A few months ago, I was in a serious reading rut. As it happens, the book that got me out of that rut was a police procedural: Kate Atkinson’s Started Early, Took My Dog. And I haven’t stopped reading that genre since.
I have never been a person with a favorite type of book—or movie, or food, or place either. I am more of an “appreciate things for its own merits and my perspective-at-the-time person.” What some might label noncommittal.
But it “favorite” is defined as being the thing, or type of thing, that brings you the most joy, by golly, I think police procedurals are my favorite genre of book. I have never said that about any other genre in my life. (Well, okay, since the time I said that the Berenstain Bears books were my favorite.)
I always knew I liked this genre. I took detective fiction as part of my comparative literature focus in college, and loved learning about the theory of this writing style. I’ve read all of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone mysteries. I got especially enthusiastic about the literary category after reading Wrimo and award-winning novelist Elizabeth Haynes’s books. To me, her novels represent the best the genre has to offer. But it took reading many good examples of these novels back to back for me to really start to take notice of why I enjoy them so much.
The confluence of methodical plot progression, ratcheting tension and strategically placed thrills, dispensation of clues and details that make you think, and the ever-present sense of titillating uncertainty makes these books so danged satisfying for me. I appreciate the skill required of the writer to craft an effective police procedural: they have to keep you interested and informed just enough that the reader doesn’t feel duped, and allow you to start to develop your own hunches about how the crime might have gone down.
Often, police procedurals are serial novels centered around a quirky/enigmatic/troubled detective that appears throughout. What skill, to maintain the delicate character and plot requirements of the genre in tandem!
Yes, indeedy. I am hooked and ready for more. If you read this genre, what’s the latest read you’d recommend? And do you have a favorite genre?
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