Despite being yet another who came to this book via The Wire, I had my doubts before reading it. Could it really be as brilliant, as addictive, and most importantly as entertaining as The Wire? Surely this is a huge tome full of dry forensic details and information about hair strands and blood splashes? Maybe a grisly peek into a blood drenched hell hole of a city? Or maybe a rip roaring "warts and all" exposé of boorish, wiseguy detectives, 700 pages of foul language and Budweiser? None of those particularly appeal to me, but it turns out that this book contains a little of each and much more. What's more, these strands are woven together by David Simon into a book so readable, so addictive - words that flow so easily off the page - it seems like magic. And all this despite the subject matter - knife wounds, rape, dead infants, drugs, autopsy procedures, the very dregs of society? Of course it's as good as The Wire.
When a non-fiction author grapples with several case studies and a wide array of characters in a book like this, it usually follows that some will be weaker than others, some less interesting, some you want to skip to get onto the good stuff. It is a problem with most non-fiction of this kind. Not here. Simon pitches and paces his book to near perfection. Although the Latonya Wallace investigation forms the spine of the book, there is never the urge to skip ahead or skim over boring bits. There are no boring bits. The cases covered vary widely in nature and in significance, but they are all gripping. Simon lays out a huge spread, and it's all equally tasty. Why is it good? Why is it as good as The Wire? Why is it like The Wire? Simon cares. He has a down to earth integrity that you can feel before you hit page 10. He cares about the job, the detectives, the victims. He wants to get it right. He wants to do justice to everything he sees. He wants to show you, without gimmicks.
Simon has it. His voice is restrained, his view detached and his wits about him at all times. He observes. He gets pally with neither his subjects or his reader. The language is plain and the structure of the book nothing innovative, but he is an incredible story teller. This is an incredible book. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes to read - you needn't be an afficionado of crime procedurals, true crime, blood and guts. This is gripping, intelligent and interesting story telling of the highest order.