107 books directly related to police 📚

All 107 police books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

A Philosophical Investigation

By Philip Kerr,

Book cover of A Philosophical Investigation

Why this book?

THEME: Technically, this is not really a work of science fiction per se, even though it takes place in London 2013, twenty-one years before the book's publication. So it explores aspects of the future through a journey into the head of a serial killer and to the heart of murder itself. In the book, London at that time was a city where serial murder has reached epidemic proportions. To combat this raft of murders, the government has created a test to screen people for a predisposition to commit violent crimes. Tested at random, a man is shocked to hear that he fits the model. Yet when he breaks into the computer to erase his name, he discovers a list of his "brothers" a logical idea springs into his mind: What if to protect society he becomes a killer of serial murderers?

The inspector charged with tracking down this sociopath, code-named "Wittgenstein", engages with him in a diabolical cat-and-mouse game, in which the killer engages her in a chilling philosophical dialogue about the nature of life itself.

I'm a big fan of both fast-paced intelligent thrillers and philosophy, so when an author brings the two themes together how can I not like the book? And that's especially true when it's written by a first-rate stylist like Philip Kerr. The story is fast-paced, the antagonist and protagonist are engagingly drawn and the philosophy is perfect. What better way can there be to learn a lot of philosophy and have a great time doing it?


Beat Cop to Top Cop: A Tale of Three Cities

By John F. Timoney,

Book cover of Beat Cop to Top Cop: A Tale of Three Cities

Why this book?

As chief of the Philadelphia Police Department, Timoney ended the notorious practice of “juking” crime statistics to soothe politicians. For example, if you want to lower the murder rate, just book the killers on “manslaughter! This book is by the third of brilliant cops who reformed the NYPD. Compare what they did in 1990 to the current misrule and chaos in the Big Apple and I can truly say to you, “Read it and weep!”


Dead Lagoon: An Aurelio Zen Mystery

By Michael Dibdin,

Book cover of Dead Lagoon: An Aurelio Zen Mystery

Why this book?

Tangled canals. Crooked alleyways. Slumping palazzi 500-hundred years old. Venice is Italy’s most atmospheric city, right? Maybe. Genoa runs a close second. Both are misunderstood and misrepresented in literature. Outsiders don’t dip below the theme-park surface. Except for the late, great Michael Dibden. Dead Lagoon features Commissario Aurelio Zen, a flawlessly drawn Italian detective. What makes me so sure? Genetics, experience, passion. My mother’s family is Venetian (via Rome). I’ve spent decades diving deep into the Lagoon City. I even did a year of college there. When I follow Zen into those crumbling palaces to unnail their intrigues, or watch him dart down bleak alleys stinking of fish and corruption, I know the writing rings true. Dibden “gets” Italy, unlike other, better-known novelists using Venice as a soft-boiled backdrop.


The End of Policing

By Alex S. Vitale,

Book cover of The End of Policing

Why this book?

Vitale is not calling for the abolition of police departments. He details the dramatic growth of these departments and notes police in America use their weapons more than any other police force of developed democracies. Blacks are disproportionately the victims of police killings. Policies like racial profiling and a “warrior mentality” on the part of cops are major reasons why police assault on black people is so widespread.

Police must take on a number of tasks in which they are not qualified to do, such as dealing with the mentally ill and homeless population. In addition, Vitale writes about a number of failed policies, including managing sex workers, the war on drugs, and suppressive measures towards gangs.


Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD

By Max Felker-Kantor,

Book cover of Policing Los Angeles: Race, Resistance, and the Rise of the LAPD

Why this book?

Between 1960 and the 1990s, the budget, size, and power of LAPD dramatically grew in spite of attempts to use regulatory powers of the government to control the police. “Racial targeting was central to the LAPD’s expansion despite twenty years of liberal leadership of the city. The problem in LA, similar to most urban centers, was a reliance on the police to manage social problems that were “rooted in Los Angeles’ history of segregation, inequality, and poverty.” But such an approach “led to disciplinary practices of surveillance, harassment, and arrest that criminalized and excluded black and Latino/a residents.”

Black Los Angeles citizens were seen by the police as threats to public safety and not deemed worthy of the protection of the law. In its battle against crime, social movements, and drug gangs, the Los Angeles Police Department was able to legitimate their authority to use coercive power to control the streets. Thus, police power became constitutive of city politics after WWII. According to the author, the LAPD used its own crime statistics to argue successfully for greater “resources and authority.”


Left You Dead, 17

By Peter James,

Book cover of Left You Dead, 17

Why this book?

I know that each of Peter James’ books could be read as standalone novels, but I do recommend reading them in order. Why? Because of the character development. DI Roy Grace has a wife who disappears without a trace in the first book. That plot doesn’t end, really, until #17. Every one of the Roy Grace stories is worth reading. In every one of them, I learn something new. They are set in the Brighton/Hove area of England, which is south of London and famous as a beach resort.

What is not known is that it has also always been a “den of thieves” the average citizen will never encounter. There are reoccurring thieves and murderers in the series that you won’t want to miss, for instance, the professional hitman who is bitten by a venomous spider, scorpion, and pit viper, but who lives to escape yet again by the next book, and the black widow, the woman who keeps the venomous creatures to kill her husbands for their money. And one character is a sweet dog. 


The Black Echo

By Michael Connelly,

Book cover of The Black Echo

Why this book?

Connelly hits the ground running with his MC, Harry Bosch, the rogue LAPD detective who barely stays in the good graces of his superiors while using his unique skills and insight to solve crimes that other cops won't or can't solve. Bosch has just enough flaws to make him real and believable while at the same time imbuing him with qualities that lift him above the average detective. Connelly's plotting is superb as he ties Bosch to a former Army buddy in Viet Nam who is found dead and no one but Bosch suspects he was murdered. As the players move like pieces in a master chess game, Bosch deciphers the truth by synthesizing a collection of random facts and observations into coherent motives for conspiracy, burglary, and murder.


The Man with a Load of Mischief (A Richard Jury Mystery)

By Martha Grimes,

Book cover of The Man with a Load of Mischief (A Richard Jury Mystery)

Why this book?

The first in Martha Grimes’ pub-named series introduces not one but two detectives: Richard Jury meets Melrose Plant while investigating a case in the wonderfully-named Long Piddleton. It becomes clear from the beginning that these two clever gentlemen, the Scotland Yard detective and Lord of the Realm, are as well-matched as they are handsome. Their backstories make one want to hug them tightly, as do their not-wonderful luck with women. A diverse and frequently annoying cast of cozy characters adds to one’s sympathy for their dual lot. 


Death of a Hollow Man: Inspector Barnaby #2

By Caroline Graham,

Book cover of Death of a Hollow Man: Inspector Barnaby #2

Why this book?

Graham's village mysteries are dark reflections of the villages found in Agatha Christie, and she is especially good at looking under the rocks and finding what's crawling behind the idyllic villages. Chief Inspector Barnaby is the perfect British sleuth, both tough and intelligent. She does a terrific job of finding the problems that drive us in everyday lives, in this case, the secret passions that hide at an amateur production.


The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

By G.K. Chesterton,

Book cover of The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

Why this book?

If Lewis’ Till We Have Faces is a deeply buried metaphor for religious experience, The Man Who Was Thursday requires an excavator to unearth. Both books explain their metaphors in the final pages, but Thursday does this much less clearly. Unless you’re pretty familiar with Christianity, you’re probably gonna miss it. But what a wonderful surprise to get to the end of this strange story and realize that Chesterton was sneakily describing the sneakiness of God’s beauty, just like Lewis did.


Ten Plus One

By Ed McBain,

Book cover of Ten Plus One

Why this book?

The late, great Ed McBain inspired a whole generation of crime fiction authors (including me) and influenced television too. Hill Street Blues was based on his character-driven novels and changed cop shows forever.

Ten Plus One is just one of the many in the 87th Precinct series, and as close to the perfect crime fiction novel that a mere mortal can get.


The Cater Street Hangman

By Anne Perry,

Book cover of The Cater Street Hangman

Why this book?

I’m a woman. I have been successful in my profession, but even in today’s world, I have had to endure patronizing and sometimes obstructive men, who clearly showed that women were not welcome. The maxim that to succeed in a man’s world you had to be twice as smart and work twice as hard, still holds true. So, I am drawn to stories of strong women, like Charlotte Pitt in The Cater Street Hangman, who overcame the obstacles created by the beliefs and rules of the society in 1800s England. I am also the great-granddaughter of the protagonist of my own book, and was raised on stories of her life and how she survived and triumphed despite the rigours of her life and times.

