HOMICIDE by David Simon


A Year on the Killing Streets
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 An incomparable, epic nonfiction police procedural, covering one year with a Baltimore homicide squad--and a dizzying circus of mayhem and stark horror at vast length. Simon, a police reporter for the Baltimore Sun, spent 1988 as a fly on the wall with Baltimore's homicide unit. Here, he tells what it was like to investigate dozens of Baltimore's 234 murders that year. We follow three homicide squads from first alert by phone to arrival at the body, through first investigation of the crime scene, questioning of witnesses, and writing up reports back at the police department. Subjectively, however, we are right over the shoulder of the investigating detectives, sharing their horrifying safety-valve humor in the face of headless suicides, bullet-riddled corpses, a gutted 11- year-old girl and so on. This story is about turning over rocks on rock bottom and looking for what squirms. Murderers, it turns out, don't act like they do on TV--nor do the detectives: with the exception of suspects who kill loved ones in a rage, killers are utterly remorseless, and whatever stress they feel is tied to being the target of an investigation. Meanwhile, the detectives have to face protocol within the squad and among the three rival daily squads as well as a bedeviling tote board for daily cases and yearly wins and losses. Homicide is a rarified unit, for superhumanly motivated detectives who handle superhuman caseloads and investigate only those cases that seem to have leads; meanwhile, they carry forward last year's cases while attending trials and being witnesses. Family life gets brutally sacrificed, and starting up second families is the norm. Baltimore, Simon tells us, is now ``virtually equal'' to Washington ``on the national murder hit parade....'' During the book we follow three or four of the more blisteringly intense investigations that dominate the department's attention while other bloody, lead- filled, knifed, or strangled bodies fall daily and cool under our eyes. Deserves great praise and looks like a big winner.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1991
ISBN: 0-395-48829-X
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1991


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