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HOMICIDE SPECIAL by Miles Corwin Kirkus Star


A Year with the LAPD’s Elite Detective Unit

by Miles Corwin

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-8050-6798-1
Publisher: Henry Holt

A literate, unfailingly interesting work of true crime by a veteran of the genre, picking up where his The Killing Season (1997) left off.

Those readers who were glued to the set during the long, tawdry trial of O.J. Simpson will be forgiven for thinking the LAPD’s detective division to be a nest of incompetents, Corwin allows. Homicide Special’s “maladroit investigation” and Simpson’s acquittal were low spots in an already hit-or-miss record. But, almost as soon as Simpson went free, the division was overhauled, with most of its staff forced into retirement or transferred. In their place came the elegantly dressed, multilingual, sophisticated cops (one lieutenant a former chef, another officer a former sales executive, and so on) who figure in Corwin’s recounting of half a dozen grisly cases as they slowly unfold. One is the murder of a Ukrainian prostitute, which affords an intriguing glimpse into the seedy world of the Russian mafia, with an array of suspects: “. . . looking like a caricature,” Corwin writes, one of them “wears a gray leather jacket, a gold Gucci belt, and a garish pink, black, and white silk shirt.” Another, a poorly staged suicide involving a Viagra-popping, toupee-wearing would-be stud and his unfortunate girlfriend, offers a fine glimpse into good cop-bad cop procedure (“The sympathetic approach is the best way,” one weary cop remarks, though toughness clearly works, too). Still another—and Corwin’s one big nod to the noirish possibilities of Hollywood—draws on recent headlines to recount the unit’s investigation of B-grade actor Robert Blake, whose thoroughly unlikable wife conveniently ended up with a bullet in her head as Blake ducked into a restaurant to retrieve his own gun: a strange matter indeed, one in which nothing made sense until the dogged detectives turned up the hard evidence that had eluded them in that earlier celebrity case.

A revealing look at the real, deeply unpleasant work of murder investigators.