While the policeman Thomas Pitt is the protagonist of this novel, his wife Charlotte, born to an upper-class family, defied the strict rules of her society to marry “beneath her.” Her connections to the aristocracy of the time, England in the 1800s, her intelligence, and her strength of character allow her to assist her husband, providing an entree to a society that scorns those of lower birth. The book taught me a great deal about Victorian England and how the strength of character and determination would allow me to overcome obstacles in my own path.


The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries

By Emily Brightwell,

Book cover of The Inspector and Mrs. Jeffries

Why this book?

If you love underdog stories, this one offers a double helping. First, Inspector Witherspoon’s career is threatened by ambitious and unscrupulous men who want to see him fail. Secondly, his household staff are the real heroes, tracking down clues that they cleverly feed to their unsuspecting employer to help him solve murder cases. Each staff member has unique methods for uncovering information, and together they make an effective team. I chuckle at their close calls as they scramble to hide their secret sleuthing from the inspector and the rest of the police force.  

This first novel gives the backstory: what’s at stake for the inspector and his household, plus why his housekeeper (Mrs. Jeffries) is a plausible and capable sleuth.


The Black Dahlia

By James Ellroy,

Book cover of The Black Dahlia

Why this book?

I was, and still am, obsessed by the story of the Black Dahlia. Is it any wonder that I fell completely under the spell of this novel? Ellroy writes a tight, violent vision of what a horrific case can do, psychologically, to detectives. Cops are no less human than the rest of society, and the constant exposure to the worst, darkest, most terrible aspects of humanity erodes them. The Black Dahlia demonstrates this erosion brilliantly. 


Uncommon Passion

By Anne Calhoun,

Book cover of Uncommon Passion

Why this book?

Character transformations do it for me every time and boy, does this book deliver. Rachel escapes a religious community knowing what she wants and unafraid to go for it. She recruits Ben to take her virginity without telling him, and when he finds out, fireworks ensue. He’s initially an unworthy hero with a cynical heart, but we gradually see him become a better man with her.

Anything by Anne Calhoun delivers great steamy scenes, but in this particular book, Rachel’s discovery of sex, with Ben to teach her, is off the charts. Anne draws you in from the first word. Their undeniable chemistry is engrossing. Couple that with complex characters and a beautiful story between two very different people, and you have a barnstormer!


The 20th Victim

By James Patterson, Maxine Paetro,

Book cover of The 20th Victim

Why this book?

This book grabs you from the first page and doesn't let go until the very end. I loved the pacing of this murder mystery novel. The book starts out with three murders that have happened at the exact time, one in Chicago, one in L.A., and the third in San Francisco. The main character, SFPD sergeant Lindsey Boxer attempts to solve them with the help of the Women’s Murder Club. The interaction between the women as they go about their investigation is the best I’ve ever read. 


The Last Kashmiri Rose

By Barbara Cleverly,

Book cover of The Last Kashmiri Rose

Why this book?

 The Last Kashmiri Rose: Murder and Mystery in the Final Days of the Raj is the first of Barbara Cleverly’s 13 Joe Sandilands mysteries. In March of 1922, Sandilands’ return to Scotland Yard from Calcutta is delayed by Bengal’s governor, who sends him to a military post where his niece Nancy’s husband is Controller. Nancy’s best friend has committed suicide, according to the local police. But Nancy has learned that since 1911, four other officers’ wives have died in peculiarly violent circumstances. After Sandilands’ investigation uncovers a series of murders, he looks for the murderer amidst tea parties, dances, picnics, and dinners. The portrait of Anglo-Indian society, in which every need is supplied by socially invisible native servants, is excellent.


The Onion Field

By Joseph Wambaugh,

Book cover of The Onion Field

Why this book?

As a high school senior planning a career in law enforcement, I was mesmerized by Joseph Wambaugh’s account of the kidnapping of two Los Angeles police officers in 1963, and the murder of one of them.  Wambaugh unsympathetically details the stories of the two men convicted in the case, while at the same time humanizing the officer who survived and suffered from humiliation and guilt again and again throughout seven years of court proceedings against the men who kidnapped him and murdered his partner. The courtroom dialogue is verbatim, and to me, that leads to a feeling that the reader is actually there watching the proceedings. Wambaugh is a superb writer, and I consider this book is another must-read.


The Crime Fighter: How You Can Make Your Community Crime Free

By Jack Maple, Chris Mitchell,

Book cover of The Crime Fighter: How You Can Make Your Community Crime Free

Why this book?

Maple was the architect of the tactics that allowed the NYPD to lower homicides by 60% in two miraculous years from 1990–1992. This book is easy to read and often funny, which doesn’t obscure Maple’s tactical genius. The story of how a lowly transit cop who fancied suits, vests, bow ties, and homburgs became Assistant Commissioner of Police in New York is astonishing. You can only regret that Maple was never able to use his fake “Gun-Sniffing Dog” ploy to flush suspects with concealed firearms. It was sheer genius.


The Shape of Water

By Andrea Camilleri, Stephen Sartarelli (translator),

Book cover of The Shape of Water

Why this book?

Until his death in 2019, the Sicilian-born Camilleri was the king of the Italian mystery novel scene. His detective, Inspector Montalbano, became a beloved fixture in Italy thanks to a TV series based on his adventures. I love Montalbano because a) he’s a decent man trapped in an often-corrupt Sicilian environment, and b) boy, does he love great Italian food! The series is 28 books long; it’s worth starting with the first one to see if you love this world.



A Season for the Dead

By David Hewson,

Book cover of A Season for the Dead

Why this book?

If you diligently work your way down this list, you’ll travel to Sicily, Venice, Florence, and Naples. But none of these cities beat Rome. I’m biased, of course. My wife and I lived in Rome when we were first married. When I close my eyes, I swear I see Caravaggios and I can still smell the woodsmoke and simmering pasta sauce that perfume Rome’s air. All of which brings me to Hewson’s Nic Costa novels. I don’t think anyone nails Rome’s sinister criminal quality the way Hewson does, but he still manages to capture the Eternal City’s beauty, food, and art. (Hewson’s a Brit who travels to Italy often; it's totally worth checking out his Instagram account.) Currently 10 books in the series. If you like them, investigate his standalone novels, some of which are also set in Italy.


Policing Twentieth Century Ireland: A History of An Garda Síochána

By Vicky Conway,

Book cover of Policing Twentieth Century Ireland: A History of An Garda Síochána

Why this book?

In contrast to earlier works on the Garda history, Conway frames policing experience in Ireland by examining its history and development in the context of post-colonialism, its impact, and lived experiences. As Ireland achieved independence, she shows, ‘time constraints and lack of alternative experience led to the retention of many core features of colonial policing’, resulting in an organisation ideologically different but practically similar to the Irish forces of the preceding century. In 1925, the new police of the Irish Free State absorbed the Dublin Metropolitan Police, the Civic Guards, who filled the niche left vacant by the disbanded Constabulary, and contentiously, many ex-RIC men. Conway skillfully weaves gardaí interviews into this varied contemporary history of policing the Republic of Ireland.


Jar City: An Inspector Erlendur Novel

By Arnaldur Indridason,

Book cover of Jar City: An Inspector Erlendur Novel

Why this book?

Another work of fiction, (in fact, another Icelandic Noir), this book explores modern ramifications of Nordic kinship relationships and the limited Icelandic gene pool. It has a tremendous sense of place and is deeply wintry and claustrophobic. An unsettling mystery by a modern master of the form.


Gorky Park, 1

By Martin Cruz Smith,

Book cover of Gorky Park, 1

Why this book?

This novel is now forty years old, but it’s such a marvelous piece of mystery writing that it’s still worth recommending to any aspiring novelist who hasn’t read it. This is the introduction of Cruz’s wonderful Russian cop, Arkady Renko, one of the best characters in crime fiction. Smith’s writing carefully and skillfully invokes for us a sense of Soviet-era society, the dangers lurking in it, both unique and universal, and shows us how Renko navigates his way through it all to find out what has happened and why. What this book should teach a writer is how well it pays off to really learn your craft and practice it in every word on every page.  


