Possibly the best drama series I've ever watched, including The Sopranos. Set in Baltimore, Maryland, The Wire is a police drama in name only. There are no good or bad guys; every character is compromised and yet fully realised. Its link to crime fiction is deliberate, the producers hiring Denis Lehane, Richard Price and George Pelecanos (who also produces) to write episodes, but in the way of the best of crime fiction, it's about a lot more than crime. David Simon, creator and executive producer, puts it thus: "The American obsession with police procedural and crime drama usually only allows for villains –in large part black or brown – who exist as foils, to be pursued and destroyed by cop heroes. We're addressing ourselves to where the villains actually come from, and whether we have any right to regard them as somehow less human than the rest of us." Hailed by virtually every critic of note as brilliant (the San Francisco Chronicle calls it 'broadcast literature' and the Guardian compares it in scope and quality to Dickens and Zola), The Wire is must-see viewing for any serious readers of crime fiction. There’s a fifth and final series in production, so get the DVD box sets: start with series one and figure on taking a sick day or two. It's just that good.– Kevin McCarthy
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.