Posts Tagged ‘homicide’

In February 2013, journalist Del Quentin Wilbur spent a month with the Homicide Squad in Prince George’s County, which borders Washington DC. PG County (as it is referred to in the book) is in a fairly deprived area with a high crime rate, especially gun crime.

Wilbur gives details of the cases that the detectives investigate during the month of February, with maybe extra focus on the particularly heinous and apparently unmotivated murder of a young female in her own home.

I loved this book. The descriptions of the crime scenes, and how they affected the detectives was so well described, and more than just giving details of the work that these incredible people do, it also demonstrated how it affected them personally. I did feel that it must have clearly been influenced by David Simon’s ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ (which for my money is one of the best non-fiction books ever written), and indeed, Wilbur does reference this book and explains that he wanted to see how the job of homicide detective had changed since Homicide was written in the late 80s.

This book made me thankful that I live in a country where gun crime is not prevalent – in PG County it’s basically part of life, and many innocent people get caught up in it – and made me wonder what it must be like to live your life constantly in fear.

Anyway, my review cannot do this book justice, but I do highly recommend it, especially for fans of true crime. There is no sensationalism here, just an interesting narrative of the facts, showing how the detectives go about their jobs, while trying to keep their own lives and minds intact.

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In 1998, a young reporter named David Simon spent a year attached to the Baltimore Homicide Unit, reporting on what he saw, how the Officers did their jobs, various murders which were dealt with and how those cases progressed.  This book is the result of that year – and it’s an amazing and absorbing read (particularly for someone like myself, who generally prefers fiction).  No names were changed, although on a few occasions, certain persons remain anonymous, and there was no poetic licence used – events were written exactly as they occurred.

This book works both as an entertaining read, and a remarkable piece of journalism. One case in particular – the brutal molestation and murder of a young girl – forms a major part of the book, just as it formed a major part of the unit’s lives, and one detective in particular.

The writing itself is amazing and makes some of the cases so visible in the mind’s eye that it is at times almost painful to read.  But what are equally as compelling as the many cases written about, are the little anecdotes about squad room life, and the relationships between the various members of the squad.  Sometimes the detectives come across as callous, racially insensitive, and/or sexist, and certainly they seem to find humour in the darkest situations, but above all they come across as people determined to right some of the wrongs in the world.

It is the only third book I have read this year, but I am fairly confident that at in twelve months time, I will be listing it as one of my favourite books of 2009.  Very highly recommended.

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