In January 1988, metro reporter David Simon left The Sun to spend a year with the Baltimore Police Department's homicide unit and then write a book about it. The result -- "Homicide: A

Year on the Killing Streets" -- is a fine book, a you-don't-want-to-put-it-down book, but it wasn't an easy book to excerpt for the magazine. The stories are too tightly xTC interwoven. What you'll find starting on Page 8 are the circumstances of two homicides -- perhaps a third of Chapter Four of the book.

Our excerpt ends with the murders of Lena Lucas and Purnell Booker still unsolved; to find out whodunit, you'll have to buy tomorrow's and Tuesday's papers. But if you miss parts two and three, our story still stands on its own as a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a homicide detective in a city where murders are being committed at the rate of about one a day. The gritty sense of being there is what's best about the book.

David was allowed complete access to the workings of the department -- with a few conditions. He had to abide by the department's code of conduct, he couldn't tell the newspaper anything that went on while he was working on the book, he had to accept any limitations to access that superior officers felt were necessary.

"Otherwise," he says in his author's note (and you'll agree after you read the excerpt), "I was free to be a fly on the wall."

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