Police Procedurals – Genre Meeting

February 7, 2012


New display cabinets in front of the circ desk were partially paid for by grant. IS and circulation will work together to set up displays. Molly is purchasing mystery books and audio books with the grant money and she welcomes purchase suggestions. Barry Trott, RA librarian from Williamsburg, VA will be visiting us on the morning of Thursday, April 26. He developed a web based RA form. We have a music advisory service currently available at the library that is based loosely on Trott’s model.  Monday evening, May 7 Sister’s in Crime will be coming to present a program on Modern Heroine’s. The panel includes well known author Julia Spencer-Fleming.

Police Procedurals:

Endurance over time despite obstacles. Seen from the perspective of the police side of things. Established police procedures (culture, hierarchy, etc) Involves figuring out how characters are involved. Role of detective is often to confront and solve worst cases often dealing with instincts and conversely access to lots of information. Protagonist is driven by a sense of justice.

Differences from cozies: Not a fun adventure.

Similarities: Protagonist is a loner and often driven by a sense of justice.

Black Echo:

Michael Connelly has about 20 books. Black Echo, first in the Hieronymus Bosch series, was published in 1992. This book provided lots of back story for a first in series and felt more like the middle of the series. Connelly has a journalistic background, well developed characterizations, some disturbing violence, and develops a mystery that is more complicated case than what is seen on the surface. Reader comments: lots of acronyms and obfuscated language, some “noir”, self-depricating, slow read, redundancy, “never a good time to read” (too violent, complicated, no likely characters), some really liked Bosch, first person and very interior, page turner, handles Vietnam vet issues well, fast paced, perceived as too violent for some and not very violent to others, appealing to those interested in history.

Key descriptors:

Complex, detailed, dark, gritty, page-turner, corruption, urban, dramatic, introspective

Summaries of second books:

Exit Music by Ian Rankin

Last in series, well written, described but not overly violent, protagonist in control, loner, lots of detail of police procedures (handling of evidence, interrogations), excellent dialog, mon-sexist. Set in Edinburgh. Well-written, detailed, strong setting. (Faith)

Gallows View by Peter Robinson

First in series. Set in Yorkshire. Seemingly unrelated plots that come together. Humorous. Inspector’s wife becomes victim. Sexual tension. More cozy than some others. (Susan)

Bleed a River Deep by Brian McGilloway

Set in Ireland. Two simultaneous plots.  Shows international aspects of Ireland, spare wording, sort of gritty, tight plotting, resolved. Fast, tight and modern. (Dylan)

Tooth and Nail by Ian Rankin

First in series. Set in London. Serial killer although somewhat cozy feel to it. Some humor. Raymond Chandler and Alexander McCall feel. (Jason)

Don’t Look Back by Karin Fossum

Deals with class. Set in Norway. Mistaken assumptions about physical and cognitive abilities of those that don’t fit in. Lot of description of architecture and furniture. Tricky plot. Stark, personal grief, loss and sorrow, ordinary desperation. (Erica)

Cop Hater by Ed McBain

1st in 87th Precinct series. Written in 1956. Beginning of police procedurals. McBain helped define the genre. Dated, simple and stereotypical. Sparse language. Dated, simple and interesting. (Susana)

Complaints by Ian Rankin

Complaints and internal investigations. Not a very engaging protagonist – loner, unpleasant. Well written. Set in Edinburgh. Complex plot, intersecting characters, noir, well-written and complex. (Janet)

Naked in Death by JD Robb

Robb is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts. Set in near future New York City. Strong romantic subplot. Some moderate graphic violence and sex. Strong, loner female protagonist. Somewhat typical characterizations but engaging story line. (Lisa)

Green River Killer  by Jeff Jensen and illustrated by Jonathan Case

Graphic Novel- Hybrid of watching a movie and reading a book. Fast read. Well illustrated. Homage to author’s father who was a detective. Graphic violence and sex.  Includes necrophilia. “More about a man than a manhunt.” Gruesome. Worked over decades. Graphic, fast paced, beautifully illustrated. (Andy)

Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh

Simple, uncomplicated, fictional setting similar to Northampton, misogynistic, easy read, plot details revealed slowly. Antiquated, old-fashioned, bland. (Steven)

Live to Tell by Lisa Gardner

Female protagonist, blood details, interesting but not fully developed characters, set in Boston, mild love story. Fast paced, dramatic, complex. (Julie)

Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon

Dark crime that is resolved in the end, set in Venice. Protagonist spends time at parties, walking streets, out to eat. Right versus law. Dark, strong setting, civilized with dark edges. (Ben)

Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo written by Swedish couple.

Written in the 60s. Very procedural – nuts and bolts.  Unable to figure it out by clues given. Victim is a librarian. Distinct style and voice of authors. Slyly humorous. Not overly emotional. Dry, witty, and precise. (Tex)

Open Season by Archer Mayor set in Brattleboro.

Fist in series. Gritty, dark characters that weren’t that well developed. Protagonist is introspective. Very detailed New England setting. Atmospheric. (Molly)

Malice in Maggody by Joan Hess.

Soft boiled. First in series. Set in small town Arkansas. Explicit language but nothing gruesome. Home spun redneck feel. Quirky and easy going pace. (Molly)


It is helpful to keep track of what you read to help your remember, especially helpful when keeping track of series and when providing recommendations. Molly showed three sites that are all free tools and have community aspects and can be used as a reader’s advisory tool. Molly is willing to help people get started with these.

