This could have been a nice police procedural if Steiner didn’t insert utterly inane woke diatribes into it. She has so much to say about the reasons why people’s personal lives suck and a great gift for portraying familial and relational dysfunction. If only she stayed on that instead of forcing her superficial and dumb political opinions on the readers.
The novel is about Lithuanian migrant workers in the UK who end up being exploited as slave labor. Steiner does an excellent job portraying the desperation of the migrants who realize they’ve been tricked into coming to a place where they shouldn’t be. The mental and physical torture the migrant workers experience is very realistically depicted, and it’s obvious the writer did a lot of research for the book.
Unfortunately, it all falls apart when Steiner tries to use the facts she learned about the exploitation of migrant workers to serve her idiotic political agenda. The exploitation of migrants is terrible, she tells the readers over and over. But it’s necessary because Brits won’t do the jobs that migrants do because Brits are lazy and unmotivated.
The argument makes no sense because the only reason why migrants work as hard as they do in the novel is that they are tortured by Edikas, the Lithuanian slave trafficker.
Steiner goes out if her way to portray as real evildoers the working class Brits who lose their jobs to slave handlers like Edikas and who can’t compete with the labor prices he can offer because his slaves work for free. They are UKIPers, they are Nazis, they are somehow so powerful that they infiltrated state schools to teach that Nazism is no big deal.
The logic of the novel goes contrary to Steiner’s political goals. The Lithuanian migrants in the novel cut off a UKIPer’s head and store his body in a freezer. Steiner still stays doggedly on message and makes the protagonist, a police detective, resign from the job because of how unfair it is that a head-chopping migrant should go to jail for beheading the evil, disgusting UKIPer.
The problem with the authors of junk lit introducing political manifestos into their novels is that they aren’t smart enough to have politics beyond primitive slogans. Steiner did a lot of research for Remain Silent. She even traveled to Klaipeda to talk to Lithuanians at home. And she discovered really important stuff about the horrors of human trafficking.
The truth about human trafficking, though, doesn’t fit in with Steiner’s leftism. This is why she tries to position the UKIP character’s resentment against the very white Lithuanians as racist and constantly repeats the tired old canard about the laziness of non-slave workers.
I’ve been seeing in British authors in particular this trend in turning every piece of writing into a political screed. I’m not seeing this in US writers of genre lit. Or not yet, at least.
The novel is still valuable because it shows you how brainwashed people like Steiner are and how utterly bankrupt leftism is. Even a couple of decades ago, any leftist worth a dime would have easily recognized that the British worker who loses his job because he wants decent pay and benefits and a migrant slave worker are both victims of the exploitative class that wants to exploit labor and undo the advances achieved by the British workers in the 20th century. Agree with it or not but this was real leftism. Today, though, leftism is all about setting one group of poor exploited bastards against another for the benefit of the wealthy clueless brats like Steiner herself.