A Summer Inside an LAPD Homicide Division

The Killing Season by Miles Corwin

It reads and looks like a buddy pic, complete with black rookie female cop teamed with grizzled (kinda) white veteran.

Miles Corwin, a Los Angeles journalist, decided to spend the summer of 1994 in South Central with LAPD detectives investigating the area’s extremely high murder rate. He joined the team of Marcella Winn, a new detective who has been paired with Pete Razanskas, a 20-year LAPD veteran. Winn, who is black and from South Central, shows exceptional promise, and Razanskas is to guide her over the next months until she is ready to be a full-fledged detective.

Corwin drops out of the prose completely as he seamlessly reports the team’s growing number of murder cases, their greasy-spoon breakfasts, and the surprising strength of this partnership. The Lithuanian/Venezuelan Razanskas is an unlikely hero: He chews tobacco, he’s unapologetically crude, and he spends all his free time hunting. But he’s a genius with suspects, can cajole even the most reluctant witness into testifying at trial, and is an excellent teacher.

As the summer progresses, the murders pile up, the great majority of them pointless. The victims cooperate with their attackers but are shot anyway, frequently in front of their young children. Corwin spends time with the victims’ families, too, and in one tragic scene visits a therapy group for victims of black-on-black crime.

The book perfectly captures Winn’s emerging skill and authority as a detective, Razanskas’s frustration with endless paperwork, and the way the rest of the multiracial squad works in the shadow of Rodney King and O.J. The taint of racism in the LAPD lingers–Winn tells of a white colleague whose idea of dressing for vice squad was wearing a UCLA shirt and a ponytail; the ponytail later got a promotion over the no-nonsense Winn. Haunting and thrilling, this is a beautifully told story of violence and courage, and an unforgettable look behind the yellow crime-scene tape.

THE KILLING SEASON: A Summer Inside an LAPD Homicide Division by Miles Corwin (Simon & Schuster ISBN: 0-684-80235-X)

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Rebecca Kurson

Rebecca Kurson writes about literature, pop culture, television, science fiction and music. Her work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Observer, The Federalist and Rodale's Organic Life.

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