Top Ten Police Procedurals
I have always been a voracious reader of all types of fiction, but I was drawn to crime fiction long before I became a police officer. Raymond Chandler, Joseph Wambaugh, Lawrence Block, and Rex Stout were a few names that hooked me on the genre. As time went on, my list of favorites expanded and broadened. Even after being on the job for years and seeing the reality, my affinity for crime fiction didn’t wane. I’m not picky about procedurals unless they’re really off the map in fantasyland. I recognize that different departments and agencies do things differently. What works in California might not fly in New York and vice versa. And after writing my own books, I realize you must keep people turning pages and sometimes reality is boring. What the story has to have for me to keep reading above all else is to have likable and realistic main characters, great dialogue, and a plausible investigation. I’m drawn to series—I enjoy being able to keep reading about the characters I like—but my all-time favorite is a stand-alone.

So here are what I consider the top ten police procedurals that I have read. Some of them I’ve read more than once, and a few still have an influence over the way I write. Some are gritty, some not, but all are worth a read.

  1. Demolition Angel by Robert Crais

Maybe not a strict procedural but close, and my all-time favorite piece of crime fiction. Following Carol Starkey, a wounded and struggling hero who has to find a killer targeting bomb squad cops, this is a great read.

  1. The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

This is the book that introduces LAPD Detective Harry Bosch. He is one of my favorite characters, the hardened police detective, without being clichéd. The story is very realistic, right down to the politics and egos in police work.

  1. A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George

Scotland Yard’s Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley is another great character. George’s books are always long, involved, and very worth the time.

  1. The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman

One of the first procedurals I ever read and a great introduction to Navajo culture. Joe Leaphorn is one of the best-written cops ever.

  1. The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen

The books are always better than the movie or the TV series, and this is true of all the Rizzoli and Isles novels.

  1. A Test of Wills by Charles Todd

Introduces Scotland Yard Detective Ian Rutledge. This is a story set right after World War I in Great Britain, and it is refreshing and different.

  1. What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

This is the first book that has completely surprised me in a long time. The story involves a cold case and goes back and forth over the decades—truly a page-turner with many twists and turns.

  1. Still Life by Louise Penny

Another refreshingly different book, set in Canada. Inspector Gamache and the town of Three Pines are wonderful, and the mystery satisfying.

  1. Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag

Detectives Kovac and Liska are two of my favorite characters. They remind me of old-timers, guys I met when I was a rookie. Not sure if any guys like them exist anymore, but Hoag always writes a suspenseful story.

  1. The Choirboys by Joseph Wambaugh

This is a classic novel. It’s the truest novel I’ve ever read about police work, accurately catching the flavor. Though dated now, it is still a great read.


Janice Cantore is a retired Long Beach police officer who now writes suspense novels that keep readers engrossed and leave them inspired. Her twenty-two years of experience on the force lend authenticity to her stories. She has penned seven novels: the Pacific Coast Justice series, Visible Threat, Critical Pursuit, Drawing Fire, and Burning Proof, the second book in the Cold Case Justice series. She also writes a blog about police work.