I just finished the second of the three Steig Larsson books, The Girl Who Played With Fire. There are many literary aspects that set these books apart from a lot of the pulpy bestsellers, most notably the complex characters who are developed over the course of all the books. But. What I want to focus on more is that the main mystery of the book revolves around trafficking and the sex trade. This book was originally published in Sweden in 2004, which means that the original research was completed years before. Larsson was ahead of his time in making the public aware of what is happening worldwide.
In the past few years, trafficking has become a more well known issue, but I remember first becoming really informed around 2005 by a friend who helped to found Restore NYC (in 2004), which "aims to provide safe housing and special legal, medical and employment services, as well as optional spiritual activities" for women who have been sexually trafficked into New York City. In the early days, my friend spent a lot of time educating everyone she could about the issue of trafficking--and one of the main responses were jaws dropped in horror that one, this was occurring, and two, that they didn't know about it.
All that to say, I am glad that there are books and authors who aren't afraid to delve into the darkest corners of our existence (for the issue of trafficking, see also the young adult Sold by Patricia McCormick). I am a firm believer that fiction is one of the greatest ways to understand the complexity and depth of the hardest issues in society. Fiction forces the reader to not just read statistics or facts, but to know the physical and emotional impact on individual characters. Not facing these issues leaves us utterly ignorant and only promotes living in a bubble of safety, unaware of anyone else's needs but our own. Go. Read.