A harrowing study in true crime, most of it committed by men with badges.

WE OWN THIS CITY

A TRUE STORY OF CRIME, COPS, AND CORRUPTION

When police officers are the criminals, they serve and protect themselves.

When Freddie Gray died while in Baltimore Police custody in 2015, protests broke out in the streets, and Baltimore Sun crime reporter Fenton—who shared a Pulitzer for coverage of the events—was on the scene. Strangely, he fell under the protection of both Crips and Bloods, who worked under a truce that overlooked red and blue gang garb and instead focused on the Black of the victim. Certainly, according to the author’s tenacious reporting, the Baltimore officers focused on Blackness, in a very negative way: Their Gun Trace Task Force broke into homes without warrants, searched Black people without probable cause, stole guns and money, and sold confiscated drugs. “While the police department leadership begged citizens to cooperate,” writes Fenton, “some of its elite officers were running roughshod on Black men in poor neighborhoods, creating a free-fire zone for anyone seeking to exploit them.” The worst of the bunch was a sergeant who devolved from model Marine to utterly corrupt cop. He partnered with a cocaine dealer to identify other dealers, seize their wares, and sell them; reportedly, that sergeant had squirreled away at least half a million dollars, having done things like broken into a dealer’s car and “stolen between $12,000 and $19,000.” Before getting greedy, a core group of officers—most now serving prison terms thanks to an FBI investigation that Fenton tracks almost in real time—preferred to skim money off the top during seizures. Meanwhile, the GTTF was lauded for its results, which were murky at best. “Despite police and prosecutors’ stated priority of holding people caught carrying guns accountable,” writes the author, “officials would later acknowledge that no one was circling back to check or improve the outcomes.” Fenton’s fast-paced narrative, perfect for fans of The Wire, delivers a satisfying resolution, though it remains to be seen whether the department will truly clean up under new management, for which readers must stay tuned.

A harrowing study in true crime, most of it committed by men with badges.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-13366-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

THE WAR ON THE WEST

A British journalist fulminates against Black Lives Matter, critical race theory, and other threats to White privilege.

“There is an assault going on against everything to do with the Western world—its past, present, and future.” So writes Spectator associate editor Murray, whose previous books have sounded warnings against the presumed dangers of Islam and of non-Western immigration to the West. As the author argues, Westerners are supposed to take in refugees from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while being “expected to abolish themselves.” Murray soon arrives at a crux: “Historically the citizens of Europe and their offspring societies in the Americas and Australasia have been white,” he writes, while the present is bringing all sorts of people who aren’t White into the social contract. The author also takes on the well-worn subject of campus “wokeness,” a topic of considerable discussion by professors who question whether things have gone a bit too far; indeed, the campus is the locus for much of the anti-Western sentiment that Murray condemns. The author’s arguments against reparations for past damages inflicted by institutionalized slavery are particularly glib. “It comes down to people who look like the people to whom a wrong was done in history receiving money from people who look like the people who may have done the wrong,” he writes. “It is hard to imagine anything more likely to rip apart a society than attempting a wealth transfer based on this principle.” Murray does attempt to negotiate some divides reasonably, arguing against “exclusionary lines” and for Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s call for a more vigorous and welcoming civil culture. Too often, however, the author falters, as when he derides Gen. Mark Milley for saying, “I want to understand white rage. And I’m white”—perhaps forgetting the climacteric White rage that Milley monitored on January 6, 2021.

A scattershot exercise in preaching to the choir.

Pub Date: April 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-316202-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2022

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