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A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery Paperback – March 24, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Today there are more slaves than at any time in history, according to journalist Skinner's report on current and former slaves and slave dealers. Skinner's travelogue-cum-indictment focuses most sharply on Haiti, Sudan, Romania and India, and is interspersed with a detailed account of the work of John Miller, director of the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, or America's antislavery czar. Skinner reiterates that sexual trafficking is only one component of slavery, but devotes the bulk of this book (when it is not following Miller's State Department career) to this issue. The text teeters toward the travelogue, taking the reader to Dubai's most notorious brothel and Skinner's adventures in pos[ing] as a client to talk to women... [or] as an arms dealer to talk to traffickers. Nevertheless, Skinner's story merits reading, and not just because the cause is noble and the detail often fascinating, such as the moral complications of Christian Solidarity International's redemption or purchase of 85,000 slaves' freedom. Skinner's account of the internal workings of the State Department and the deep links to faith-based antislavery groups and their special interests is seriously newsworthy and, at times, moving. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"An impassioned exposé of a thriving slave economy in the world's poorest regions...An important, consciousness-raising book." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Rigorously investigated and fearlessly reported, A Crime So Monstrous is a passionate and thorough examination of the appalling reality of human bondage in today's world. In his devastating narrative, Ben Skinner boldly casts light on the unthinkable, yet thriving, modern-day practice of slavery, exposing a global trade in human lives. The abuses detailed in these pages are repugnant, but there is hope to be found: by giving voice to the victims, Skinner helps restore their dignity and makes crucial strides toward closing this shameful chapter in history." --Bill Clinton

"In his fierce, bold determination to see the lives of modern-day slaves up close, Benjamin Skinner reminds me of the British abolitionist of two hundred years ago, Zachary Macaulay, who once traveled on a slave ship across the Atlantic, taking notes. Skinner goes everywhere, from border crossings to brothels to bargaining sessions with dealers in human beings, to bring us this vivid, searing account of the wide network of human trafficking and servitude which spans today's globe." -- Adam Hochschild

"A great storyteller, Skinner brings the whole underworld of traffickers and their victims to life. At the same time, he shows how complex the phenomenon really is, and why the solutions of would-be abolitionists in this country have proven misguided or simply futile." -- Frances FitzGerald

"A Crime So Monstrous is a remarkably brave and unflinching piece of reportage and storytelling. E. Benjamin Skinner bears witness, sharing stories so unsettling, so neglected, so chilling they will leave you shaking with anger. This should be required reading for policy makers around the world -- and, for that matter, anyone concerned about the human condition." -- Alex Kotlowitz

"Ben Skinner does a great public service by exposing the massive scope of human trafficking in the world today. I appreciate his chapter on the heroic role Ambassador John Miller played in getting the U.S. government to stand against this evil." -- U.S. Senator John McCain

"This book exposes the horrors of modern-day slavery and human trafficking, demanding attention to an issue that has for too long hidden in the shadows. Skinner's narrative takes us many different places around the world, but can lead to only one conclusion: The U.S. must do more to end this suffering." -- U.S. Senator Russ Feingold

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (March 24, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743290089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743290081
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Megan A. Quitkin on February 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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