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Joseph Wambaugh writes both crime fiction and true crime books. I love his crime fiction, but his true crime books are my favorites. Most of them deal with crimes that occurred in the U.S., but this book takes place in Narborough, a village in the English Midlands, near Leicester (I took this from the book jacket, so I assume these place locations and their relationships to each other are accurate).

 

Two 15-year old girls are raped and murdered 3 years apart in the same village (Narborough) in the early 1980s. The girls did not know each other and seemed to have few connections. The police worked extrmely hard to try and solve the first crime and then both crimes, but have little success. As I've said elsewhere, Wambaugh worked at the Los Angeles Police Department (14 years) and his sympathies are with the terribly frustrated and unhappy police.

 

Meanwhile, a geneticist doing research on DNA at a nearby university comes up with a procedure that would help the police identify the criminal based on evidence found at the scene. This is all familiar to us now, but watching them realize that they have this new tool and then their efforts to use it to solve the crime is riveting. I found it that way when I first read the book in 1989 and it's still that way. Joseph Wambaugh finds extremely interesting stories and then tells them very well. I highly recommend this book (and his other true crime books).

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I finally got around to reading this book.  I knew the outline of the story well since I did a paper on this genetic technique in school and even read the Sir Alec Jeffreys original publication of his method.

 

It was still an easy read and it made me want to keep at it until it became evident who had committed the crime at that point I just wanted the author to get on with it but he dragged stuff out a bit too much for my liking.  

 

Still though an entertaining read even in my case when I knew the story.  I looked it up and it looks like the killer got a parole review this year, not cool, not cool at all.

Edited by Biochemisty-n-Classics
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    • By Binker
      Joseph Wambaugh has been writing crime fiction and true crime books since the 1970s and every one that I have read by him has been good. He was a member of the Los Angeles Police Department for at least a few years (not sure how long) and so his sympathies are with the police, especially the officers on patrol (as opposed to their bosses or the politicians that oversee the police departments, neither of whom receive a particularly sympathic portrayal).
       
      This is one in the series of books set in the Hollywood, California police Station. As usual, I'm pretty sure I've read these books out of order. The books follow a cast of characters who work at the Station and of course, those in the community around them. Ostensibly, the main character is Nate Weiss, who wants to become an actor and is therefore referred to as "Hollywood Nate," but he's really just one of many characters. In this book, "Crows" is an acronym for community relations officers, who are perceived as having an easy, low-risk job, but who often can see that little complaints may indicate much bigger problems without being able to do much about them. That is definitely the case in this book, although I can't say more without giving away one of the story lines.
       
      I enjoy these books for their odd combination of humor and misery. There are many different story lines, some of which intersect and some of which don't, and many of them are very funny, but others are extremely sad. And the sad ones are always about the damage we do to those who are closest to us. In all of the sad situations, at least one police officer--and often several of them--have a very bad feeling about a situation but can't do much of anything to prevent a terrible outcome.
       
      I would recommend this series, but start with the first book and read them in order--the recommendation I usually fail to follow myself. I also recommend his other non-series fiction and his true crime stories. I'm going to post a separate review of one of the true crime books, mostly because it is set in England, but all of them are very very good.
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