Friday, 21 August 2009

Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon

DATE PUBLISHED: 1992 DATE READ: August 2009 NOTES: I bought this book months ago and immediately put it on one side because a) I hadn’t realised it was non-fiction and thought it was a novel and b) it was just so enormous – 650 pages! However when I finished the last DVD in The Wire I felt bereft and missing the mean streets of Baltimore. So now was the time to tackle Homicide….. I was not disappointed – in fact it is one of the best pieces of factual reportage that I have ever read. Simon was given access to the Police Department Homicide team for a year during which time he came to know the individual detectives and their strengths and weaknesses, the problems of policing the city, the local politics, the tyranny of the “solved crimes” league tables. He also records the black humour that detectives use as well as the many acts of empathy and kindness. Rarely a day goes by without a murder taking place. Many are easily solved – such as domestics. Murders involving drug dealers and customers are usually met with a wall of silence and often the culprit is never identified. Other murders (such as when the victim is a child) arouse great anger and distress and extra resources are poured into the squad in order to find the guilty person. Although non-fiction the book is constructed like a novel. As the book progresses the reader becomes more and more involved in the life of the homicide department. I found myself willing Pellegrini to somehow find the killer of little Latonya Wallace…… The writing is superb – not a superfluous word – and the book is packed with social issues relating the crime and punishment. Highly recommended for anyone who likes crime fiction or police procedurals.

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