Legion

By William Peter Blatty,

Book cover of Legion

Why this book?

Due to the financial success of The Exorcist film, a sequel was ordered (The Exorcist II: The Heretic) which had no involvement from the original writer and director and was universally panned. William Peter Blatty then wrote a screenplay for what would have been a sequel to the original film that ignored the second entry. William Friedkin, the director of The Exorcist, was attached but backed out. Blatty turned his inactive script into what became the novel, Legion, which he eventually re-adapted and directed in 1990. The majority of the book is dialogue, so it’s easy to see its origins as a screenplay, but that does not make it any less effective.

This story takes a minor character from the original novel, Detective Kinderman, and chronicles his confrontation with a patient in a mental institution claiming to be possessed by the spirit of a dead serial killer. How does this happen? Apparently, the demon from the first book was still super pissed about being exorcised a few years ago and thus enabled the killer’s ghost to inhabit various bodies. Though not as overtly horrific or popular as its predecessor, this story excels at building suspense interspersed with deep, philosophical monologues. The advice we can take from this story is not to underestimate how resentful demons can be. Though you may survive an exorcism, the demon’s saltiness lives on. 


Sidetracked

By Henning Mankell,

Book cover of Sidetracked

Why this book?

Police Inspector Kurt Wallander is called to a rapeseed field where a girl is hanging around. He arrives just in time to see her pour gasoline on herself and put herself on fire. The next day Sweden’s former Minister of Justice is killed and scalped. Wallander is desperate to find the murderer before he strikes again.

Henning Mankell has been called ‘the dean of Nordic Noir,’ and his novels about policeman Kurt Wallander shows why; Sidetracked, being one of my personal favourites. Frightening crime and a very human policeman with an old-fashioned moral code strives to solve them and stay sane. What is especially brilliant with the Kurt Wallander books is how Mankell places Wallander in a real-world with problematic relations with his daughter, his father, and work partners; dreams he doesn’t act on; and living real-time events that involve his profession and the world at large.


The Marshal's Own Case

By Magdalen Nabb,

Book cover of The Marshal's Own Case

Why this book?

Nabb’s Marshal Guarnaccia, unflamboyant and patient, is an unspectacular thinker but a brilliant listener with a real, if unsentimental sympathy for the people he deals with on both sides of the law. Without fancy vices or personal charisma, Guarnaccia’s fundamental decency is nowhere on better display than in The Marshal’s Own Case, set among the desperate young transgender prostitutes of the Florentine sex trade, a culture quite different from the Marshal’s own secure family life.


Relentless: A Thriller

By Simon Kernick,

Book cover of Relentless: A Thriller

Why this book?

Simon Kernick is a master at keeping the reader engaged. His books have an amazing pace, and you will 100% commit to the story. Relentless moves you seamlessly through an array of emotions, as you read. You feel desperately for the protagonist, willing him to escape his torment and tormentors. This book twists and turns and gallops you from the first page, right to the last. Prepare to feel exhausted!  


The Profession: A Memoir of Community, Race, and the Arc of Policing in America

By Bill Bratton, Peter Knobler,

Book cover of The Profession: A Memoir of Community, Race, and the Arc of Policing in America

Why this book?

Bratton became New York City police commissioner in the early 1990s when there were more than 2,000 homicides a year. His reforms, including the widely copied CompStat program for pinpointing where crimes were occurring, and then concentrating policing to prevent those crimes, helped bring about a huge decline in crime. This often self-congratulatory memoir is nevertheless full of insights into how to improve policing and make cities safer and more livable.


The Murder Room: An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery

By P. D. James,

Book cover of The Murder Room: An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery

Why this book?

It is hard to resist a detective who is also a poet. Such wordy pursuits, mingled with crime detection, loudly declare sensitivity and left-brain-right-brain involvement, a perfect combination in the elegant, exceedingly attractive Adam Dalgliesh. (My own detective is named, in part, after him.)

All the Dalgliesh mysteries are marvelous. However, in The Murder Room, the detective’s new relationship with Emma Lavenham comes to a critical point. As the description says, “as he moves closer and closer to a solution to the puzzle, he finds himself driven further and further from commitment to the woman he loves.” The poor dear.


Abolition for the People: The Movement for a Future Without Policing & Prisons

By Colin Kaepernick (editor),

Book cover of Abolition for the People: The Movement for a Future Without Policing & Prisons

Why this book?

If we are to reverse, dismantle, or eliminate mass incarceration we need an alternative model for addressing a reality where harm and injustice exist. We can never eliminate harm, but this book, through short writings by well-known authors constructs not only a clear case for eliminating prisons, jails, and policing but helps us to imagine how we might get to such a world through our own collective actions. Brought together by the most famous person to be banished by the National Football League, this volume stirs the soul and takes us on what may perhaps be an uncomfortable but very necessary journey. I have one essay in this book, entitled "Challenge E-Carceration" which contests the notion that electronic monitors and other punitive technologies are an alternative to incarceration. 


Transient Desires: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery

By Donna Leon,

Book cover of Transient Desires: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery

Why this book?

With this book, we get to visit Venice which might be my favorite Italian city. Ms. Leon has written a long-running series always set in Venice. It features an Italian detective (Commissario Guido Brunetti), his professorial wife, two children, an incompetent supervisor, and a secretary that is an IT geek. I like the series as I can feel myself walking down the streets of Venice Island over bridges, and in boats on the canals. The inspector goes home for lunch most days, something that you don’t find in America. She does a good job of describing a way of life in Venice beyond the mystery story.


Pictures of Perfection

By Reginald Hill,

Book cover of Pictures of Perfection

Why this book?

I very much doubt that Reginald Hill intended Pictures of Perfection to appear on a Best M/M list! It’s a quintessentially English tale with a backdrop of class-based snobbery and the threat to rural life from development. It’s also the sole book in Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe mystery series wherein Hill’s gay detective sergeant, Edgar Wield, takes centre stage. Wield finds more than a missing policeman when he’s sent to the village of Enscombe! Nothing to worry even the most sex-repulsed asexual here although, with hindsight, these stories can seem problematic in other ways: Dalziel is so non-woke. However, it was being a fan of Wield and Hill’s books that got me writing my own gay mysteries, so I’m ever grateful.


The Snowman

By Jo Nesbo, Don Bartlett (translator),

Book cover of The Snowman

Why this book?

Nesbø has become somewhat of a cliché in Norway, because of the staggering amount of books he sells. But this book showcases why he sells so many books—if you’re only going to read one book by Nesbø, read this one! It will take you across Oslo, and again has elements of both crime fiction/mystery and fiction. 


Rivers of London

By Ben Aaronovitch,

Book cover of Rivers of London

Why this book?

Easily one of the best series in fantasy in this century, Rivers of London gets to be the London representative, another of the toughest slots in English SFF in a city that’s had stories set in it by so many great authors. The reason I’d pick Aaronovitch over other favourite authors (Gaiman, Mieville, Pratchett, Schwab) is because the whole series is absolutely aglow with love for its setting, and exploration of London's deepest and darkest corners and people. The ‘grown-up Harry Potter is a fantasy police detective’ premise and the seamless, funny, and action-packed writing are definitely enough to draw any reader in.


Corpse Had a Familiar Face

By Edna Buchanan,

Book cover of Corpse Had a Familiar Face

Why this book?

In 1987, the year I first got serious about writing mystery fiction, Pulitizer prize-winning Miami Herald crime-reporter Edna Buchanan published this book on some of the 5,000 cases she’d covered. I’m a lawyer by training and knew the importance of getting the details right, and Edna’s book was my first training ground in real crime. Her wry humor made even tragic daily news readable and memorable—and she was a fierce lady who wrote not about cops or crime, but about people.


Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of World War I to the Streets of Today

By Anna Feigenbaum,

Book cover of Tear Gas: From the Battlefields of World War I to the Streets of Today

Why this book?

Anna Feigenbaum’s book describes the origins of tear gas as a weapon of war and its transition to a crowd control tool. Tear Gas tells a story about the relationships between militaries, arms manufacturers, and police forces that has critical public policy and societal implications today. The continued use of tear gas to counter-protest movements and mass demonstrations around the globe remains a challenge for advocates of arms control, social justice, and human rights.


Rivers of London

By Ben Aaronovitch,

Book cover of Rivers of London

Why this book?

