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A Crime So Monstrous: Face-To-Face with Modern-Day Slavery [Hardcover]

E. Benjamin Skinner
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

11 Mar 2008

Two hundred years after Parliament passed the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, over 27 million people worldwide languish in slavery, forced to work, under threat of violence, for no pay. In Africa, hundreds of thousands are considered chattel, while on the Indian subcontinent millions languish in generational debt bondage. Across the globe, women and children, sold for sex and labour, are already the second most lucrative commodity for organised crime.

Through eviscerating narrative, A Crime So Monstrous paints a stark picture of modern slavery. Skinner infiltrates trafficking networks and slave sales on four continents, exposing a flesh trade never before portrayed with such vivid detail. From mega-harems in Khartoum to illicit brothels in Bucharest, from slave quarries in India to urban child markets in Haiti, he lays bare a parallel universe where lives are bought, sold, used and discarded.

The personal stories related here are heartbreaking but in the midst of tragedy Skinner also discovered a quiet dignity that leads some to resist and aspire to freedom. He bears witness for them and for the millions that are held in the shadows - all victims of what is the greatest human-rights challenge facing our generation.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; 1 edition (11 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743290070
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743290074
  • Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 15.8 x 22.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,269,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A heartbreakingly important work" (The Scotsman) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

An author infiltrates worldwide trafficking networks and discloses revelatory evidence of today's human slave trade --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
After reading Siddharth Kara's 2 books on modern-day slavery, I was after some more of the same. This book I found to be quite insightful in a different way but unfortunately, there was too much American politics in it for me.
I wanted to read about real stories, real people - THE SUBJECT - not so much about political wrangling and point scoring and policy.
So I enjoyed some of it, but I found myself skim-reading huge sections that I found pretty boring.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well written 21 May 2012
By Sm Drew
Part travelogue, part political and economic history, part journalistic investigation, this book is a shocking and moving introduction to a relatively unreported subject. In its readable pages we hear from the slaves themselves- from Haiti, Amsterdam, India etc as they tell their stories, each one put in its cultural and sociological context by Skinner. Intermingled with this is an examination of the reactions and sanctions from other countries and those appointed to deal with the issue (which in general is generally lots of hot air and no action).

I found the history and political sections quite dense and full of information and I did have to slow down and make sure I was taking it all in, especially the names of the various important players, but the other parts were almost too easy to read, putting in the bluntest terms the horrors of modern day slavery.

This was an excellent book that sums up the situation clearly and concisely and left me feeling angry, shocked and terribly terribly sad.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsory reading 18 April 2009
What a compelling and disturbing read. It should be compulsory reading for every politician or wannabe politician in every country of the world.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Human Trafficking 4 Aug 2009
Too much American Politics alongside cases in this book for my liking. Started, stopped, started, stopped...... Still not finished as other books are easier to read with case stories without the politics.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  35 reviews
50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent 29 Feb 2008
By Megan A. Quitkin - Published on Amazon.com
An absolutely astounding work of journalism, Ben Skinner's "A Crime So Monstrous" is a veritable call to arms for anyone concerned about the world's most disenfranchised people. By introducing us to his subjects and enabling us to understand both where they have come from and where they are going, Skinner's profiles of modern day slaves are candid, compassionate and completely unique. The writer, who has clearly devoted his heart and soul to his subject, often immersing himself in dangerous situations, exhibits enormous bravery as he details his travels in some of the world's most treacherous terrains. Whether he is infiltrating child slave markets in Haiti or interviewing a former sex slave in Romania, Skinner makes it clear that modern day slavery is a formidable threat to the human species, one that thrives on poverty, misguided policies and multi-sector corruption. But ACSM also proposes and encourages solutions as Skinner illuminates the amazing work of NGOs, ambassadors and activists committed to facilitating sustainable solutions. Clearly one of the best books ever written by a young writer, this is mandatory reading for the human community and one worthy of a permanent home in academic institutions, UN sessions, book clubs, libraries, and human rights circles.
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accessible work which combines personal narrative and solid journalism 11 Mar 2008
By J. B. S. Wise - Published on Amazon.com
I had the privilege of reading this book before publication, I was struck by the lengths to which Mr. Skinner traveled to write and research this great book. I confess to being largely ignorant of the volume and nature of human trafficking which still exists, but this book opened my eyes to the mechanics and politics of the oft-ignored plight of millions around the world.

