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Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

4.37 of 5 stars 4.37  ·  rating details  ·  9,183 ratings  ·  747 reviews
From the creator of HBO's The Wire, the classic book about homicide investigation that became the basis for the hit television show.

The scene is Baltimore. Twice every three days another citizen is shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned to death. At the center of this hurricane of crime is the city's homicide unit, a small brotherhood of hard men who fight for whatever justice is po
Paperback, 631 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Holt Paperbacks (first published 1991)
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Matt Jivin This is non-fiction so it's not going to be your typical murder-mystery police procedural. If you're a fan of The Wire you'll love this.
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Best Non-Fiction (non biography)
76th out of 3,287 books — 5,290 voters
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Best True Crime
11th out of 507 books — 820 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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*this contains Wire spoilers, but not Homicide spoilers.*

“The Wire” is over. “The Wire,” which salvaged so many depressing Sunday nights. “The Wire,” which was the only reason we subscribed to HBO. “The Wire,” one of the few television dramas where I’ve repeatedly found myself thinking of all the characters and their situations as real.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels the same way. Fictional or not, Omar got obituaries in publications across the country when his character died a few weeks
Oct 02, 2010 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: man alives
Recommended to Mariel by: my mommy
I've been rereading David Simon's Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets on and off for a while (the greatest enemy to my reading: video games. Desensitizing me to violence like the grind of dead bodies on the sidewalk chalks every day). I first read it way back when before high school when my mom got me a copy and told me that I had to read it (for someone who doesn't know me at all she got that one right-on). The tv show was my great obsession. I had fansites on actors Andre Braugher (Frank P ...more
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most of us don’t know much about the Street. Not streets, in general, but the Street, proper noun. I make that assumption based on the fact that I’m writing this and you’re reading this on Goodreads, which is just about as far from the Street as you can possibly get.

I was born in the mostly-white suburb of Bloomington, Minnesota. I lived across the street from a park, where people ice-skated in winter and played little league during the summer. If a co
An obsession of the narrator in When we were Orphans is that there is a cause to the crime that he sees. As a famous private Detective (at least in his own mind) he sees himself as sitting across a chessboard, grandmaster against grandmaster in a battle of wills. Good eventually triumphing over evil.

That attractive notion that evil acts, although a disruption in orderly and peaceful lives, are meaningful - the product of an evil will keeps us watching crime stories on TV and reading detection st
Oct 26, 2014 David rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yos, Billies, natural PO-lice, Omar

"You gotta let him play....This is America.”

David Simon's now-classic work of police and crime journalism gave birth to two of the finest shows ever to appear on TV: Homicide: Life on the Streets, and The Wire. Both shows are full of episodes and lines that you will recognize if you read this book, particularly the search for the killer of a young girl named Adena Watson, based on the real-life case of Latonya Wallace.

Aside from anecdotes reappearing on great TV shows, though, this book is ju
Paul Bryant
Apr 15, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: true-crime
This is probably the best true crime book ever unless you can show me that all that stuff in Dostoyevsky really happened, in which case he's probably got the edge. The story is fairly familiar I think but to summarise - David Simon was a journalist & came up with the idea of spending a year embedded (so we now call it) with the Baltimore Homicide Unit, wrote a series of articles for the Baltimore Sun, they got turned into this book, then two years after that the book became the series Homici ...more
Laurel Krahn
One of my most prized possessions is my first edition hardcover of this book which is signed by many of the detectives mentioned in it. I also own the first mass market paperback and one of the later trade paperbacks (the one that had a new forward and afterward or something like that). Plus the Kindle eBook. And the audiobook (read by Reed Diamond).

If that first paragraph didn't clue you in, this is one of my favorite books ever. In the newsgroup we just referred to it as The Bo
Believe the hype – this is a truly excellent book! An in-depth examination of one year in the life of the Baltimore Homicide department. Undoubtedly it’s gritty and earthy and contains many gruesome moments, but it’s also a very human book with the key detectives brought to life as the reader is made to understand the bizarre world they inhabit. It’s a place where death is serious but is (nearly always) a joke, where despite these men (and they are pretty much all men) having compassion it’s a d ...more
Oops. Read the whole thing in a sitting. So much for detailed updates.


