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Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  17,885 ratings  ·  1,118 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, 646 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Picador USA (first published June 1st 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 depa…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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Mar 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
*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
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
Sep 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
If you've watched The Wire you probably don't need to read this book, but if you haven't (or really enjoyed Homicide or The Wire) this is a great introduction to one of the best police procedural dramas ever produced. The TV show and book based on Simon spending a year with the Baltimore Homicide squad, the murders, the cases, the night shifts, the ups, the downs, the system, the courts, the public, the innocent, the guilty, and most of all the relationships between that mostly male network of R ...more
Mar 09, 2016 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
Apr 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Paul Bryant
Nov 13, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 Homicide : ...more
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
Everyone lies.
Murderers, stickup artists, rapists, drug dealers, drug users, half of all major-crime witnesses, politicians of all persuasions, used car salesmen, girlfriends, wives, ex-wives, line officers above the rank of lieutenant, sixteen-year-old high school students who accidentally shoot their older brother and then hide the gun - to a homicide detective, the earth spins on an axis of denial in an orbit of deceit. Hell, sometimes the police themselves are no different.

Homicide: A Year o
Mikey B.
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One becomes totally immersed in this true-life account in which journalist David Simon spends one year (1988) with homicide detectives in Baltimore.

It is written from the point of view of the grueling jobs of these detectives. David Simon immortalizes these men (in this case they are all men) from now over thirty years ago. In this book we experience their highs and lows plus the very hard work they do – and how it overwhelms them and the toll it takes. Nobody in this job can demarcate between w
Nov 29, 2010 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
Laurel Krahn
May 13, 2012 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 we just referred to it as The Bo
Aug 30, 2010 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
Nov 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
J.M. Hushour
Nov 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"A good investigator, leaning over a fresh obscenity, doesn't waste time and effort battering himself with theological questions about the nature of evil and man's inhumanity to man. He wonders instead whether the jagged wound pattern is the result of a serrated blade, or whether the discoloration on the underside of the leg is indeed an indication of lividity."

There was never any way that this was going to be anything other than great. Simon, creator of the best television show ever (The Wire,
Nancy Regan
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Reece Hirsch
Oct 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets is an absolute, stone-cold true-crime classic, and the best book about police work that I've read. I was surprised to discover how much Simon's all-time-great TV series The Wire draws upon the material in this book. ...more
Jan 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 31, 2008 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
Kent Dias
Aug 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent view of the Baltimore PD Homicide Unit in the late 80s. The research that led to this book also led to the shows Homicide: Life on the Streets (NBC) & The Wire (HBO)
A quite remarkable tour de force - the story of a Baltimore Police Department homicide squad through 1988, with the highs and lows, triumphs and tragedies and everything in between chronicled with total honesty.
The writing is totally compelling, whether you're laughing along at an off colour joke, gritting your teeth at some awful crime scene or its effects on the victims families or simply getting that warm glow from some squad room banter. It gave me a real insight into the realities of U.S. l
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Homicide was written thirty years ago and is perhaps the best non-fiction crime genre book that I have read. I’m making a spot for the author Simon next to Capote and Bugliosi.

In 1988 Simon, a Baltimore Sun journalist, was given unfettered access to the Baltimore PD’s homicide group. The book spans the entire year in which over 200 homicides were investigated. Two dozen crimes (not all homicides) were covered in some depth. However it is three different child homicide cases and the case of
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
I have never seen The Wire so I had no idea what to expect from this book, but it did not disappoint.

Set in the 1980's it's based on a year on the hard streets of Baltimore. Everyday there is a death usually a shooting or a stabbing. In the middle of all the chaos is a small team of hardened detectives determined to get justice. It is a tough job, tougher than most; they miss out on family life, they work long hours, low pay and sometimes they work, work and work some more and get no result on
Aaron Arnold
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Matthew FitzSimmons
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Andy Weston
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, crime
I’m late to the TV series The Wire and even later to its predecessor, Homicide: Life On The Streets . Fascinated by both, and in the middle of both sets of series, I decided to read David Simon’s book, which I can thoroughly recommend, and enhances enjoyment of both series greatly.
Simon spent a year with this east Baltimore police department, so this is a ‘true crime’ set of stories. The incidents during the year are covered and of great interest, but the real strength and focus of the book
Tried this. Feels very period, very NYPD Blue but without the tightly woven dialogue. I think I got about 25% or so, but probably shouldn't try reading it again, as a book about homicide and 'life on the streets' shouldn't be boring. ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Wrong number of pages 2 7 Dec 19, 2020 11:50PM  
Police procedural books With Multiple detectives and multiple cases 4 65 Oct 23, 2013 03:17PM  

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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.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

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Here’s some trivia for your next vacation get-together: The concept of the summer “beach read” book goes all the way back to the Victorian...
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“Boiled down to its core, the truth is always a simple, solid thing” 10 likes
“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.” 10 likes
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