I picked this up, on a recommendation, without any particular expectation, and by the time I’d reached the first murder, presented through the snarky narration, I was hooked. As a premise, it sounds quite ordinary, Peter Grant is a young police officer about to be drawn in to the tiny department that looks after all things magical, but Ben Aaronovitch invited me into a world of surprises, invention, and thrills. I have worked for large companies and for the Civil Service, so the sharp observations of office politics and police “management speak” and its perception by the frontline officers felt very familiar. Of course I also feel entirely at home in his world of Newtonian magic, psychotic puppets, and squabbling river goddesses.

Go. Read. Enjoy.


Hell of a Book

By Jason Mott,

Book cover of Hell of a Book

Why this book?

This National Book Award-winning novel is the story of an unnamed writer negotiating life in a Black skin that pre-empts most people from seeing him as an individual human being. And it has one of the funniest (pee-in-your-pants) first chapters I’ve ever read.

I not only laughed, but I so identified with the writer (and I think most readers will, no matter what your race—that is the genius of this writing), that I lived every moment of this crazy quest to be seen in a world that absolutely refuses to drop its projections.

But ultimately, the person who needs to see this man as a human being, accepting all of his history, hurt, and uniqueness, is the unnamed writer himself. This is a combination of crazy humor and pain.


How the Light Gets in

By Louise Penny,

Book cover of How the Light Gets in

Why this book?

Louise Penny’s entire Inspector Armand Gamache series is a treat. I’ve yet to read an entry that hasn’t touched me. Once you visit the fictional hamlet of Three Pines, you won’t want to leave. But this ninth book in particular highlights the way Penny’s broken characters strive to let the light in. In this book, the ever-insightful Chief Inspector Gamache maintains his integrity, kindness, and conviction while investigating a baffling murder and dealing with personal and professional betrayals that seem to grow ever larger. His unflagging courage is an inspiration.


The Bone Collector

By Jeffery Deaver,

Book cover of The Bone Collector

Why this book?

After watching the film version of The Bone Collector, I searched out the book, knowing it would be for more interesting structurally for a fellow writer. When reading the novel, I was most impressed with the massive amount of research Deaver must have done before writing the book. Weaving technical information into fiction is a tricky thing—it can get rather tedious and boring to the reader if not handled well--but Deaver does it with finesse. As a crime fiction writer, I came to realize that I had to be more meticulous with my research to maintain veracity in my own work.


Officer Buckle and Gloria

By Peggy Rathmann,

Book cover of Officer Buckle and Gloria

Why this book?

I‘ve loved this book for years and if you haven’t read it, please give yourself a treat. Gloria, a dog of few words but lots of action, is one of my all-time favorite picture book characters. Officer Buckle is earnest when he gives his school talks on safety. Gloria, the police dog, is his sidekick and buddy. They have ice cream after their presentations. He thinks she obeys. But when he discovers she has been delighting their audiences while sneakily upstaging him with her antics, he refuses to do any more school talks. The show must go one with just Gloria—alone. But it’s no good. There is a happy ending to this book about teamwork and friendship. The Caldecott Medal-winning art is sublime.


Smallbone Deceased: A London Mystery

By Michael Gilbert,

Book cover of Smallbone Deceased: A London Mystery

Why this book?

For my last pick, I’ve chosen a novel published near the end of the Golden Age (roughly the 1920s through the 1950s). Author and solicitor Michael Gilbert set his novel in the chambers of Horniman, Birley, and Craine. After the death of the firm’s senior partner, a hermetically sealed deed box is opened, revealing the corpse of Marcus Smallbone, a co-trustee with the late Mr. Horniman of the valuable Ichbod Trust. With the help of newly qualified solicitor Henry Bohun, Chief Inspector Hazelrigg sorts through a maze of lies and misdirection to uncover the surprising perpetrator and motive. Martin Edwards, in the foreword to the Poisoned Pen Press edition, said, “The book blends in masterly fashion, an authentic setting, pleasingly differentiated characters, smoothly readable prose, and a clever puzzle.” 



A Great Deliverance

By Elizabeth George,

Book cover of A Great Deliverance

Why this book?

This is the first book in George’s twenty-one book series featuring Scotland Yard Inspector Thomas Lynley, the eighth earl of Asherton, and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, a commoner.

When I read A Great Deliverance, I fell in love with George’s beautiful writing, found her two characters fascinating, and adored the cast of characters supporting the detectives. Plus, the book is unusual because the reader knows from the start who the killer is and the investigation focuses on why she killed him.

When I sat down to write my first ever fiction, Linley and Havers were the inspiration for my two detectives, NYPD Detectives Chiara Corelli and P.J. Parker. And I learned from George that the characters are as important, if not more important, than the plot. She inspired my writing.


A Share in Death

By Deborah Crombie,

Book cover of A Share in Death

Why this book?

As a writer I look to Crombie’s Constable Duncan Kincaid/Sergeant Gemma James series for guidance on how to have your characters grow professionally and personally, to age and experience the kind of changes people go through in real life. I recommend book one of the nineteen in the series, A Share in Death, because it sets up the relationship between the two detectives.


The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir

By Cylin Busby, John Busby,

Book cover of The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir

Why this book?

When I was 10 I disappeared from my life for a while. I left school, home, and my family to live in a hospital for several months. This break in my own childhood narrative is what got me into the Busby story. Cylin Busby was nine years old when her dad, John, a police officer, was shot. Her father survives, but the family is forced to disappear for their own protection. 

While the book is written by a father and daughter, it is Cylin’s young nine-year-old voice that pulled me in, reminding me what it is like to be a child and powerless as the world around you falls apart. That sounds dark, but children have a way of finding hope. This story has a happy(ish) ending.


Polar Star

By Martin Cruz Smith,

Book cover of Polar Star

Why this book?

Glasnost. Honestly, I was expecting to pick Gorky Park for this list. The first installment of the Arkady Renko series made a significant impression on me as a teenager, as I was completely immersed in the gritty life in the Soviet Union. But then I found Polar Star in my library and remembered what I loved about this story. It is as tightly woven as the weirs of the net spun by the fishing boat where the murder investigator Renko now has to work. It's set on a fishing boat that mimics Russian society. And even during the liberalization of the late eighties, it becomes clear: the Soviet Union is the Soviet Union is the Soviet Union.


A Test of Wills: The First Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery

By Charles Todd,

Book cover of A Test of Wills: The First Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery

Why this book?

I chose this series, not because of the fun crimes Scotland Yard Inspector Rutledge solves, but because he is a soldier from WWI who battles PTSD. He experiences some of the symptoms other soldiers had, or have, following a traumatic war experience. His dead corporal constantly pesters him throughout the series by being a voice in his head. Additionally, after his fiancée leaves him following the war, he has intimacy issues and cannot express his feelings for the woman he loves. To cope with his sleeplessness and PTSD, he immerses himself in the cases he’s assigned. This series, in part, inspired my book. 


The Murder Book

By Jonathan Kellerman,

Book cover of The Murder Book

Why this book?

This is the first Alex Delaware book that I read, and I became immediately hooked. Delaware is a psychologist-detective based in Los Angeles, who works very closely with his good friend, Milo Sturgis, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. This story has them both looking back in time to a murder that Milo failed to solve. Between them they scour the “City of the Angels” and get to grips with this old case that never quite went away.


The Dogs of Riga

By Henning Mankell,

Book cover of The Dogs of Riga

Why this book?

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s set in Sweden and takes the reader to Latvia during the disintegration of the Soviet Union, so it touches on another genre that I like to dip into—spy novels. The hero is Kurt Wallander, a sympathetic character, who’s just trying to do his job which, in this case, means dealing with the bodies of two torture victims that have been discovered on the Swedish Coast. Now read on …


Death of a Red Heroine

By Qiu Xiaolong,

Book cover of Death of a Red Heroine

Why this book?

There’s a kind of charm and naïveté about the detective in this book, he is a relatively strait-laced character and his shock and moral outrage at the sexual and material excesses of some of the corrupt children of high-ranking CCP officials betokens a wholly different society and upbringing, conditioned by Party propaganda. Inspector Chen revels in poetry and ‘good' food, although descriptions of banquets of turtles and bear’s paws again speak of different cultural tastes. The story is delivered slowly—this is set in a Shanghai before computers and mobile phones and the hero must wend his way around town to speak to witnesses by bus and train. It’s a satisfying read and an evocative journey to a faraway time and place.