I found it very easy to read and that Mr. Skinner's approach provides a comprehensive introduction to one of the world's most troubling problems. You will definitely not be sorry for choosing this book.
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Edgy and Haunting 27 Mar 2008
By James G. Workman - Published on Amazon.com
This edgy, unflinching study of slavery plunges us into the bowels of countries I wouldn't want to fly over, let alone visit. As he calmly haggles down the price of human beings with grinning men and women, the author plays out roles that professional actors might flinch at. Of course for Skinner, there must have been no rehearsals, no second takes. It must have been raw. And yet somehow he still manages to weave in elegant and even beautiful prose - the evocative phrase describing India's enslaved `human jackhammers' is now permanently lodged in my lexicon - and even a few comic moments to relieve our tension. This book has been rightly compared with two brilliant, prize-winning books on genocide, and yet in some ways the author lures us farther and further into strange new territory. He explores the human nature and contours of an evil that has more shades of grey and more intimacy than genocide, an evil that appears to be expanding into new shadows and metastasizing like the hydra he describes at one point, rather than contracting under sunlight of exposure. It also, I think, requires a different kind of discipline: one has to interview the living victims and perpetrators of slavery as evil unfolds in the present, rather than probe unreliable memories to reconstruct horrific events of the past. Skinner's dialogues with hideous people leave us at the end of his book, sitting on the edge of our comfortable sofas, having silent conversations with our conscience, haunted in the best possible way.
39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Paints a somewhat accurate picture, but also poses a risk to victims 26 Nov 2008
By socialjusticereader - Published on Amazon.com
I work for a well known organization in Southeast Asia working against trafficking and sexual exploitation. While I believe that Skinner had good intentions when writing this piece, I do not believe it was written in a way sensitive to the confidentiality needs of trafficking victims and survivors. Rather than painting a picture of How to Buy a Child Slave: 101 (which is my own title for this book), as well as (in my opinion) a "pat the US State department on the back" piece, I feel it could have done a much better job at challenging those in the West to take a closer look at responsible consumer habits, the demand for slaves, advocacy strategies for international slavery, and LAST BUT NOT LEAST - the exploitation and trafficking that is happening in OUR OWN BACKYARDS - the U.S., Canada, and Europe.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars important book on an issue too often overlooked 13 May 2008
By ShamayimBlue - Published on Amazon.com
Benjamin Skinner traveled around the world to witness firsthand the drudgery, abuse and depravity of modern-day slavery; he probably saw a good deal more than could fit into his book, which is an unsparing account of just how horrible and widespread slavery is. Skinner's writing is evocative. He brings to life various places around the globe including Haiti's cities and countryside, Romanian slums, the desert of Sudan, night clubs in Dubai, rural mines in India, and a well-to-do American suburb; his descriptions of human degradation, cruelty and greed are sickening. He talks to slaves (both current and former), slave traders, slave owners, anti-slavery activists, and government officials; throughout the book he also tells the story of U.S. official John Miller and his uphill and exhausting battle against slavery worldwide. To get some of his stories Skinner actually had to pose at various times as a potential slave buyer, and he briefly touches on the ethics of that choice (as well as his decision not to buy people's freedom from slave traders).

He succeeds in conveying the complexity of slavery, how and why it continues to exist and the various forms that it takes. In addition to the harrowing accounts of slaves themselves, he writes about the role that individuals, institutions, cultural norms and socioeconomic factors play in the perpetration of slavery and the creation of circumstances and conditions that allow slavery to flourish. It's frustrating to read about the way governments around the world turn a blind eye to slavery, even while paying lip-service to the idea of fighting it and upholding human dignity. The UN's record on this issue is unsurprisingly disgraceful as well. Skinner relates how UN officials, for political reasons, often refuse to refer to slavery as slavery (preferring terms such as 'abduction', for instance), and half-heartedly spend money on anti-slavery initiatives that are proven failures (he also discusses the complete farce that is the UN Human Rights Commission).

The book is detailed, complex and approaches slavery from different angles. In addition to discussing commercial sex slavery, his book brings to light agricultural, industrial and domestic enslavement (where, in addition to backbreaking work for no pay whatsoever, rape and brutality are also commonplace), and slavery in the context of war - as with the cultural and racial genocide waged on black Africans in the Sudan. Into this bleak picture Skinner also brings stories of hope - people who survived slavery, whether as children or adults, and who in spite of their scars have rebuilt their lives; he also profiles individuals who fight against slavery and actively work to rebuild the lives of former slaves and integrate them into society as productive members. Skinner doesn't write these stories with melodrama or sentimentality, but as a means of giving these people a voice and in hopefully motivating the reader to learn more and contribute to the fight against slavery; the conclusion of his book names what he thinks are effective anti-slavery organizations and non-governmental groups.

Overall, he's written an excellent book about an ages-old human condition that persists to this day, no matter how much we'd wish to pretend otherwise.
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