Homicide Special: On the Streets with the LAPD's Elite Detective Unit

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9780805067989: Homicide Special: On the Streets with the LAPD's Elite Detective Unit

A riveting, behind-the-scenes look at one of the most elite, highly trained units of homicide
detectives in the country

Los Angeles is a town of dreamers—and of those who prey on them. The scene of innumerable bizarre crimes, it is also home to a unique police unit called Homicide Special, whose mandate is to take on the toughest, most controversial, and highest-profile cases. Now acclaimed writer Miles Corwin uses his unprecedented access to this legendary unit to narrate six of its cases—and capture its newest generation at work.

When a call girl from Kiev dies in the line of duty, detectives Chuck Knolls and Brian McCartin seek her killer among a circle of Russian women who have been sold unwittingly into white slavery. When a gangster’s daughter, brought up in Las Vegas, takes a bullet, veterans Jerry Stephens and Paul Coulter trace clues scattered across the country to one of Manhattan’s wealthiest real estate magnates. A cold case is reopened; a suspicious mother-daughter drowning and a baffling rape/murder are solved. And finally, Corwin re-creates the investigation surrounding the late Bonny Lee Bakley, a woman driven—like her city—by the desire for fame, and allegedly murdered by her actor-husband, Robert Blake.

Compulsively readable, artfully written, and surprisingly redemptive, Homicide Special offers a thrilling insider’s report on some of the nation’s most high-profile and complex homicides—and the extraordinary men who solve them.

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Review:

The hard-boiled, tough-talking homicide detective is one of the classic archetypes in contemporary American entertainment. TV and movies have always been loaded with trench coat wearing cops drilling suspects and catching elusive clues that crack the case. And while there is no historical shortage of fictional gumshoes, writer Miles Corwin shows us that the lives of real detectives, while perhaps not as glamorous, are infinitely more interesting. Corwin was given extensive access to one of Los Angeles' top units and provides fascinating insight into methods of evidence gathering, interrogation, and other facets of detective work. Homicide Special pushes past the headlines to retrieve a depth of insight that reveals the complex nature of the crimes and the efforts to solve them. Real investigations aren't quite as easily solved as those on, say, CSI, and Corwin's analysis of various cases illuminates the fragility of good police work. At the same time, the actual details of a homicide case are considerably more grisly than anything on television and readers should be prepared for rather unpleasant imagery. Among the many cases spotlighted are the murders of the daughter of a Las Vegas mobster, a prostitute with ties to the Russian mafia, and Bonny Lee Bakley, allegedly killed by her husband, actor Robert Blake. Corwin makes good use of the access he was granted, fleshing out minute details that provide an intimate feeling to the locales, suspects, and witnesses visited by the detectives. The celebrity culture of the detectives' beat and the unique universe that is contemporary Southern California living provide an unusually eclectic perspective to the true crime genre, throwing the stories captivatingly off kilter. Meanwhile, Corwin's narrative toes the tough-guy crime writer line, calling to mind a contemporary version of Dragnet. But such trappings are mere accents to the ultimate success of Corwin's book: the ability to realistically demonstrate the challenges and triumphs of top detectives seeking both answers and justice. --John Moe

About the Author:

A former staff reporter at the Los Angeles Times, Miles Corwin is the author of The Killing Season and And Still We Rise. He lives in Los Angeles.

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