Police Procedurals

Name: Pam Aghababian
Summary/Thoughts: From the Minuteman catalog:
Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”–fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. One per cent doesn’t seem like a lot. But in the United States, that’s 1.7 million people “locked in”…including the President’s wife. Spurred by grief and the sheer magnitude of the suffering, America undertakes a massive scientific initiative. Nothing can restore the ability to control their own bodies to the locked in. But then two new technologies emerge. One is a virtual-reality environment, “The Agora,” in which the locked-in can interact with other humans, both locked-in and not. The other is the discovery that a few rare individuals have brains that are receptive to being controlled by others, meaning that from time to time, those who are locked in can “ride” these people and use their bodies as if they were their own. This skill is quickly regulated, licensed, bonded, and controlled. Nothing can go wrong. Certainly nobody would be tempted to misuse it, for murder, for political power, or worse….John Scalzi’s Lock In is a novel of our near future, from one of the most popular authors in modern science fiction.

The description doesn’t make it sound like a detective mystery at all, but it is. The story revolves around rookie FBI agent Chris Shane, who just happens to be a lock in. Chris uses robots (known as threeps) to interact with the world. The book looks at gender and disability in interesting ways (some reviewers aren’t fans – I had my problems with it but overall was interested). It had enough sci-fi to keep me interested (because I’m not a mystery fan), but I think it could work the other way for mystery fans too.
Genre: Sci-Fi/Mystery
Title: Lock In
Author: John Scalzi
Appeal Factors: A detective story for sci-fi fans, a sci-fi book for mystery fans

Name: Susan Allison
Summary/Thoughts: Summary:  (From NoveList)  An otherwise washed-up LAPD cop with a drinking problem gets a job offer from a small Massachusetts town that is too good to be true, and Jesse Stone finds himself with no one to trust and a town full of moral and political corruption.

-First book in the Jesse Stone series.
-Procedural lite (my term)
-Strong on character & story.
-Quickly paced.
-Characters develop over time, not cliche, strongly drawn.
-Short chapters.
-Parker is able to describe and portray his characters with just a few, well-written strokes.
Genre: Mystery – Police Procedural
Title: Night Passage
Author: Robert B. Parker
Appeal Factors: Action-oriented, Character-driven, Candid tone, Descriptive and also Direct writing style,  Fast-paced and engrossing, Very strong sense of place
Read Alikes: (From NoveList) The Baby Blue Rip-off by Max Allan Collins (Mallory series); Purgatory Chasm by Steve Ulfelder (Conway Sax series); The Tin Collectors by Stephen J. Cannell (Shane Scully series); A Rock and a Hard Place by Darrell Wimberly (Barrett Raines series)

Name: Meena Jain
Summary/Thoughts: From Booklist:
Sergeant Joe Burgess, a Portland, Maine, homicide cop, has a reputation for being a bit mean. And surly. And unruly. And disrespectful to his superiors, not to mention witnesses and suspects. But he is also considered one of the best detectives on the force, which is a good thing, since his latest case is a toughie. A physician is found, murdered in his car. It looks like a simple case of a romantic tryst (the kind that involves money changing hands) gone bad, but Burgess is not one of those cops who settles for the easy answer. Instead, he proceeds to rattle a few cages and make a few enemies, digging deeper into the murdered man’s life than anyone, least of all the killer, wants him to.

There was a lot to like about this book but also several issues which really took me out of the story. The characters were well drawn, the language lyrical, the pacing uneven, and the story, at times, unbelievable. But, when focusing on the characters, I wouldn’t have put this book down. Some of the unbelievable elements – the number of women Joe Burgess either slept with or ogled, the constant issue of his being “tired” (eventually beat/shot up) and the fact that his team worked almost non-stop on one homicide diminished my enjoyment of this book. I might be interested in reading more in this series just to see where the author takes the characters.
Genre: Mystery-Police Procedural
Title: Playing God – 1st book in the Joe Burgess series
Author: Kate Flora
Appeal Factors: Character driven, some great male interactions on the police squad, some romantic elements, interesting backstory of main character and some really intriguing secondary characters

Name: Lisa Gagnon
Summary/Thoughts: Description:  Investigating the thefts of rare book pages from a prestigious Venetian library, Commissario Guido Brunetti is stymied by numerous possible suspects and the murder of a seemingly harmless theologian.
This is the 23rd in the Guido Brunetti series.  I have not read any of the previous novels.
Genre: Police Procedurals
Title: By its cover
Author: Donna Leon
Appeal Factors: Strong sense of place; intricately plotted & leisurely paced

Name: Stefanie Aucoin
Summary/Thoughts: Knots and Crosses is an interesting police mystery because thr main character Inspector Rebus is very much the cliche of the noir inspired world weary detective who lives alone, smokes too much, drinks too much but he is humanized by his ex wife and daughter, Samantha.  He is drawn into a net of crime focused on his life and his past in the SAS, memories he has repressed for a vert long time. The mystery moved very quickly but you never feel rushed as a reader.  Some characters don’t really make sense but I for someone looking to get into police dramas because they liked Gracepoint on tv would enjoy this One.
Genre: police procedural/ mystery
Title: Knots & Crosses
Author: Ian Rankin
Appeal Factors: fast paced, foreign setting, plot driven