Chokehold: Policing Black Men

By Paul Butler,

Book cover of Chokehold: Policing Black Men

Why this book?

Butler argues that the large increase of police assaults and killings of black men is not a breakdown in law enforcement or the activities of a few rogue cops. The system is doing what it has been designed to do. Police hurt black men, according to the author because “that is what they are paid to do.” Butler maintains that the Chokehold “is a way of understanding how American inequality is imposed.” It is a tool of oppression. One outcome of the Chokehold is mass incarceration. The construction of the thug is a means of justifying the Chokehold. Butler traces the “Ape” or “dehumanization” thesis.

The book contains loads of data showing how in city after city black people are disproportionately targeted by police officers. Programs such as Obama’s My Brothers’ Keeper ignores women and plays into perpetuating stereotypes of black men as the primary victims of racism.


Inspector Mallon: Buying Irish Patriotism for a Five-Pound Note

By Donal P. McCracken,

Book cover of Inspector Mallon: Buying Irish Patriotism for a Five-Pound Note

Why this book?

Inspector Mallon covers the latter decades of the nineteenth century in Dublin history, which were characterised by unrest, extremist violence, and police strikes. The late 1800s were also the service years of the celebrated Dublin Police detective John Mallon, ‘the Great Irish Detective’. The book explores the behind-the-scenes relationships between official Dublin and the force, and between the police and the political activists. McCracken examines the impact the Dublin detectives, known as G-men due to their work in the G Division, had on undermining the political threats and bringing known Fenians and members of the Invincibles, responsible for the horrific Phoenix Park murders, to trial.


The Troubled Man

By Henning Mankell,

Book cover of The Troubled Man

Why this book?

I love good writing, and I love the escapism provided by detective and spy thrillers. Choosing between so many quality authors: Le Carré, Dexter, James, Rankin, Nesbo, etc. is almost impossible and completely unfair. However, the series of Wallander novels by Mankell is one of my favourites. I have chosen the final book in the series – but obviously you should start with the first! As with most detective stories, Mankell’s hero has a messy life, his father doesn’t understand him (and vice-versa), his wife has left him, he has a hit & miss relationship with his only daughter, but in this novel you can feel that Wallander’s life is slowly, but perceptibly, unravelling. The key events that are the focus of this tale become more and more apparently contradictory and complex and at times the tension is almost palpable. It must be difficult for novelists to draw a close to the fictional lives and worlds that they have created, as in the case of detective Kurt Wallander in Ystad, southern Sweden. Nevertheless, Mankell does it brilliantly and with enormous sympathy and insight into the human condition.


Tokyo Year Zero: Book One of the Tokyo Trilogy

By David Peace,

Book cover of Tokyo Year Zero: Book One of the Tokyo Trilogy

Why this book?

Tokyo Year Zero follows detective Minami on the hunt for a serial killer in the immediate post-war period. It is a haunting and addictive journey inside the underbelly of Japan’s shattered capital city in the glaring light of defeat. There is crime, gang warfare, desolation, corruption, and decay. But Peace is above all a master of language, and his prose – fragmentary, truncated, hallucinatory – produces an idiosyncratic rhythm that mirrors the mental disintegration of a man and the convulsions of an entire city. A novel that will stick to your skin years after reading it.


Faithful Place

By Tana French,

Book cover of Faithful Place

Why this book?

All of Tana French’s books are characterized by intensity. Her protagonists have powerful backstories that generate the emotional drive to solve the mystery they face. In Faithful Place, set close to the present day, the protagonist Frank Mackey grew up working class in Dublin. Now he’s a detective, called home to Faithful Place when his family discovers a suitcase in an abandoned building—a suitcase that belonged to Frank’s girlfriend Rosie, who vanished years ago, the night she and Frank were to run away together to London. Frank always believed that Rosie abandoned him; but what if she was murdered? In solving this case, Frank must excavate his family’s history and his own emotionally wrenching past, which shapes both the mystery arc and the subplot of this book—Frank’s reconciliation with his ex-wife and his daughter. This book is poignant, painful, and suspenseful, with a powerful ending. 


Alive in Necropolis

By Doug Dorst,

Book cover of Alive in Necropolis

Why this book?

This, Dorst’s first novel, adopts the trappings of a police procedural but is at heart a character drama seasoned with elements of the supernatural. It follows the fortunes of a rookie cop in the “cemetery city” of  Colma, California, whose charges, he quickly discovers, include both the living and the dead. Recommended if you like your ghosts eerie and your human beings haunted not only by wakeful spirits but by their own personal blunders and false starts.


Suspect

By Robert Crais,

Book cover of Suspect

Why this book?

In Suspect by Robert Crais, all seems hopeless for LAPD-K-9 officer Scott James who can’t work, can’t sleep, and can’t manage his anger after the brutal death of his partner. Maggie, a German shepherd back home from Afghanistan, is in the same boat - traumatized and nearly broken after losing her handler in a deadly attack. These two damaged souls are partnered up and knowing that this may be their last chance to return to the land of the living, begin to form a reluctant bond. Scott’s and Maggie’s connection strengthens as they are thrust into an investigation that could get them both killed – the death of Scott’s former partner. 

Suspect is a novel I revisit every few years. The relationship forged between Scott and Maggie is one for the ages and a testament to the healing power of love, acceptance, and self-forgiveness.


Make Room! Make Room!: The Classic Novel of an Overpopulated Future

By Harry Harrison,

Book cover of Make Room! Make Room!: The Classic Novel of an Overpopulated Future

Why this book?

Written in 1966, Make Room! Make Room! was the basis for the 1973 film Soylent Green—it’s one of those great books that (like The Exorcist) was totally overshadowed by its equally great film version. It’s set in 1999, in a grossly overpopulated and polluted world in which people are scrambling for ever-diminishing resources. It mainly follows the life of NYC detective Andy Rusch and his elderly roommate Sol—who has finagled a bicycle-powered generator to run the TV and refrigerator in their small apartment. Rusch falls in love with Shirl, the young mistress of a rich man whose murder Rusch is investigating, but Shirl dumps him when she realizes she has better options with the rich rather than the poor.

Make Room! Make Room! is a cautionary tale about unchecked population, and it’s driven not so much by plot as by what Harry Harrison had on his mind: pollution, the problem of feeding teeming masses of people, dwindling educational resources, and the general degradation of the human spirit in crowded conditions. Funnily enough, the Earth’s population is now well in excess of the 7 billion that inhabit the world of Harrison’s novel—there are of course massive challenges facing us, but things aren’t nearly as bad as Harrison’s dark novel paints them to be. Still, this is a fascinating and moving book, not least because of the ways in which Harrison draws you into the lives of his struggling, desperate characters.


Mystic River

By Dennis Lehane,

Book cover of Mystic River

Why this book?

I always know I’m reading a thought-provoking book with a strong sense of place when I marvel at the descriptions and say to myself, “I want to do that too!” In fact, I didn’t even really become a crime fiction fan until I was well into adulthood. Although I’d always wanted to write novels, it wasn’t until reading Lehane’s deeply compelling characters paired with an intriguing plot and terrific descriptions of a Boston neighborhood that I thought I’d try my hand at crime fiction. Not only is Mystic River a page-turner, but it’s also an exploration of the capacity for darkness in us all while maintaining a deep sense of empathy and humanity.  


We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice

By Mariame Kaba,

Book cover of We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice

Why this book?

The Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 introduced many people to the idea of abolishing police and prisons. Mariame Kaba might be the most thoughtful abolitionist organizer. This book of essays is both daring and humble, forward-thinking, and rooted in the everyday lives of young Black and Brown people.

Using simple language to convey profound ideas, Kaba asks if the massive expenditures of money and violence in our criminal justice system actually bring satisfaction and healing to those who are victims of crime. She insists that abolition is about not just ending a failed institution for public safety but also about experimenting with how to create better ones that are based in community and democracy. It’s a book that teaches you how to hope.


The Pale Blue Eye

By Louis Bayard,

Book cover of The Pale Blue Eye

Why this book?

This book is a haunting and haunted story of the young Edgar Allen Poe when he was a cadet at West Point in 1830. Already a published poet at that point, young Edgar is a moody and very unlikely candidate for the army, but his inclination for the darker side of human life comes in handy when a cadet is found hanging—with his heart cut out—and Edgar is chosen to help the big city detective who comes on campus to solve the murder. I just learned this was made into a movie! I loved the book, read it years ago, and have never forgotten it—now I’ve got to go get the movie.