Let's face it. A good many of us are here because of The Wire, often touted as one of the Best Shows On Television. This is because, (not as a cynic might say, due to a lack of competition), but for what are often categorized as Literary Characteristics - a documentary style, dynamic characters, prolonged character arcs, and a gritty realism. One most distinct positive is the setting
Three cheers...I finished David Simon's HOMICIDE last night. Elated I did, too. It's a honker (600+ pages). The storyline tracks a Homicide squad in the Baltimore PD over a year (234 murders in '88). Two main things held my interest. First, I liked the parts on the individual homicide detectives. Their personalities are memorable. Second, I enjoyed the police procedural (CSI) stuff. HOMICIDE is well-written and fast-paced. As expected, lots of male banter (colorful usage of the F-word). It's usu ...more
I’ll never be able to read another crime drama without benchmarking it to this one. It was real, after all. Simon was a young crime reporter with the Baltimore Sun when he was given permission to tag along with a squad of homicide detectives for a year. With this book he proved himself to be an avid observer, a great storyteller, and an appreciative audience for the science, language and grit of police work. You can see this as a nonfiction prequel to The Wire.
Aaron Arnold
This was the book that launched David Simon on his career, and it's just as good as you could ask it to be - dense, detailed, sympathetic, analytical, perceptive, and deeply immersing to the point where I read all 600+ pages of the extended edition in 3 days. While I'm a huge fan of The Wire, Generation Kill, and Treme, I've never seen the acclaimed show this work spawned, although I'll probably have to eventually since this book is truly excellent. It's exactly what the subtitle promises: the t ...more
Nov 05, 2012 Brenda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Brenda by: Tfitoby
The year was 1988, the city was Baltimore, the murder count 234. This was the year David Simon, reporter, requested and received the OK to spend it with the Homicide unit, where he had unlimited access to the myriad of cases, the constant murders, and the band of homicide cops who tried to put the murderers away.

David Simon was on the scene 10 minutes after the call, when Detective Tom Pellegrini, a rookie, took on the vicious rape and murder of 11 year old Latonya Wallace. Pellegrini worked on
Updated Review:

I re-read this because I am going to teach it this fall. In a book about how homicides are investigated, Simon looks at race, class, politics, police, residents, drugs, sexism, racism, and any another ism. There is plently in this book to chew over.

Older Review
I finally read this. I loved the NBC series based on this book. Honestly, if you are debating reading this book, read it. Simon is fair, and his writing is compelling. You get a real sense of people he writes about as well a
There are some books which demand a certain amount of respect that exists quite apart from however much you happen to enjoy reading them. But this is one of those rare texts which is both an important social document and is also accessible, fun reading. It’s a work of journalistic non-fiction presented in a novelistic style, and was the product of a year in which the author embedded himself in the Baltimore police department’s Homicide squad; with official blessing, he sat in on all kinds of wor ...more
Feb 12, 2015 Max rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: crime
Simon gives us an in-depth look at big city homicide detectives and the way they work. We follow an undermanned and under resourced Baltimore homicide squad facing a constant stream of murders. There are the “dunkers” where the case is readily resolved and the detective quickly clears it. Then there are the “whodunits” where the real detective work comes in. If it catches the public eye, it becomes a “red ball” and every angle is worked as pressure mounts from the higher ups. If there is a “true ...more
Preston Kutney
Man, this was so good. My new true-crime benchmark, it was really difficult to put down - I lost a lot of sleep staying up late reading this one. In the late 1980’s journalist David Simon was permitted to shadow detectives in the Baltimore Homicide Department for one year, following the detectives and reporting on their cases, investigations, leads, interrogations, and courtroom testimony. He wrote a book, titled “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets” narrating his experience and throwing in ...more
I've wanted to read this book for a while, so was delighted to receive it as a gift from a friend who resides in the state of Maryland, which while geographically relatively close to the setting of the account, is a very different world to the Baltimore reported by Simon.

Taking in the year 1988, the then novice Simon was seconded from the Baltimore Sun to shadow the homicide detectives from Gary D'Addario's shift as they went about their daily work. Simon quickly blended in to the background, an
Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets written by David Simon is a non-fiction account about the time he spent with Baltimore police department homicide squad.

For a detective or street police, the only real satisfaction is the work itself; when a cop spends more and more time getting aggravated with the details, he’s finished. The attitude of co-workers, the indifference of superiors, the poor quality of the equipment—all of it pales if you still love the job; all of it matters if you don’t.
Joshua Cejka
I was a huge fan of the show. Huge. From day one i knew that it was finally the 'something different' that a crime story was supposed to have. Gone was the era of the hard - charging, head scratching, whodunnit replaced instead by the brilliant work-a-day grinders in the homicide squad to whom death and mayhem aren't aberrations. They are the norm.

Writers like drama. Perhaps a little too much. Okay. Let me rephrase that. WAY too much. We feel the need to tell a story about every damned little t
Travis (Home of Reading)
Simon's writing is very engaging and he has the non-fiction narrative down to a science. The book has more of a novel feel then a biography of the people involved yet never feels like fiction. More importantly this is one of the few books of this style where you don’t feel the author has turned himself into a character. Other books of the same genre, such as Homicide Special, try for the same thing but don’t get close. In those books the reader can still feel the writer in their presence. On top ...more
As is now well known, David Simon is the creator of The Wire, and Homicide provides much of the raw material for the show's immediacy and realism. But it is, as a work, different. The Wire is angry, angry about institutions that Simon feels have failed the individuals they are supposed to serve. Homicide is also angry about institutional failure and malaise, but it is less about those failures, and more about the kind of person that becomes a homicide detective in Baltimore, and what it really m ...more
Reporter David Simon spends a year inside the Homicide unit of the Baltimore Police Department, observing the "murder police" working in a city which routinely has one the highest murder rates in North America. 234 murders occurred in Baltimore the year Simon wrote the book.

