Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon is a work of non-fiction about the Homicide Unit of Baltimore's Police Department during one year in the 1980's when he was a journalist for the Baltimore Sun. This book was actually the inspiration for the TV show Homicide: Life on the Streets so if you've seen that show you might recognize some of the characters (albeit with different names and ethnicity in some cases). Simon focuses on a few of the key cases that the unit investigated during the year he observed (although it was more like became entrenched in their cases and lives). He managed to both show the very best of what it means to be a sensitive, thorough homicide detective and the lengths that they were willing to take to close out their cases (it's often about the closeout rate). The dark underbelly of the city, its inhabitants, and the men (and lone woman) tasked with solving those most heinous of crimes is laid bare in stark detail. These men (and one lone woman who was rarely a focus in the novel) are distinctly human with foibles like all the rest. Vulgarity, racism, sexism, and a general callousness permeate the department. (Baltimore was none too pleased with the portrayal of their city by the way.) Simon shows that not all cases have a tidy ending and in fact could remain unsolved well past the detective's tenure with the unit. If you're looking for a neat police procedural then you'll be disappointed with this book but if you're interested in the investigative process itself you've hit the jackpot. 5/10
A/N: Keep in mind when this book was written because there are definitely some problematic issues such as racist slurs, derogatory attitudes towards people of color, sexist asides, and general ickiness that made me shudder. I can't be sure how much of this was a product of the times and/or how much is just a part of Simon's character but it was off-putting in the extreme.
What's Up Next: Cool Japan Guide: Fun in the Land of Manga, Lucky Cats, and Ramen by Abby Denson
What I'm Currently Reading: Miss D & Me: Life with the Invincible Bette Davis by Kathryn Sermak (with Danielle Morton)