Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, by David Simon

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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