Del Quentin Wilber

Del Quentin Wilber

""...a fascinating read..." "


Award-winning journalist Del Quentin Wilber was given permission to shadow a county homicide squad for one month in February 2013. The county is Prince George's County, and abuts the US capital - Washington DC. Twelve homicides were investigated over the four weeks, and Wilber followed the important ones, either in person or through interviewing the detectives that were on the case. Some were ongoing cases, such as the murder of seventeen-year-old Amber Stanley, who was shot dead in her bed in August the previous year. Who did it? What was the motive? Had the murderer shot the wrong person? Homicide officer Sean Deere has a suspect, but can pin nothing on him. So is he, in fact, innocent? And what of Geraldine McIntyre, a seventy-one year-old woman who was stabbed to death during a robbery on her home on February 9?

Wilber didn't feature all homicides, though the ones he did feature gives an insight into the sometimes quirky lives of the homicide detectives, as well as an insight into the lives of many people living in a county of over 900,000 people.

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The book is written in a sort of right-on, hip, American style, where detectives smoke Camels, have crew cuts and drive Impalas. It's a fascinating read, though in places, as Wilber himself admits, he has had to recreate certain events and conversations after interviewing the detectives involved, as he could never 'be everywhere at once'. This is a book about people, and not about forensics. Twenty five homicide detectives worked for the Prince George's County Homicide Unit during the time Wilber researched this book, and though he didn't include every one, he certainly manages to give colourful accounts of the lives of some of them. Their principle food, for instance, seemed to be hamburgers (at least when they were on duty) and they were forever exiting the police building to light up a cigarette. The most intriguing aspect of the book, for me was the suspect interviews and the methods used to extract information, or even an admission of guilt. I had always assumed that the 'good cop/bad cop' routine was invented by crime writers, for instance, but it was certainly a method used in Prince George's County. If you want to get behind the professional mask of a US homicide detective, then read this book. Occasionally the mask slips, and that's when things get interesting.

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