The murder scenes are described in every gory, grisly detail imaginable. Several cases we follow through the course of th ebook, most notably the murder of a grade school girl found in an empty lot near her home.

Simon does a
Forget The Wire. David Simon already knocked it out the park his first time up to bat. This police procedural is nothing short of a classic: sui generis. He tracks the homicide unit of the Baltimore Police Department for a year. And what follows is a rare, epic look into the inner workings of an investigative unit gorgeously drawn with pitch-perfect dialogue, perfectly telling detail and deep and empathetic nuance. Whether you like police stories or not, Simon's seemingly effortless ability to e ...more
As I gather my thoughts in order to be able to write more about this book than just ASKFKDSG; READ IT!!!, less the boring transition or general praise sentences that are going to make people stop reading my review rather than seeing why they need to read this book, I will leave you with a few thoughts:

1.) This book is great. Read it.
2.) Of course real-life CSI is not like CSI. But that's because no matter how gifted an actor, no one can capture the essence of a Terry McLarney or a Harry Edgerto
holy crap, people who work in the homicide division are gnarly! i could never do this job but i'm glad there are people who can and that a writer as amazing as david simon shadowed them for a year to produce this book (and eventually the gripping HBO series "the wire"). if you can handle some gruesome descriptions of murder victims, you'd likely dig this book. there were a few times i felt a little queasy after reading but nonetheless you learn a ton from this book and it reads in a way that you ...more
Man oh man this book wore me out. Simon drops you in, you hit the ground running (okay, a fast jog) and then that pace doesn't let up the entire time. The scenery changes over and over and eventually you realize that this is a lot longer race than you signed up for.

It was a fascinating insight into the world of Baltimore homicide, both the act and the department. I felt a genuine affection for many of the detectives while simultaneously experiencing light horror at being shown that yeah, some as
Good book. It's held up well over the years. A solid non-fiction account about police investigations. Some of the technology has changed as has some of the procedures, but not that much. Mr. Simon keeps the dramatic embellishments to a minimum and makes an honest attempt to show what real world police work is all about.
Author David Simon, as police-beat reporter for the Baltimore Sun, received unprecedented permission to spend a year (1988) following a homicide unit in the urban wasteland of inner-city Baltimore. What emerges is an unbelievably bleak portrait of crime and (sometimes) punishment.

Even though this was written a quarter of a century ago, other than technology available to the police I can't imagine that the job has changed that much over time. Crimes are followed from beginning to end, detailing t
Nihal Engin
The loss of Baltimore Sun was the gain of all of us. David Simon has an uncanny knack of seeing the threads of the story in the unlikeliest of places and he brings the story out so strongly that , it literally chokes you. I haven't watched the series, I cannot wait to watch it.

Except a bit of favoritism towards Edgerton and a bit of dislike of Kincaid, he was able to keep everything pretty objective. I will never forget Geraldine Parrish "The Insurance Black Widow" or the informant who wanted to
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Police procedural books With Multiple detectives and multiple cases 4 47 Oct 23, 2013 03:17PM  
  • The Wire: Truth Be Told
  • My Dark Places
  • Homicide Special: A Year with the LAPD's Elite Detective Unit
  • The Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad
  • The Hot House: Life Inside Leavenworth Prison
  • Courtroom 302: A Year Behind the Scenes in an American Criminal Courthouse
  • Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three
  • The Outfit: The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America
  • Shot in the Heart
  • Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde
  • Flat Earth News: An Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media
  • Clockers
  • Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence
  • Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34
  • L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City
  • Blood and Money
  • The Devil's Dozen: How Cutting-Edge Forensics Took Down 12 Notorious Serial Killers
  • Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town
David Simon is a journalist and writer best known for his nonfiction book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and its television dramatization Homicide: Life on the Street, which David Simon also produced and wrote for.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.
More about David Simon...
The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood The Wire: A Dramatic Series for HBO Baltimore Noir Paths of Glory The Wire: Truth Be Told

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“For a detective or street police, the only real satisfaction is the work itself; when a cop spends more and more time getting aggravated with the details, he's finished. The attitude of co-workers, the indifference of superiors, the poor quality of the equipment - all of it pales if you still love the job; all of it matters if you don't.” 9 likes
“Boiled down to its core, the truth is always a simple, solid thing” 6 likes
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