Laura Bernheim
Summary/Thoughts: April Woo, a first generation Chinese-American is a police detective, recently moved to a precinct in uptown Manhattan.  On top of dealing with a worrying, disapproving mother, a fiance that she doesn’t really love, a partner, Mike Sanchez that she can’t get out of her head, she’s brought in on two different cases that, at first glance, have no connection to one another.  Ellen Sloane, a young college student, is tortured and burned to death on a solo spring break outing to California, while in New York, up and coming actress, Emma Chapman receives disturbing letters after her appearance in a movie with erotic overtones.  Chapman’s husband, Jason Frank, a psychiatrist, goes out to California and figures out the connection, as the culprit kidnaps Emma back in New York.  April must do her job as well as get through police bureaucracy in order to rescue Emma and bring justice for Ellen.
This is the first in a series about detective, April Woo.
Genre: Police Procedural
Title: Burning Time
Author: Glass, Leslie
Appeal Factors: Pacing: leisurely, extreme details of characters’ thoughts Characterizations: lot of strong secondary characters.  The “main” character, April Woo, is not introduced until several pages into the book.  Lots of back story is established for each character, and every character’s thoughts are expressed, including that of the culprit.  Unlike some amateur detective novels, the victim is very well established before she is killed.   Story Line: Asian-American experience, character driven, police bureaucracy, diversity of NYPD (except for Asians), immigrant experience, family story (April and her mother) Setting: police station (police politics), New York, California (to a smaller extent), city versus small town Detail: gruesome torture scenes, especially the beginning,  Tone: disturbing, creepy, suspenseful, atmospheric Language:  descriptive Genre: hard boiled detective, thriller, psychological suspense,
Read Alikes: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (for the thriller, gruesome parts) The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (for first generation Chinese-American experience) Kiss the Girls by James Patterson Rizzoli and Isles series by Tess Gerritsen (female detectives)

Louise Goldstein
Summary/Thoughts: Beautifully told descriptive novel featuring Inspector Armand Gamache.  The “beautiful mystery” of Gregorian chants and which are the ones that really speak the voice of God parallel another mystery.  Who committed murder in the monastery?  The beautiful and the dark sides of human nature are explored in all of their rage, shame and ecstasy.  A gripping and magnificent novel.  I read this book without having read the other Gamache novels.  Although it is best to start with the first, this particular title can stand on its own.
Genre: Police Procedural
Title: The Beautiful Mystery
Author: Louise Penny
Appeal Factors: Canada, monastery, drug addiction, romance, suspense
Read Alikes: other Louise Penny novels, Brother Cadfael Mysteries

Liz Reed
Summary/Thoughts: (from Encore):
Max Maguire, a twenty-nine-year-old female detective with the New York Police Department, flies to France to attend the wedding of her friend, Chloe Marceau, at a grand estate east of Paris in the Champagne region. There Max meets an older man, the urbane Olivier Chaumont, and experiences a fairy-tale evening. But when Chloe’s widowed aunt, the beautiful and successful Lea de Saint-Pern, is found murdered, Max and Olivier are snapped back into their professional roles. To Max’s chagrin, she is banned from an official investigative role, while Olivier, a magistrate, is put in charge of the investigation. She insinuates herself into the victim’s family until their long-held secrets begin to surface like bubbles in a glass of champagne. After another family member is found dead on the day of Lea’s funeral however, Max puts her career and her tentative relationship with Olivier in jeopardy as her determination to find the murderer–and prove herself in the process–takes over.

This book is definitely not for someone seeking a hard-boiled detective novel.  With it’s lush descriptions of French cuisine, countryside, and champagne and romantic subplot, it is very much like a cozy mystery.  The book would work well for someone who usually reads cozy mysteries or who likes books with foreign settings.

It was a quick read, and the ending was very predictable.  I was a little distracted by the main character, Max, being just too perfect; a few more flaws could have made her more compelling.

One benefit of this book is that it’s the first book in the series, but was only published in 2012.  If a book is too outdated, I am distracted or even put-off by the older language and lack of modern references.  Many series readers want to start at the beginning, so this modern book 1 could be just what they’re looking for.
Genre: Mystery – Police Procedural
Title: Champagne: The Farewell: Vengeance in the Vineyard Mystery #1
Author: Janet Hubbard
Appeal Factors: Woman detective, destination foreign setting, cozy, recent, audiobook available on hoopla
Read Alikes: “Bordeaux: a wise old wine” by Janet Hubbard; Rita Mae Brown books; “Miss Julia Speaks her Mind” by Ann B. Ross; Agatha Raisin books by M. C. Beaton


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