Review – Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

Follow the detectives of the Baltimore City Homicide Unit for a full calendar year, examining both the cases and the men who investigated them.

It’s a rare thing for me to read non-fiction but I knew I had to make an exception for this book.

One of the things that makes this book unique is there is very little romanticising of the detectives. While they might view their work as a calling, there is generally very little feeling for the victims, with some notable exceptions. The solving of cases is more a point of professional pride.

Background is given on some detectives, spaced out as they each become the primary investigators on a given case. Background is given on the inner workings of the police department as well, pointing out where political expediency, or even the personal bias of those higher up the chain of command, can have major effects on an investigation.

One thing I truly liked about this book is that it never feels dry, or just a simple recitation of facts. The detectives, and the city itself, are brought vividly to life. This is probably due to the author’s journalistic background.

Another good part for me, and probably any fan of The Wire, is spotting pieces of dialogue that made it into that series. The book also formed the basis of another TV show, Homicide: Life on the Street. The first season of that is taken from the events in the book.

For someone who is a fan of either of those shows, or just interested a very realistic depiction of modern policework (as of 1988), I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

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