My Sister's Grave

By Robert Dugoni,

Book cover of My Sister's Grave

Why this book?

New clues have surfaced surrounding a missing girl. Despite warnings from colleagues, Detective Tracy Crosswhite takes the investigation into her own hands. For years she’s been searching for answers to her sister’s disappearance. Tracy is determined, emotional, and driven to follow up on information that finally makes sense. Dugoni’s descriptive, fast-paced thriller is raw and unsweetened. He gives you the sense of urgency, the sweat, and the dirty truth. Tracy reminded me in many ways of Morgan Jewell in my book. She’s a smart, fierce woman. She’s the type of woman I love to read about, and the type I love to write. 


Light Thickens

By Ngaio Marsh,

Book cover of Light Thickens

Why this book?

Marsh was one of the great mystery novelists, but her great love was theatre, and in this book, they come together. Few mysteries delve so deeply into the details of the theatre world. In this case, the play is Macbeth, and the murders behind the scenes eerily echo the violent play itself. The scene and setting are so gripping that it's impossible to stop reading and the ending is both surprising and satisfying. 


Vienna Blood: A Max Liebermann Mystery

By Frank Tallis,

Book cover of Vienna Blood: A Max Liebermann Mystery

Why this book?

The second in the Liebermann Papers: a mystery series featuring Freud-student Max Liebermann noted as literature’s first psychoanalytic detective who helps the pragmatic and gruff Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt solve some of fin-de-siecle Vienna’s most dastardly crimes. While since made into a successful PBS series, the book’s atmospheric rendering of the Baroque jewel’s opulence is countered by the stark portrayals of anti-semitism, paranoia, and the primitive, cruel, and rudimentary techniques used to “treat” patients suffering from mental disorders.  


The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

By Marie Benedict,

Book cover of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

Why this book?

Marie Benedict is an author after my own heart – she decided to solve the historical mystery of Agatha Christie’s eleven-day disappearance, for which no explanation was ever given. When I wrote my own book I decided to solve another old mystery: who was the mother of Franklin’s illegitimate son, a boy he convinced his common-law wife to raise as her own? Benedict does an excellent job of capturing the fascinating Christie and presenting a plausible tale grounded in historical fact, a must for all good writers of historical fiction. In addition, much is learned about Mrs. Christie – did you know she was the first woman to stand-up surf? Such fun facts are always a boon to a historically based novel, and Franklin was most generous with his. 


Snowblind: A Thriller

By Ragnar Jonasson,

Book cover of Snowblind: A Thriller

Why this book?

Snowblind is Ragnar Jonasson's debut and the first book in the Dark Iceland series. Again, an author who knows perfectly how to evoke that moody, compelling Nordic Noir vibe. He paints a vivid picture of the isolated town of Siglufjordur in the far north, and the claustrophobic feeling that creeps in when residents are trapped in the city by a snowstorm. A great read that sometimes reminded me of Agatha Christie's locked room mystery The Mousetrap: a snowstorm, broken phone lines, and a bunch of people trapped with a murderer among them.


A Thief of Time: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel

By Tony Hillerman,

Book cover of A Thief of Time: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel

Why this book?

The story begins with the murder of two grave robbers who have been stealing ancient pots from Anasazi burial sites in the American Southwest. Hillerman’s atmospheric sweep crosses land, centuries, and warring interests. This is The Book that inspired my love for reading and writing mysteries with great art, artifacts, and relics at the heart of the crime. For me, there’s hardly any story more compelling than one where a work of art – a thing of beauty and priceless cultural value – leads to the ugliness of murder. I’m instantly interested in those people and what makes them tick. 


The Siberian Dilemma: Volume 9

By Martin Cruz Smith,

Book cover of The Siberian Dilemma: Volume 9

Why this book?

Arkady Renko, a Moscow detective is a true hero, someone regarded as weak and hopeless to all around him, but ultimately redeemed by his principles and by his actions. Martin Cruz Smith is my favourite “cold places” writer, so when I heard that Renko was going to Siberia, I was hooked. (Before he goes, he shoots a bear in Moscow with a tranquilliser dart, but no more plot spoilers…)

He goes to the far, frozen east to record a police confession and to find his lost girlfriend, encountering bullets, corruption, frostbite, and more bears. His boss back in Moscow expects him to fail, as does nearly everyone he meets. But they all underestimate Arkady Renko, a hero underdog.


Fools Rush in

By Kristan Higgins,

Book cover of Fools Rush in

Why this book?

This book was Higgins’ debut and holy moly does it deliver! It’s endearing but not in a sappy way, sweet but not to the point of annoyance, swoony but not in a “I need Lava Soap" way, and most importantly it’s laugh-out-loud funny! Just like her many other books since, her characters are perfectly flawed with makes them beyond relatable and oh-so addictive! A great book to get to know this author!


Lush Life

By Richard Price,

Book cover of Lush Life

Why this book?

Richard Price’s propulsive plots revolve around crime, but the novels are always about something much bigger, and Lush Life merges many of his favorite themes into one masterpiece: ambition and compromise, race and class, gentrification and crime, the push-and-pull of a city’s progressive leanings against reactionary forces for law and order and property values. Price’s city is constructed on a bedrock of conflict between those who’ve come to New York struggling to create art, those who were born here struggling to get by, and the cops struggling to hold the middle, in a spectacular kaleidoscope of a downtown scene at the turn of the millennium, of hipsters and gangsters, housing projects and trendy restaurants, all these subcultures clashing in one microcosm of urban life.


Plum Island

By Nelson DeMille,

Book cover of Plum Island

Why this book?

When I sat down to write my debut novel after 25 years as an L.A. trial lawyer, I looked to Nelson DeMille’s thriller Plum Island as the exemplar of all that I hoped to accomplish: entertain my readers, keep them guessing to the final page, and make them laugh out loud along the way. DeMille’s John Corey, a no-bullshit NYPD homicide detective on medical leave who’s recruited by the local police chief to help solve a double murder on the east end of Long Island (where, not coincidentally, I grew up) was also the prototype for my wisecracking, two-fisted hero, Jack MacTaggart. Plum Island launched what has proven to be a wildly-successful series of novels by DeMille, replete with bon mots like the time Detective Corey described his ex-wife to a colleague: “She thought cooking and fucking were cities in China.”


The Invisible Code: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery

By Christopher Fowler,

Book cover of The Invisible Code: A Peculiar Crimes Unit Mystery

Why this book?

Although this isn’t the first entry in the Peculiar Crimes Unit series, it’s the first that I read, and it hooked me. What a great idea for an offbeat police series, cleverly handled and featuring two eccentric London detectives, Arthur Bryant and John May. In this mystery, two cases initially appear unrelated, and it takes quite a bit of sleuthing before the links emerge. Bryant and May must unravel encrypted codes and symbols, discover secret rooms and dig through baffling clues as danger mounts. While this series has a darker tone than some of my preferences, it’s engaging and rewarding.


Still Life

By Louise Penny,

Book cover of Still Life

Why this book?

Still Life introduces Armand Gamache, of the Surete du Quebec, another man with a happy marriage and a prodigious education, perfectly bilingual because of his time at Cambridge. His belief in kindness is a guiding principle in his work, and he is honest to the core. He famously lives in the Brigadoon-like village of Three Pines, which ‘does not appear on any historical map’. Like his colleagues here, he is a deep and analytical observer of the human condition and believes in thinking before he speaks.  


Policing Stalin's Socialism: Repression and Social Order in the Soviet Union, 1924-1953

By David R. Shearer,

Book cover of Policing Stalin's Socialism: Repression and Social Order in the Soviet Union, 1924-1953

Why this book?

This monograph changed the way historians understand the Great Terror. Shearer focuses on state fears not of foreign invasion, but of domestic social disorder. Based on voluminous archival research, he explores the structural prerequisites to the “mass operations” of the Great Terror by looking at the social purging campaigns of the mid-1930s and the practices of civil and political policing.


Death at La Fenice

By Donna Leon,

Book cover of Death at La Fenice

Why this book?

