Review: Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

Book cover to Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy
Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At the center of Leovy's masterful investigation is a nuanced critique of how American society investigates crime and where it so often puts its resources and emphasis in the criminal justice system. By examining how a determined homicide detective pursues the murder of a fellow officer's son in Los Angeles, Leovy shows that there's a fascinating intersection between the historical racism of the criminal justice system with the underfunding of homicide departments, particularly in urban and impoverished area that create a system of violence and murder that impacts many people's lives in urban environments. What I appreciate about the author's work is that she humanizes both the police, the criminals, and the people who must navigate their lives between them. Additionally, the book as a whole is constructed around the murder of and pursuit of the murderer through the officers' dedicated, diligent, and skillful work. This narrative is supplemented with side-stories that cover the historical and social context that create the contours of the narrative such as the underfunding of the homicide police, the failure of criminal justice systems to invest and worry about violence against black bodies (be it by other people of color or by white people) to how challenging it is for people to feel safe in coming forward to identify suspects. Taken together, she offers us a glimpse of what effective homicide detective work can look like when someone has the motivation to go beyond the limited funding and bureaucratic hurdles that stand in their way.

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