Library thing – searchable, shows jackets, you can tag themes and rank. Provides recommendations and member reviews.

Good Reads – similar, gives updates of what friends are reading, can be connected to Facebook account, allows you to tag things you wants to read

Shelfari – by Amazon

Next meeting will be on Thursday, April 12 with a focus on young adult mysteries. The benchmark title is  A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. 


6 Responses to Police Procedurals – Genre Meeting

  1. Faith K says:

    Mini-Review of _Exit Music_ by Ian Rankin

    This is the last in the Inspector John Rebus series, set in Edinburgh. Rebus is ten days from retirement when the book opens, and a Russian poet is beaten to death. The assumption is it was a random mugging, but the more Rebus and his partner explore the victim’s history and connections, the more it seems that many other people are involved. Russian diplomats and businessmen, Scottish bankers and politicians, and a gangster well know to Rebus through his career are all connected somehow.
    Rankin gives a great deal of detail about the crime solving process, emphasis on the “procedural”–now I know why they’re called that. There are well developed, clearly differentiated characters (a few of them likable, including the protagonist), lots of dialogue, and evocative description of the city of Edinburgh, Scottish speech patterns and cultural identity.
    1) well written
    2) detailed
    3) evocative

  2. Jason M. says:

    “Tooth & Nail” by Ian Rankin

    This is the first in the Inspector Rebus series. Scotlander John Rebus is asked to take a special case in London to help solve a serial killer mystery. Our hero is most definitely not a fan of the big city, but his grouchiness is kept slightly in check due to a new friendship with a certain Inspector Flight. Though they quarrel often and nearly come to blows, their touching friendship was one of my favorite aspects of the novel.

    I was surprised how real the characters seemed in this book. I was expecting something more along the lines of a “caricature” descriptions rather than characters with depth. Rebus, though clever, is not a mastermind or a physically intimidating hero… nor is he just someone who is obsessed with his job. We see his softer side with his ex-wife and teenage daughter. We also witness Rebus be flat out wrong on certain occasions.

    I really enjoyed this book, much more than “Black Echo”. The humor and the surprising light moments made this a great read. If it wasn’t for the insane car chase, grizzly murders and brief explicit language, “Tooth & Nail” could almost qualify for a cozy mystery.

  3. Lisa says:

    My second book was Naked in Death by JD Robb which is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts. This was the first in the “In Death” series that features Eve Dallas, a New York Police lieutenant. The story is set in the near future and involves the murder of a high profile politician’s granddaughter who makes her living as a prostitute (which has been legalized and regulated in the future.) Some graphic depictions of sex and violence. A quick read with quirky characters and a strong romantic sub-plot.

  4. Benjamin K. says:

    Death at La Fenice is the first in Donna Leon’s series of Guido Brunetti mysteries. The story begins when a famous conductor is found dead in his dressing room at La Fenice, during the intermission of the opera he was conducting. Brunetti believes that he must understand the man to solve the mystery, and much of book is occupied with describing his interviews and travels throughout Venice as he learns all he can about the dead conductor. The secrets he eventually reveals are dark, but they don’t weigh the story down overly much. This isn’t a cozy, but with it’s cafes, and restaurants, and fancy parties, it’s often easy to forget that the story began with a death and centers around crime. The characters are well developed, almost as much as the sense of place, which takes a central role. The text is written clearly, is free from jargon, and is often humorous, though never inappropriately.

  5. Paula E. says:

    Changing Woman / Aimee & David Thurlo

    On the Navajo Reservation a series of petty vandalism has escalated into bombings and murder. Policewoman Ella Clah investigates these crimes as she copes with changes in her home life. Her mother has become politically active in tribal politics, stirring up controversy as the tribe debates whether or not to allow casinos on tribal land. Ella’s ex has also decided to become more active in her daughter’s life, just as she has found romance again.

    The book was a quick and interesting read with a lot of details about Navajo culture and how the Navajo are conflicted within their tribe to either maintain their culture or to embrace the modern world. The mystery at the heart of the story moved along quickly and was solved believably and the characters were interesting. This title was number 7 in the Ella Clah series.

  6. Molly says:

    Open Season by Archer Mayor
    Fist in series. Set in Brattleboro, VT. Joe Gunther, a detective with the Brattleboro PD, sees a series of smallish crimes connected to a jury from a closed case of several years earlier. He reopens the investigation against the wishes of his fellow officers. Gunther is a loner going against the system (in some ways). Has very detailed autopsy and forensic details. Gritty, dark characters that weren’t that well developed (compared to Connelly). Protagonist is introspective. Very detailed New England setting. Atmospheric.

    Malice in Maggody by Joan Hess.
    Soft boiled. First in series. Arly Hanks has gone back to her hometown in Maggody, Arkansas and is working as sheriff while she decides what to do next (after living in NYC and going through divorce). An EPA official is kidnapped by the mayor and town council to prevent him signing a contract that would potentially pollute their stream. Almost the whole town is in on it, including Arly’s own mother. To complicate matters, an escaped convict is on the loose, and then a local woman is murdered. Set in small town Arkansas. Explicit language but nothing gruesome. Home spun redneck feel. Quirky and easy going pace.

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