Meet Commisario Guido Brunetti, who works for the Venetian Questura. Though born poor himself, he is married to an aristocratic professor of literature whom he adores, and who makes fantastic food.   Brunetti is another honest man in a police force with a largely fluid sense of ethics. He is genuinely curious and admires people who can do things, making him generous in his ability and desire to work collaboratively. He lives in Venice and knows the city intimately, both at the highest levels and at the lowest, and he is especially cognizant of the twists and turns of officialdom, and how one must always calculate with how much must be compromised in an effort to really deliver justice. 


Facets of Death

By Michael Stanley,

Book cover of Facets of Death

Why this book?

Michael Stanley is an author comprised of two writers: Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip. Their novels, set in Botswana and Zimbabwe, and featuring the enigmatic, Detective Kubu, have enjoyed much success in the UK and the US. Their latest story acts as a prequel, featuring Kubu just as he leaves university and joins Botswana’s CID. As a first case, Kubu is confronted with the theft of millions of dollars of diamonds, the execution of the robbers, a conniving witch doctor, and his son, and a case with international ramifications. Dark and thrilling.


Blood Rose

By Margie Orford,

Book cover of Blood Rose

Why this book?

This book is all about the dark, foreboding atmosphere of its setting, a township in an isolated part of Walvis Bay, in Namibia. Dr. Clare Hart is a police profiler sent in to try to pin down the perpetrator of a gruesome crime against a teenage boy. For all Hart’s professional competence, her emotional and relationship skills are in doubt as her wavering romantic interest, Captain Reidwaan Faizal, arrives to lead the investigation. Fantastically well-observed, very dark, and beautifully written, you lose yourself in its fog-filled pages, but the journey is far from comfortable.


Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power

By Simon Balto,

Book cover of Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power

Why this book?

Balto explores how the Chicago police, from 1910 to the 1970s “built an intricate, powerful carceral machinery whose most constitutive feature was an extreme racial selectivity.” Black people are over-policed and under-protected. Balto focuses on policing and anti-blackness. Black Chicagoans’ complaints of torture and “aggressive prevention patrol” by the police went on for decades and was essentially ignored by those in power. Balto tells the story of a racially repressive police force. In two decades, from 1945 to 1965 the Chicago police grew more punitive as the department doubled in size. Black communities were targeted by the CPD, in large part, because black was equated with criminality.


The Cold Cold Ground

By Adrian McKinty,

Book cover of The Cold Cold Ground

Why this book?

Set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, The Cold Cold Ground is my most adventurous pick for this list because its protagonist, Sean Duffy, isn’t exactly gay. Or perhaps he just isn’t out. It’s impossible to tell—most likely because Sean himself doesn’t know. The series plays with Sean’s attraction to men, including his work as a police detective investigating the deaths of murdered gay men, while Sean pursues relationships with women. McKinty manages to turn the violence and despair of that time into gorgeous, gripping prose and powerful stories.


Crimson Lake

By Candice Fox,

Book cover of Crimson Lake

Why this book?

This was my first foray into suspense from down under. I met Candice Fox a few years back when we shared the table on a panel discussion at ThrillerFest. However, it took me another five years to pick up her book. The big mystery should be, why did I wait so long? Crimson Lake is a dark read that is suspenseful and mysterious. The two main characters, Ted and Amanda, apart are damaged individuals, but when together make for a quirky, if not unusual team.

These characters are the book's biggest strength. They are compelling, and you can't help but feel sympathetic for Ted who has been convicted in the court of public opinion despite never having been convicted in a court of law. Amanda, as well, is a character that I found more and more interesting with every page turn. And Fox is an incredible wordsmith when it comes to creating visual imagery that drops the reader right in the middle of the action. This is the first book in a three-book series that I hope will soon have a fourth book.


The Night Hunter

By Caro Ramsay,

Book cover of The Night Hunter

Why this book?

In this book, the author uses a new character Elvira (her character reappears in subsequent books) who leads the reader forward in the first person, a breakaway from the usual (close) third person in the other books in the series. Her voice is so clear, you can’t help but fall in love with her strange quirks. She is a medical student and trained in body combat. Elvira’s sister has been missing for 59 days and she can’t get the police interested enough to take her seriously. Her sister was an adult after all and left with a packed bag. Anderson and Costello eventually do get involved as more and more young women disappear.

The action in this novel is fast and furious. It left me breathless at times. I had to put the book down and walk away a few times near the end it was that intense.


Skinwalkers

By Tony Hillerman,

Book cover of Skinwalkers

Why this book?

Tony Hillerman created one of the most original detective series I’ve ever come across - Navajo tribal mystery novels. A Thief of Time is probably my favorite of his books but I chose Skinwalkers because it was the first of Hillerman’s novels I had read and skinwalkers are witches who turn themselves into animals, so there’s that. It was a great introduction to his universe of Navajo mysticism and the otherworldly elements that pervade New Mexico, particularly among, but certainly not limited to, its indigenous people. I loved delving into the Navajo history and legends and Police Lieutenant Leaphorn and Tribal Officer Chee are both unique yet very familiar in what could almost be described as a buddy-cop story.  


Sorry Now? (Stonewall Inn Mysteries)

By Mark Richard Zubro,

Book cover of Sorry Now? (Stonewall Inn Mysteries)

Why this book?

This book introduces Detective Paul Turner, a gay father of two who is also a homicide cop in Chicago. The daughter of a prominent right-wing minister is murdered, and Paul connects this homicide to others, where the same comment-- "Sorry now?" -- has been left. The murderers know how to go right for Paul's Achilles heel-- his two sons, one of whom has spina bifida. Zubro was the first to create a gay cop with a solid family life, and his writing shines.


A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

By Louise Penny,

Book cover of A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

Why this book?

All of Louise Penny’s Armand Gamache novels are marvelous. In this one, however, there is a scene where the great detective regards his wife, Reine-Marie, as they sit together in their living room. And he thinks he has had a great deal of luck in his life, but none more so than being married to this woman for thirty-five years. He adores her, and it shows in every interaction. He is very tough, very intelligent, and takes enormous risks; but he is always kind to the people he loves. But God help the villains. As it should be.


The Spectral City

By Leanna Renee Hieber,

Book cover of The Spectral City

Why this book?

The Spectral City series by Leanna Hieber is for those who like their Gaslight era New York history mixed with ghosts! Narrated by a young woman with the gift of ghost communicator, she sees spirits beyond the veil of our corporal existence. And what a world is there! Her mystery-cracking team helps her confront the dark world. Don’t worry—attention to historical details is spot on, and so is police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt’s confidence in his sleuth. I love a ghost story where the ghosts have afterlives of their own, don’t you? Enjoy these detective stories with unique sidekicks of their resourceful heroine.


Blood Price

By Tanya Huff,

Book cover of Blood Price

Why this book?

One of the first urban fantasy series I obsessed over. I read all the books, watched the TV series, and years later, still occasionally revisit the world of Vicki Nelson, an ex-cop private detective with retinitis pigmentosa, and vampire Henry Fitzroy, the bastard son of Henry VIII. A stellar example of what urban fantasy with a hint of romance should be: smart, sexy, suspenseful. It does not have a typical romance ending, but in my opinion, it's still worthy of being included on this list.


Raven Black: Book One of the Shetland Island Mysteries

By Ann Cleeves,

Book cover of Raven Black: Book One of the Shetland Island Mysteries

Why this book?

Ann Cleeves is a British mystery writer with three-plus long-running series. My favorite, including Raven Black, features emotionally wounded but fiercely dedicated Shetland detective Jimmy Perez. Cleeves is by no means a cozy culinary writer, but she’s a master of showing characters through their relationship to food. How can a reader resist lines such as, “Mr. Scott was a pale, thin man. A stick of forced rhubarb said Sally’s mother, who had seen him at a parents meeting” or “She tried to imagine Mr. Ross, sitting at their kitchen table while her mother hacked at the overcooked meat and picked away at him with her questions.


The Blessing Way: A Leaphorn & Chee Novel

By Tony Hillerman,

Book cover of The Blessing Way: A Leaphorn & Chee Novel

Why this book?

The Blessing Way gives us Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn a long-serving member of the Navajo Tribal Police force. He’s had an early childhood education at boarding school, but he goes on to get a master’s in anthropology at the University of New Mexico, so he has an expanded point of view of both Navajo and white cultures which gives him a broad and educated perspective. By nature he is calm, unhurried and methodical, and courteous in his approach, even with people he knows are guilty. He is married to Emma, and she is the emotional center of his world.


