Staff Picks

Cops and Criminals: A Broader View of Police Procedurals

They operate out of grimy stations in South London, or Minneapolis, or Venice, but they all have the same mission - to follow the evidence, catch the bad guy, and hopefully not bend the law too much. I like them because there is a reason they find bodies, unlike caterers or booksellers, who after the first couple of corpses should think about changing their line of work.

Crime and criminals are everywhere, and maybe in a few places you haven't thought of. If you're feeling in a rut with your police procedurals, consider what's new in copshops these days.

The Last Policeman by Ben Winters: If an asteroid was going to hit the earth in six months, would you keep doing your job? New Hampshire detective Hank Palace never thought twice about getting out of his line of work, and now he has what looks like a suicide - but feels like a murder. The first book in a trilogy, The Last Policeman looks at duty and responsibility in a very changed world, with a wonderful small city setting and vivid characters.

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye: Curious about the origins of the police force in America? Try Faye's gritty historical novel of the "coppers" of 1845 New York City, who took their moniker from the copper stars they wore. Rich with politics, race, poverty and wealth, this is the first of a thrilling series.

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard: Go even further back, to the perilous days of post-Revolution Paris, where Vidocq, the master of disguise and surveillance, creates the first true detective squad on the continent, to investigate the connection between a penniless medical student and the Dauphin. This tale was particularly good as an audiobook.

The City and the City by China Mieville: Police work hasn't changed as much as you might think in the future, either. Detective Borlu of the Extrime Crime Squad's murder case takes him from the slums to the wealthiest enclaves on Earth. Raymond Chandler meets 1984 with Mieville's brilliant writing carrying you along. Our staff chose this for a book discussion.

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey: A cop's life is a hard one. They see too many terrible things, and only after the fact, never when they could prevent the crime. Detective Miller is one of those hardened veterans, and when he is approached by a wealthy family to "kidnap" their estranged activist daughter, he figures it to be an easy job. But like the best detective stories,, he starts uncovering more and more disturbing clues, until he realizes that he is uncovering a "planned" war. Did I mention that Miller works on Ceres, the largest asteroid in the Belt between Mars and the outer planets? You'll feel right at home when he puts on his porkpie hat and digs for the frightening truth.

The Victoria Vanishes by Christopher Fowler: The Peculiar Crimes Division was a World War Two spinoff of Scotland Yard, designed to address particularly frightening crimes and preserve public morale. With no lack of such crime, the division stuck around into the cellphone age, and Detective Bryant and May are elderly but no less effective. When Arthur Bryant witnesses a murder and returns to his local pub to collect evidence, he finds the pub has disappeared into thin air. A vicious killer, an unorthodox detective, a wry sense of humor, and a treasure trove of London history - in only 323 pages!

Terrier by Tamora Pierce: There isn't a lot of high tech equipment in 16-year-old Beka Cooper's world, but as a new "puppy" in the Provost Guard's "Dogs", she finds a beat cop's work is equal parts shoe leather and persistence. Her first case is a baby's murder, and Beka must learn to trust her veteran partner and overcome her own shyness. A touch of fantasy and an admirable lead makes this a series to treasure.

And just for fun, Guards, Guards by Terry Pratchett: Harry Vimes is the Commander of Ankh-Morpork's Night Watch, a motley crew whose primary goal is to keepout of the rain and stay well away from dangerous criminals (that's what the Assassin's Guild is for). Now there's a new copper in the Watch who wants to actually solve crimes, and Commander Vimes feels his old instincts firing up once more. Oh, there are dragons, and they tend to explode.

A copper's a copper wherever they are, so why not try a police procedural set in St. Petersburg or Absaroka County? Ask the Readers' Services Staff on the third floor for a suggestion, or start your search in the catalog with the subject police - fiction. Use the facets on the left side of the screen to narrow your search by region, timeline or genre. Share your favorites in the comments too!

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