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on September 19, 2001
Appropriately enough, one of the best cop shows in the history of television was based on one of the best true crime books ever written. Journalist David Simon spent a year observing Baltimore Homicide detectives and it is their poignantly true stories -- almost all as funny, heartbreaking, and memorable as any fiction -- that make up this book. While fans of the TV show will immediately recognize the initial templates for such beloved characters as Frank Pembleton, Bayliss, Munch, and others, this amazing book is much more than just a basis for a classic television show. It is, quite simply, one of the most insightful books about modern law and order ever written. All of the detectives live brilliantly on the page and Simon's prose reminds us what great writing actually is. Though this is a word I've probably overused in this review, there is no other way to describe Simon's achievement: amazing.
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on October 25, 2005
I will keep this short: I have been a city cop for almost eighteen years and I defy anyone to find a better book about policework than this one. This is the closest you can come to knowing what being a cop is all about short of actually wearing a badge.
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I've always felt that the main problem with the TV show version of "Homicide" is that, good as it is, it just can't match the gritty realism of the book it is based on. Journalist David Simon spent a year as a fly on the wall observing the Balitimore Police Homicide Unit, and dutifully recording everything he saw by and large without editorial comment. The result is absolutely indespensible for anyone with an interest in law enforcement. Being a homicide detectives is a tough job both emotionally and professionally with many hours of tedium that can often result in the frustration of an unsolved case. Particularly poignant is the story of a unsolved child murder case that haunts one of the detectives to the point of endagering his mental well being. The value of this book to the nation's hard working law enforcement professionals simply cannot be understated.
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on March 15, 2000
Simon's Homicide reads not as a murder mystery, not as a documentary, and not as a dramatic novel, but as a life lived in the Baltimore homicide unit. The reader does not feel passive, as though he were watching the goings-on through a filter like a television or even a bystander. The reader is there, with the detectives, sharing their experiences, sharing their very thoughts. This book is a masterpiece, a book that completely enthralls you to the point where during the time you are reading, nothing means more to you than the resolution of each case, each obstacle, each crisis. Please, do yourself a favor and read this remarkable book.
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on November 8, 2009
I was very familar with this book as I am a former member of the Baltimore homicide unit. I did not have a chance in the past to read it, but now that I am retired I read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. I know most of the homicide members that are mentioned in the unit and some of them worked in my squad when I was there. It certainly depicts what goes on daily in the Baltimore homicide unit.
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on April 5, 2000
I picked up this book without realizing that it was the genesis of the television program by the same name, and I was immediately dragged in to the stories. Written as a yearlong narrative of the events and personalities of the Baltimore Police Homicide Division, it really gives the reader a feeling of being along for the investigation. The dialogue and descriptions are so realistic and insightful that I found myself wondering how the Detectives felt to read this objective reflection of themselves. The pacing of the book contributes to the overall effectiveness of the narrative by educating the reader slowly as to the characters, the lingo and the mentality of a Baltimore homocide detective. By the end (and I was sorry to have it end) I felt like I knew the detectives and the criminals and the victims and their families. If you like true crime, this is the book for you!
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on November 10, 2004
The television show was excellent, but HOMICDE the book is much better. It is perhaps one of the finest pieces of narrative non-fiction of the past 50 years. David Simon's background as a journalist for the Sun makes him uniquely qualified to examine the inner workings of a homicide unit, and to lay bare the shortcomings and serious flaws of Baltimore's city government (the action in the book takes place during the worst of the crack wars in the late 80s, but it's remarkable how little things have changed).

What's more, Simon writes with great deadpan humor and is able to find both humanity and wit in this true-life story of the "murder police." He is truly one of the most accomplished narrative writers of our time. I also highly recommend THE CORNER, another look into Baltimore's gritty urban landscape.
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on December 14, 2009
The print edition of 'Homicide' has a 8-page set of black and white photos in the middle:

1) 6 portraits of detectives that appear in the book.
2) below them 6 pictures of the characters they inspired in the TV series.
3) and three more: 2 detectives at a crime scene, David Simon at the pub with the guys, The Board.

These pictures are gone from the Kindle edition. Whereas this is a rather minor loss, you are not missing anything essential from the reading experience, something has been subtracted from one edition nevertheless. So you've been warned.
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on September 28, 2002
This is an amazing book. Two people picked this out of my "To Read" list as their suggestion for what I should tackle next. Interestingly enough, I had already started it. I had heard about this book originally on a private list that I'm on, but never saw a copy at any bookstore that I went to. Then I heard that there was a TV show based on it, but I still couldn't find a copy anywhere. Just as I was about to give up, I passed through Powell's Books in Portland, and found a first edition hardcover for cheap--and it was worth three times that amount.
Simon spent an entire year observing a squad of Baltimore homicide detectives. The result is an incredible page-turner, filled with humor, pathos, stupidity, politics, brutality, and, through it all, death. This is not Hill Street Blues, and especially not Barney Miller. As realistic as Hill Street Blues tried to be, it really can't touch the mundane uniqueness--the singular exciting boredom--that is the job of homicide investigation.
To parody Dr. Seuss, "Ah, the things you'll see!" This is a travel book as much as any trip to a foreign land--an exploration into the world of police procedures and life. It's not a place many of us would choose to live in, much less visit. I much prefer to read about it.
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on March 9, 2004
Here's a book that gets into the minds of homicide detectives like no other. The author is insightful and thorough, but his writing style is a celebration of brevity. Working within the law and sometimes around it or even in spite of it, the detectives are revealed as all-too-human but praiseworthy individuals. Read this with Randy Sutton's "True Blue : Police Stories by Those Who Have Lived Them" and you'll have the best writing on cops and crime available today.
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