a pulse-pounding international political thriller about sex, power, and information—and the extreme lengths people go to get them.
When Milena’s lover and protector, the chief of Mexico’s most important newspaper, dies in her arms, she knows it’s only a matter of time before the ruthless thugs behind the human-trafficking ring that kidnapped her from her Croatian village catch her and force her back into sex slavery.
Soon, three comrades bound together by childhood friendships, romantic entanglements, and a restless desire for justice are after her as well—but for different reasons. The new chief of the newspaper, columnist Tomás Arizmendi, must retrieve Milena’s mysterious black book before the media empire he has inherited is torn asunder, while dubious intelligence expert Jaime Lemus wants to use the sensitive information the book contains about the crimes of the world’s power elite to further his political puppeteering. Lastly, the noblest of the trio, rising politician Amelia Navarro has made it her mission to protect women and children from the abuses of men in power.
Told at a heartracing pace and full of the journalistic detail and sly humor that Mexican master Jorge Zepeda Patterson has become renowned for, Milena, or The Most Beautiful Femur in the World is a romp across Europe and the Americas that traces the vast networks of capital, data, crime, and coerced labor that bind together today’s globalized world. Yet, in the beautiful and tenacious Milena, we are reminded that the survivors of the darker facets of modernity are not mere statistics, but living, breathing, individuals.
About the Author
Journalistically speaking, Jorge Zepeda Patterson has accomplished everything: newspaper's managing editor, magazine founder, television anchor, newspaper political columnist and author of half a dozen books on current affairs. After spending decades researching and writing about political power, he found that only fiction could explain the way in which the brain of a politician works. Los Corruptores (2013), his first novel, was finalist for the Dashiell Hammett Award. His second novel, Milena (2014), won the $800,000 Premio Planeta. Born in Mazatlán, Mexico, in 1952, Zepeda received a master's degree from the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales and a doctorate in political science from The Sorbonne. After his journalistic training at El País, he was the founding editor of the newspapers Siglo 21 and Público in Guadalajara, and was later editor-in-chief of El Universal. He has authored numerous books on political analysis, and his weekly column appears in over twenty newspapers in Mexico. He currently edits the news website SinEmbargo.mx.
Adrian Nathan West is the author of the novel The Aesthetics of Degradation and translator of numerous works of contemporary European literature. He lives between Spain and the United States with the cinema critic Beatriz Leal Riesco.
“A Mexican journalist and political analyst who has spent decades covering the country's politics, crime and corruption turned to fiction as a way to shine a light on real-life stories that go unreported and ignored. The result is a searing, international bestseller about sexual and human trafficking that won Spanish-language literature's highest award and has now been published in English.… Patterson masterfully describes the brutality of one of the world's most profitable clandestine industries as Milena moves through Europe and the Americas.… Zepeda Patterson's journalistic experience comes through in the pages: Milena acts like a reporter, collecting the dark, twisted secrets of her powerful clients in a black notebook and compelling readers to appreciate the crudeness and magnitude of the global sex trade.”
—Arturo Conde, NBC News Latino
“A breathtakingly savage thriller… For all of its darkness, Milena is a novel that holds attention through to its satisfying—if not ultimately very hopeful—end, shining necessary light on an industry that is more pervasive, and powerful, than most would like to consider.”
—Michelle Anne Schingler, Foreword Reviews, Five-Heart Review
“The spirit of Stieg Larsson visits Mexico City…. an exposé of human trafficking and the global sex trade… and the details are damning.”
“An ambitious thriller… Patterson weaves in stories of the men who use women like Milena and her stories of such men, as well as examining international complicity in trafficking and the particular conditions that make Mexico a prime conduit. Milena is a memorable pawn unconsciously trying to reach the transformative eighth rank in this densely plotted crime novel.”
“Human trafficking defines the center of Milena, or The Most Beautiful Femur in the World, the latest novel by Jorge Zepeda Patterson. Crossing mapped and human boundaries, the horror of that traffic moves beyond its numbers and into the lives redefined by its violence and corruption…. Strung along themes of surveillance and displacement, Zepeda Patterson’s novel is ambitious. It works to uncover the underworld of financial manipulation and prostitution that runs on the unchecked ‘parade of bodies’ in human trafficking. Here, the novel disrupts any easy sense of cause and effect. Which narrative is ‘hostage’ to the other storylines here—Milena’s flight or the pervasive cynicism that follows and propels her through the world?... Zepeda Patterson’s novel ‘thrills’ not in the disclosure of its characters’ ‘true identities,’ but in uncovering what they have been all along, how they’ve come to inhabit a world fed on gray market monies. As the reader witnesses the shifts, manipulations, and violences in the novel’s corrupt world, we are asked to consider how we read our world’s surfaces, how we scan and devour electronic information in an attempt to discern deeper patterns of cause and effect.”
—Garin Cycholl, Rain Taxi Review of Books
“This is a book that moves quickly and keeps the reader turning pages. There is wonderful humor here but there also serious issues such as the very large networks of capital, data, crime, and coerced labor. We are reminded that the survivors of the darker facets of modernity are not just numbers but living people. Writer Patterson’s prose is vivid and we can actually picture what we read but it is also complex and it makes us aware that corruption and power can be partners. I am sure that the author did intensive research to write this book—everything is based upon facts that he collected.”
“An effective prose style . . . A proven vision as complex as that of a Le Carré novel . . . [Milena, or The Most Beautiful Femur in the World] is an elaborate report on a world in which corruption is intrinsic to power and assigned to the sinister millionaire classes.”