Monday 27 May 2019

A Good Month for Murder is More Than Just a Good Read

Title: A Good Month for Murder: The Inside Story of a Homicide Squad
Author: Del Quentin Wilber
Publication Date: June 7th, 2016
Twelve homicides, three police-involved shootings and the furious hunt for an especially brutal killer - February 2013 was a good month for murder in suburban Washington D.C. 

After gaining unparalleled access to the homicide unit in Prince George's County, which borders the nation's capital, Del Quentin Wilber begins shadowing the talented, often quirky detectives who get the call when a body falls. After a quiet couple of months, all hell breaks loose: suddenly every detective in the squad is scrambling to solve one shooting and stabbing after another. Meanwhile, the entire unit is obsessed with a stone-cold "red ball", a high-profile case involving a seventeen-year-old honor student attacked by a gunman who kicked down the door to her house and shot her in her bed.


I was expecting A Good Month for Murder to read almost like mainstream crime shows - fast-paced, gruesome and nail biting. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by the way Del Quinton Wilber narrated the different cases. 

My favourite part about AGMM is that it didn’t need to dramatise or sensationalise each case to grab my attention. Wilber kept his narration at an objective level, detailing each case as it happened. The murders and care real life, there’s no doubting these killings happen, but he also includes the context behind them. The deaths occur in low-socio economic areas, mostly by minority groups, but instead of fixating on the usual discourse of minority youths or groups having “deviant” natures and drawn to crime, Wilber’s narrative outlines the background of the individuals and the circumstances that could have led them to committing the crime or becoming a victim. It conveys further issues that lack addressing in most Western societies, such as drug abuse, lack of job opportunities and lack of support or resources available for residents in disadvantage areas. 

I also liked that the voices of the detectives were included. Wilber showcased each detective involved not only to relay the hard work each officer contributed but to also make them personable and relatable. It’s hard, especially in a US context, to really like police officers following news reports of police abuse and miscarriage of justice. The media coverage on police shootings have negatively impacted the image of police squads and their ability to deliver justice and safety. However, police officers in this recount, though not always perfect, attempt to treat each case with respect and the impact it has on them at a professional and personal level. Homicide cases are not easily solvable, as crime dramas seem to portray, as so I found AGMM to be realistic in that sense as well.

The book is structured so that the recounts are not chronological. I’m moving in and out of the 12 cases, which keeps me engaged but also wanting to know more. I flew through AGMM, reading it in a day and a half. Not once was I ever confused about which case I was reading, and despite finishing this at the end of 2018, I can still recollect details of some of the cases. Wilber was thorough in his description and never fluffed about. It was easy to visualise and recall the events of each case. 

If you want to get into true crime or are already a fan, definitely give this a go!

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