To read UW-Madison Police Chief Sue Riseling's book, I took a break from Stacy Horn's "A Restless Sleep: Inside New York City's Cold Case Squad." Horn shadowed a group of NYC cops investigating four unsolved murders that had happened as many as fifty years before. This was entirely different from Riseling's story and yet proved to have a number of similarities: it is basically another police procedural just with a different emphasis — and not as well written. Or maybe it's because Horn's book is about murder; it's as good but the subject calls for a different tone.
The book starts a little slowly because Horn provided a lot of backstory for the Cold Case concept and squad creation, as well as the detectives who were investigating the specific cold cases the book focuses on. Like Sue Riseling's book on the Wisconsin Capitol protests, this is the part of law enforcement that most of us don't see. Interestingly, the book (published in 2005) references the cops who found the murdered child who came to be known as "Baby Hope," and whose murder was just solved.
This book has a lot of critical reader reviews on Good Reads and the structure of it makes it disjointed and confusing at times. I think I was about a third of the way into it before it really jelled and I realized there was a very specific, though more unusual structure. The first section laid out the crimes; the second section was about the detecting process and the third section tied up all the stories.
The book has a lot about the NYPD structure, internal politics, jurisdictions, etc. which can be boring but this is what real work life is like: a job you love if the office politics don't make you quit. Though I think UW Police and our local Madison and Dane County cops are nothing like the NYPD that Horn introduces us to, there are still many similar issues that surfaced in both books.
Between 1985 and 2004 there were 8,894 unsolved homicides that took place in NYC. Solving a cold case is like working on a tabletop puzzle with hundreds of pieces that keep shifting, sometimes getting lost or put back in the wrong box. Understanding what it actually takes to solve a cold case — rather than what TV suggests it takes — makes the achievements of the Cold Case Squad impressive.
Thanks to Citizen Reader for introducing me to this and lots of great non-fiction reads.