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Homicide Special: A Year with the LAPD's Elite Detective Unit

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  316 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
With an Updated Epilogue by the Author

"A compelling portrait of seasoned homicide cops at work. This is L.A.'s darkest side: ironic, heart-breaking, stunningly violent, unfailingly human. Riveting."
-Jonathan Kellerman

The mandate for Los Angeles' unique police unit Homicide Special is to take on the toughest, most controversial, and highest-profile cases. In this "literate,
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 1st 2004 by Holt Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2004)
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Dec 05, 2012 Karissa rated it really liked it
Homicide Special: A Year with the LAPD's Elite Detective Unit by Miles Corwin is just what the title says. You follow six homicide cases with the Homicide Special unit detectives of Los Angeles.
The case we start off with is the murder of a prostitute from Kiev, Ukraine. They suspect the murder has to do with the Russian Mafia, so the FBI is called in to help with the investigation. A little after this case is assigned, a different pair of detectives in the unit is given the case of Susan Berma
Jan 11, 2013 Jane rated it liked it
Interesting non-fiction accounts of a few murders and/or rape cases by an "elite" group of detectives in Los Angeles. Ok insight into some procedural work and interview methods. There was a little too many descriptions of routes taken and different restaurants the detectives chose for meals. Perhaps that was to make the detectives seem more human to the reader - or maybe I'm just a cynic. Published in 2003 the Robert Blake case had not gone to trial at the time. The case as described here sounde ...more
Aug 12, 2011 Mickey rated it really liked it
I debated about whether to give this four stars or five stars. I'd read Corwin's other book (about inner city AG program) And Still We Rise and loved it. Of course, because I'm a teacher myself, I understand and can navigate through the small details of that book. I'm aware that the only reason that I prefer And Still We Rise to Homicide Special is my own personal experience.

Homicide Special was written with care and an attention to small details. It shows what feels like an authentic view into
Mar 06, 2014 Aletha rated it really liked it
I thought this was pretty good, like David Simon's homicide but set in Los Angeles. I liked the book overall but I have a gripe. A CRIMINALIST is not a CRIMINOLOGIST. There's a difference.
Katherine Giles
Jun 20, 2012 Katherine Giles rated it liked it
Shelves: libary
If you like David Simon... you'll be mildly entertained by Miles Corwin.
Miles Corwin, an investigative journalist, spent a year with the squad of detectives in charge of especially complex or high-profile cases. This book is full of stranger-than-fiction dialogue:

"Good morning, fellow racketeers." --Homicide detective Otis Marlow during a scandal that involved the LAPD

"Let me ask you something, just for myself. Did your mother tell you not to say anything to the police?" The detective who asked this said it was a question that perhaps only a Jewish cop would ask a J
Ashleigh Higgs
Jan 09, 2014 Ashleigh Higgs rated it really liked it
Homicide Special: A Year with the LAPD’s Elite Detective Unit by Miles Corwin is a non fiction book that gives every detail of six different homicide cases that the LAPD’s homicide special unit follows in a year. Each murder is intricately different. Ranging from Russian prostitution rings and smuggling gone horribly wrong, to the suspicious death of a once famous, now impoverished, author in her own home. My favorite story (which sounds terrible considering they are all murders) was of Yuriko ...more
Patrick Lum
May 08, 2014 Patrick Lum rated it liked it
Well researched, highly detailed, and nicely written, had Homicide Special no competition it would be an extremely good book. As it is, it suffers perhaps too much from comparison to the other, more famous book in its field, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Simply put, despite his various other talents Corwin simply lacks the flare that Simon can bring to bear on similar subject matter. Corwin accurately and effectively recounts testimony, conversations, the twists and turns of a case, b ...more
E.E. Giorgi
Mar 14, 2014 E.E. Giorgi rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I read it all in one sitting when I was researching the LAPD for my book CHIMERAS. Corwin's writing is beautiful even though he's technically being just a detached observer behind the detectives' daily routines. For each case he follows in the book, Corwin probes into the lives of both the detectives and the suspects, making the reader sympathetic with both sides. It gave me nice details on the LAPD that I would've never known. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys true crim ...more
Mar 01, 2011 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This here is the real deal and not an episode of Law and Order on television. It seems like with the magic of T.V. the detectives can solve a crime, arrest a suspect, place him on trial and possibly even get a conviction within a few days. More often then not the real detectives may have to let some cases sit as they are assisting other detectives on another case. And then you will also have to deal with the frustrations of getting all of the evidence processed in an even somewhat timely fashion ...more
Steven Shinder
Apr 18, 2016 Steven Shinder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is my True Crime professor this quarter. I got this required text from my local library. This was a pretty straight-forward and authentic account of LAPD Homicide cases. I love that the details of the investigations are told in chronological order. That makes it feel more realistic. (I cannot stand case of the week shows anymore.) And only two names are pseudonyms. I recommend this to anyone who wants a bit of insight in regards to the personalities of people who work in this departme ...more
Jun 19, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Very engaging book that keeps the reader interested while not being overly detailed or dry. The author spent a year with the LAPD's homicide detective team, and goes through various cases they encountered, one of which is the Robert Blake case. The author does a fanatastic job of giving a glimpse into the dealings of the LAPD detectives, as well as teh challenges and triumphs they are faced with. The author also gives background and history of LA, the LAPD, and cases that have shaped the departm ...more
Gillian Doyle
Apr 10, 2011 Gillian Doyle rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers & writers of crime nonfiction and novels
Fascinating nonfiction of various homicide investigations, several of which I remember from my local L.A. papers. The vivid descriptions heightened the sense of being right there in the old Parker Center and the crime scenes. Back story of the detectives gave them the multidimensional characterization that elevated them above stereotype. Neatly woven between gritty realism, the brief narratives of sunsets and So Cal locales were amazingly poetic.
Nov 28, 2008 Laura rated it liked it
Recommends it for: police buffs
The storyline sorta jumps around but I found this recounting of a journalist's year with the LAPD Homicide Division pretty interesting.

