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Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

4.37  ·  Rating Details ·  11,967 Ratings  ·  926 Reviews
The scene is Baltimore. Twice every three days another citizen is shot, stabbed or bludgeoned to death. At the centre of this hurricane of crime is the city’s homicide unit, a small brotherhood of hard men who fight for whatever justice is possible in a deadly world. David Simon was the first reporter ever to gain unlimited access to a homicide unit, and his remarkable boo ...more
Kindle Edition, 647 pages
Published by Canongate (first published 1991)
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Josh Although it is non-fiction, Simon manages to pace a lot of the cases like a mystery novel, only with less dialogue and more detail on the way the…moreAlthough it is non-fiction, Simon manages to pace a lot of the cases like a mystery novel, only with less dialogue and more detail on the way the department works. However, if you are looking for method over madness, I would highly recommend this one as you get a lot of insight into how the detectives solve the crimes by using the system and the clues to their advantage. It is not an action-oriented book, as detectives are always supposed to arrive after the crime has been committed. But the book read like a chronicle detective story featuring many cases than a murder mystery with one big crime.(less)
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Community Reviews

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Sarah
Mar 10, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*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
...more
Matt
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
...more
Jan-Maat
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
...more
Brandon
Mar 09, 2016 Brandon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 1988, David Simon lingered like a ghost in the hallways of the Baltimore PD, immersing himself into the homicide department of one of America’s most violent cities. He rode in the backseats of department-issued Chevy Cavaliers and stood on the sidelines while detectives deconstructed grotesque crime scenes and inspected bodies still cooling on couches, in alleyways and on street corners.

Throughout my experience reading Simon’s true crime tour-de-force, I found myself constantly asking – how d
...more
Mariel
Apr 19, 2009 Mariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
David
Nov 29, 2010 David rated it it was amazing  ·  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 just
...more
Paul Bryant
Nov 13, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Hadrian
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
...more
Laurel Krahn
May 13, 2012 Laurel Krahn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 alt.tv.homicide we just referred to it as The Bo
...more
F.R.
Aug 30, 2010 F.R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Steve
Nov 09, 2010 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Rebecca McNutt
This brilliant book is one of the best I've ever read in the true crime genre. Inspiring a hit television program, Homicide introduces readers into the lives of a group of detectives and the things they encounter every day.
Issa
Feb 10, 2016 Issa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Frigging awesome book about a year following homicide detectives in Baltimore one of America toughest cities. Simon later became more famous for creating the tv shows the Wire and Treme and Homicide: life on the streets. Want to know how life is for a homicide detective? Read this book
Ed
Oct 31, 2008 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Chris
Dec 26, 2008 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Tfitoby
I've just finished this incredible piece of journalism from David Simon. The voice that comes through in his writing feels wonderfully authentic, the people and places and situations so vivid in my mind that I almost came to think of these homicide detectives as friends or people I know.

I was thoroughly entertained throughout, only I was also grateful that I had finally finished it. It's heavy work at times but it rewards you for your perseverance. I look forward to reading The Corner in the fut
...more
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
Max
Jan 21, 2015 Max rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Michael
Sep 26, 2016 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, detective, 2016
So back in the 1980s reporter David Simon joined the Homicide division of the Baltimore PD as a special Intern, armed with pencil and multiple ring pads, chronicling a year amongst the squads of detectives working there. I've never watched The Wire or the other show but I did find this book fascinating. It sort of answered a little mystery of my own that's been with me for a few years. This book is a non-fiction account of the murders that took place during the year of 1988. They numbered severa ...more
Brenda
Jul 30, 2012 Brenda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Matthew FitzSimmons
This book is simply incredible. It's exactly what New Journalism set out to be in the 60's. Simon as journalist-fly-on-the-wall account of a year inside a Baltimore homicide unit let's readers into a world that ordinarily is off limits to civilians. I learned more about police and police work in the pages of this book than I could begin to list. It also corrected many of the misapprehensions that I'd build up from years of watching police procedurals - CSI or Law and Order this is not. Simon tac ...more
Preston Kutney
Dec 11, 2014 Preston Kutney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Patrick
Nov 05, 2014 Patrick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy Regan
Apr 03, 2017 Nancy Regan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
644 pages later, I didn't want this to end. Fiction writers, unencumbered by journalistic ethics, can only dream about creating something this compelling and moving. In case there are a few other fans out there who didn't know that Homicide: Life on the Street was based on a nonfiction book, I am noting it here so that you can discover the original Frank Pembleton, John Munch and Al Giardello yourselves. The research was done in 1988, but the action doesn't seem dated. DNA analysis and cell phon ...more
Joshua Cejka
Sep 11, 2011 Joshua Cejka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Allan
Nov 22, 2013 Allan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Travis Starnes
Oct 10, 2013 Travis Starnes rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Pep Bonet
Apr 06, 2016 Pep Bonet rated it it was amazing
Shelves: assaig, anglesa-us
Great book. Given hat the TV set at home is a piece of decoration, except when kids are back for some days, I didn't know anything about Simon. But I've discovered a great journalist which succeeds in writing, not a report on life in a homicide unit in a big USA city, but the story of excellent characters, real-life characters, who live through the book all their anxieties, euphoria, problems, concerns and frustrations.
Although Simon follows the chronological order of events, he structures the c
...more
Rishabh
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.


D
...more
Brendan
Oct 31, 2007 Brendan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
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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.

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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.” 11 likes
“Boiled down to its core, the truth is always a simple, solid thing” 9 likes
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