Small candles nestled in a silver candelabrum are ceremoniously lit to announce the start of a medieval auction. Sadly, however, we are not in the middle ages but in the first decade of this century. The auction is a nightly event somewhere in Eastern Europe. On the block are naked teenage girls, the latest casualties of the global flesh market. These sex slaves are not fiction: "Natasha girls" already number over a million, an atrocity that has joined weapons smuggling and drug trafficking as one of the largest and most lucrative criminal activities on earth.
Kristýna Sondheim, at age 16, was among the first Natasha girls, but managed to break free of her captor and begin a new life in the States. That life turns ugly when she is sentenced to 25 years for the murders of her husband and young daughter – murders she did not commit. The novel opens with Kristýna’s breathtaking escape from Abbyville, a women’s prison built on land adjacent to Sing Sing. All we know at this point is that there is some link between the prologue and this remarkable woman; and that she knows her daughter, who witnessed Arthur Sondheim’s murder, is alive somewhere in Eastern Europe.
Kristýna becomes the focus of both the public and the FBI because of her escape. What is not known is that she and her little girl are also the focus of Stepan Obruchev, the man from whose sexual servitude she had escaped, the man responsible for her husband’s murder, her daughter’s kidnapping and the set-up that landed her in prison. Obruchev, one of the Trade's major players, has contacts everywhere. He must find the girl, Teresa, who knows too much. He must find Kristýna before she is hunted down by Interpol. She will lead him to the child; he will have his revenge while eliminating the threat that he will be revealed – both as a killer and a kingpin in the Trade.
Thus begins an international race across continents, a frantic attempt by Kristýna to evade both Obruchev and the law in order to rescue her daughter. Her heart-stopping quest takes her and the FBI on a terrifying journey into the bowels of the Natasha Trade.
In Genoa, Special Agent Connor and his international team have her cornered. Kristýna again escapes; her courage and cunning evoke the most suspenseful scenes in The Fugitive. With the help of Natasha rescue groups throughout Europe, she spots her ragged daughter traveling with a tribe of Gypsies. Connor becomes convinced he is dealing with more than an escaped convict. His attention shifts to the Russian Mafia, the seedy criminal element calling the shots in the former East Bloc. He learns who Obruchev is, learns that he is looking for Kristýna. Together with the Austrian police he carries out a sting to penetrate Obruchev's operation in Slovenia. Posing as an insatiable buyer of teenage girls, he picks up the evil man's trail.
What has been kept from the reader to this point is that Obruchev's auctioneer, Rasputin, a fake priest and castrato, seeks to dominate his inferiors - those driven by lust. What better way to do this than to set up Obruchev for the cops and take over his business? Rasputin kidnaps Teresa before her mother can free her. In a note tied to Teresa's dog, Kristýna learns of a farm in Slovenia where she must go to find her daughter. Rasputin sends the same message to Obruchev, knowing the FBI will follow. All roads lead to the farm, desolate and enveloped in fog, for a nail-biting yet ultimately exhilarating denouement.
Thomas Kirkwood is best known for his Cold War thrillers, The Quiet Assassin and The Svalbard Passage. Before moving to Amazon, Kirkwood was published by Macmillan, Collier Macmillan (Europe), Donald I. Fine (an imprint of Penguin), Signet (an imprint of NAL), Brilliance (audio), and Stjerne-Spenning (Europe). After many years in the EU, he now makes his home in Denver, Colorado.
This is a smart, rip-roaring romp through deception, intrigue and redemption. But while it grabs your attention, it clearly brings to focus the issue that seemingly gets swept under the rug---the sex trade. In short, women that are duped and used and dumped. This is a well written and timely book, with great character development that will glue you to the pages. Thomas---I for one want more!
I really didn't know much about the sex trade before I read this. It's hard to believe what some can do to another human being. This was very well-written and was an eye-opener. Great read - very detailed story line.
I quickly became engrossed in this story about Kristyna Sondheim and her struggle to find her daughter. Kristyna herself was abducted into sex-trade as a young girl and managed to break free, only to end up fighting again the very people who she escaped from in the beginning. Not only is she up against a monster who is a high up in a sex trade organization but she also has the US government and other agencies after her for being a fugitive from a crime she didn't commit.
The author does a great job building the characters and giving them depth. He also does a superb job of portraying exactly what a horrific and vile "business" the sex-trade is and how far it outstretches, but does so in a way that allows the reader to continue with the story and not be too sickened to read further.
Overall I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good thriller with strong characters.
I was given this book to review and I will admit, I was a little apprehensive about the topic. It turned out to be an excellent book, done tastefully and very well-written. It was also an eye-opener regarding sex trafficking, a shadowy, horrific world I knew little about before reading this. I didn't do any fact checking but it seemed well researched and plausible. I would recommend this book to any of my friends!
Great story. Fast paced without seeming hectic. Great characters that had enough normal qualities about them to seem real rather than the characters in some books that are so over the top that they aren't quite believable. Krystina Sondheim (main character) conveys the emotions of a mother that has been through a sordid past, cleaned herself up, witnessed the murder of her husband and been separated from her only child. It was especially refreshing for her to continue to demonstrate herself as a strong personality while the reader gets a glimpse into her worries, doubts, and shortcomings. The same can be said for many of the characters in The Trade. The story line kept moving along at a quick pace while flushing out details and environments to draw the reader into the world of the human sex slave trade. A great book that I would recommend to anyone. *I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review*
I was not sure about reading about young girls getting caught up in the sex trade. but this book - which I was given to review- was very good. it revolving around a girl who escaped and made a life for herself. She is found and for revenge they frame her for the murder of her husband and steal her little girl.
Lucky for her she has a lot a brave and willing friends ready to help her. the FBI sends a man after her and the story goes.
I will not tell much more of the story-- it is well worth a read.
Thomas Kirkwood is best known for his Cold War thrillers. Before moving to Amazon, he was published by Macmillan, Collier Macmillan (Europe), Donald I. Fine (an imprint of Penguin), Signet (an imprint of NAL), Brilliance (audio), and Stjerne-Spenning (Europe). After many years in the EU, he now makes his home in Denver, Colorado. In addition to writing fiction, Kirkwood is a graduate professor of European politics and an independent consultant to several law firms.
Kirkwood's novels include "THE SVALBARD PASSAGE," "THE QUIET ASSASSIN," "THE TRADE," "LACKING VIRTUES" and "THE POPPY BROKER," all of which are now available in both physical and Kindle editions. Under the pseudonym Tommy Vilar, Kirkwood has begun a swashbuckling series featuring the Italian counterpart to James Bond, Dante Passoni. The first volume, entitled "SAVE ITALY! Forget the Rest," is now available. Under a second pseudonym, Chub Yublinsky, Kirkwood has published a novel dealing with teenage love and loss entitled "FAITH A Secret Life."
http://www.tomkirkwood.com/ For Kirkwood's Facebook page, search Thomas Kirkwood, Novelist.
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