I actually went online after I finished the book to see the status of some of the cases mentioned. I couldn't believe what I saw. Juries can be so dumb!

I wouldn't say this is a must-read, but it is an insightful review of what it's really like to put your nose to the grind in the name of law enforcement.
Aug 28, 2007 Bob rated it really liked it
The author spent a year with the Homicide Special Unit of LAPD's Robbery Homicide Division. These are the detectives that specialize in LA's most difficult homicide investigations. It is also the unit that investigated the OJ case. This book is the result of that year. It offers a critical look at both unit's successes and failures. It reads like a novel.
Nov 01, 2007 Mosker rated it really liked it
Excellent true-crime book. Non-sensational but still engaging. In fact the weakest parts were about the biggest celebrity case: Robert Blake, but maybe I'm jaded because the book went to print before trial and while it wasn't another OJ, Blake's free to spin Phil Spector disks in his mansion all day.
Corey Miller
Mar 12, 2015 Corey Miller rated it really liked it
A really good book for true crime lovers. It's a well-written account of a year inside the special division of the LAPD which deals with high profile or difficult to solve murders. It's an objective look at some interesting cases, where things are not always what they seem, and answers are not always at the ready. Worth a read.
Maryanne Kehoe
Mar 03, 2013 Maryanne Kehoe rated it it was amazing
I loved, loved, loved this book. Could not put it down and was so sad when I came to the end. More please! This is a must read for those who enjoy police procedural books - or anyone who just appreciates fantastic writing. I can't wait to try Miles Corwin's fiction.
Feb 12, 2010 Leo rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-mystery
Excellent look at the Homicide Special squad at LAPD. I'd give it 5 stars, but I thought it lacked something that made it special. It is straight long form reporting on a great topic. It does seem to capture the flavor of cops.
Sue Ann Painter
Jun 22, 2012 Sue Ann Painter rated it really liked it
Excellent nonfiction crime book. The author did research in the field with one of the nations's toughest urban police forces. The cases he follows are compelling, as is the fine police work. Corwin is a fine writer and this work has more drama and intrigue than fiction.
Dec 02, 2008 Erika rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Miles Corwin's second book that I read did not disappoint! He is one of the best writers I have come across. His use of vocabulary and historical facts keeps you drawn into the book and he makes very complicated plot lines and characters easy to understand and enjoy.
Oct 11, 2008 Emily rated it it was amazing
This book followed several of the cases of the LAPD's elite homicide squad. It's right up my alley! Highly recommend it, even if you're not into this kind of thing.
Beth Chamberlain
May 06, 2013 Beth Chamberlain rated it really liked it
Jessica Applin
Oct 16, 2011 Jessica Applin rated it it was amazing
Pretty good book. But I like these kinds of books. After the first story I found myself flipping ahead to find out how it ended. Then I gave up and read the entire thing through. Very visual writer.
Oct 11, 2007 Jim rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, crime
Very interesting.
Sue Campbell
Jul 17, 2016 Sue Campbell rated it really liked it
I ordered it for research purposes but it ended up being a good book to read.
Jun 12, 2008 Lizzie rated it it was amazing
A great police book that conveys the daily drudgery of crime solving and the frustrations of working in a system where there isn’t enough money to hire experts or pay overtime.
Rachel Bayles
Jan 08, 2011 Rachel Bayles rated it it was amazing
Once again proving that Miles Corwin is a master journalist.
Compelling, fascinating, and uplifting. You will kiss a police officer after reading this.
Michael P. P.
Feb 27, 2013 Michael P. P. rated it it was amazing
No CSI BS. This is the way detectives really operate. Outstanding journalism from Miles Corwin.
Sep 28, 2011 Lisa rated it really liked it
Overall, I loved the idea of this book but it seemed to drag on a bit...
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Robert Durst / Susan Berman case 1 1 Mar 28, 2015 05:06PM  
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Miles Corwin, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, is the author of three books. The Killing Season (1997) was a national bestseller. And Still We Rise (2000) was awarded the PEN USA West award for nonfiction. Homicide Special (2004) was a Los Angeles Times bestseller. He graduated from UC Santa Barbara and received his M.A. at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.
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