Mrs. Jeffries Rights a Wrong

By Emily Brightwell,

Book cover of Mrs. Jeffries Rights a Wrong

Why this book?

Many of the women in my family worked in domestic service. I do know that their work lives were not easy and their employers were often quite demanding. Still, each time I wander into the Victorian era where Mrs. Jeffries is housekeeper to Inspector Witherspoon of the Metropolitan Police, I imagine that my grandmother or my aunt is one of the household staff who Mrs. Jeffries organizes to do a “behind the scenes” investigation and provide the Inspector with the right clues to solve his cases.


No Ordinary Billionaire

By J. S. Scott,

Book cover of No Ordinary Billionaire

Why this book?

JS Scott writes the best billionaires. Every time she releases a new book or series, I gobble them up. This series is no different.

First, Dante is a tortured romance hero that is easy to love. His guilt over the death of his partner and his injury make me want to hug him close – which is exactly what Sarah Baxter wants to do! Except she can’t because she’s his doctor and she lives by her ethics. I love the connection the two of them have and how they have to help one another in their love. This book is sizzling and steamy with romance and intrigue to keep the pages turning!


The Ice Princess

By Camilla Läckberg, Steven T. Murray (translator),

Book cover of The Ice Princess

Why this book?

This is Läckberg’s debut novel, where she showcased her new twist on the mystery genre: a murder that happens in the present day with ties to historical events in the past. Läckberg is in many ways Sweden’s Agatha Christie, as these books are as set in the sleepy village of Fjällbacka in coastal Sweden. In later years, Läckberg has proven that she can also write thrillers, and these books have indications of that as the pacing is ramped up somewhat towards the end. But this is mostly a cozy mystery, written by one of the best in the business.


Harm Done: An Inspector Wexford Mystery

By Ruth Rendell,

Book cover of Harm Done: An Inspector Wexford Mystery

Why this book?

Rendell’s Inspector Wexford is so real that one reader wrote to the author, begging her to kill Wexford’s wife so she could marry him.

I’ve read all the Wexford books but this was the one that stood out for me. 

It’s a complex plot that involves kidnapping, a paedophile, a riot in which a policeman is burned to death, domestic abuse, and a cold-blooded murder. 

Something for everyone!


Skinwalkers: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel

By Tony Hillerman,

Book cover of Skinwalkers: A Leaphorn and Chee Novel

Why this book?

I have long been intrigued by the concept of shapeshifters, particularly the Navajo Skinwalker, a practitioner of spiritual arts who can learn to transform into another species while in pursuit of a particular end. I am not alone,  judging from all the ancient legends around the globe. Even today, depictions of shapeshifters are found in literature and on film in many guises. Tony Hillerman takes a deep dive into Navajo lore in this early novel with a close encounter with a suspected “yee naaldlooshii”. Feel the hair rise on your neck!


The Loop

By Joe Coomer,

Book cover of The Loop

Why this book?

The animal is a parrot who shows up suddenly, has been around, and won’t leave. The human is a thirty-year-old male who works alone in a night job with the Texas highway department and thinks he likes being a loner. A quirky, touching novel. It’s one of those books I look forward to reading again; it left me feeling so satisfied.


Inside the O'Briens

By Lisa Genova,

Book cover of Inside the O'Briens

Why this book?

I adore stories about medical ethics and weighted decisions, those which cause me to ponder what I would do if faced with a similar choice. 

Joe O’Brien, a veteran police officer, is devastated to receive a diagnosis of Huntington’s disease. With a fifty percent chance of inheriting the disease, each of his four adult children must decide whether to get tested. Will they decide to learn their fate and face the consequences or roll the dice and take their chances?


Anxious People

By Fredrik Backman,

Book cover of Anxious People

Why this book?

This book tells the tale of a group of strangers viewing an apartment that is for sale who are held hostage by an inept bank robber. The humor and humanity of the situation compelled me to read this book in a weekend. The twists and turns keep the reader glued to the page. For me, any book that has you thinking about the characters long after the book has ended is worth the read.


The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther

By Jeffrey Haas,

Book cover of The Assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther

Why this book?

The era of COINTELPRO and Black Power is filled with stories that can become muddier to tease out as more gets revealed. Not Fred Hampton’s story  —  this was clear-cut, brutal FBI and Chicago police overreach to silence dissent. Haas’s book offers a firsthand account by an attorney who helped dig out the facts, and preserved the poignancy of what it felt like to experience the events.


Dublin Hanged: Crime, Law Enforcement and Punishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Dublin

By Brian Henry,

Book cover of Dublin Hanged: Crime, Law Enforcement and Punishment in Late Eighteenth-Century Dublin

Why this book?

In Dublin Hanged, Henry paints an evocative picture of the turn-of-the-eighteenth-century Irish capital collapsing under rising property crime, food shortages due to series of particularly inclement winters, and political unrest. He also vividly captures the events that led to the organisation of the first metropolitan uniformed police in the British Isles, which came to be widely unpopular. Henry shows, the organisation of the force was costly and in order to fund the new police, the household tax ‘skyrocketed’ virtually overnight. Henry’s analysis reveals there was a marked decline in the frequency of rape and violent assaults in the years following the introduction of the police in October 1786, indicating a degree of effectiveness of the new police despite the lack of its popularity.


Grave Witch

By Kalayna Price,

Book cover of Grave Witch

Why this book?

If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m a fanatic for a bit of mystery in fiction. I often get bored when there is nothing for the characters to learn or discover. If it’s a story about detectives, murder, and magic, I’m 100% there! Grave Witch is a wonderful mix of witchcraft, romance, and mystery. The chemistry between the characters is sizzling and too enticing to say no. 


Mrs. Mike

By Benedict Freedman, Nancy Freedman,

Book cover of Mrs. Mike

Why this book?

This book is about sixteen-year-old Katherine Mary O’Fallon, who early in the twentieth century, moves to Canada to recover from an extended illness. She falls in love with a six-foot-tall sergeant in the Canadian Mounted Police, Mike Flanigana man of courage, kindness, and humor. They marry, and overnight the couple travels for days by dog sled, as Mike is to become a combination of police, doctor, and mayor of a small community in the harsh, unforgiving Canadian Northern Territory.  

This story shows life in the untamed Northern Territory through the eyes of Kathy. Even though she is afraid and completely oblivious to the adventures before her, she faces her new life head-on. Through the kindness and calm positivity of her husband, Kathy heals from her illness, learns self-reliance, and finds an inner strength she didn’t know she possessed. The love story is sweet and the descriptions of life in the wild north are detailed and wonderful. This was the first book that made me cry, and I still cry every time I reread it.


Flight

By Laura Griffin,

Book cover of Flight

Why this book?

This is the second book in the Texas Murder Files series and Griffin is the author who brought us the Tracers books (another great series. Go read it!) In Flight, Miranda is desperately trying to take a break and recoup from a far too stressful job. We can all relate. But when she stumbles upon a murder, her skills as a forensic photographer mean her break is over. Local Detective Joel is just the hero we need and the tension builds slowly and wonderfully. This is great romantic suspense!


The Legacy: A Thriller

By Yrsa Sigurdardottir,

Book cover of The Legacy: A Thriller

Why this book?

A mother is murdered, and her seven-year-old daughter is the only witness, but she does not speak. Detective Huldar and psychologist Freyja must find out what the girl saw and stop the killer. 

Yrsa Sigurdardottir puts her own stamp on the Nordic Noir genre and combines crime fiction with a touch of horror, which I really like. Although this book is more of a police procedural, the plot is layered and complex, and still brings out that dark, chilling, and disturbing side of the crimes and the secrets the characters hold.


Paranormalcy

By Kiersten White,

Book cover of Paranormalcy

Why this book?

How could I not include the first-ever fantasy/paranormal book I ever read? It delivers on the promised suspense, death, and romance to die for. But I most loved the way the story focused on Evie, the main character, finding herself. She is thrust on this path where she literally has no choice but to find out who she really is, what it means, and how to deal with it. She has to face some hard things for a teenager all while trying to still just be a kid. The best part of YA books is the path of discovering one’s self the MCs go on. This one resonated with me on a personal level.


Blue on Blue: An Insider's Story of Good Cops Catching Bad Cops

By Charles Campisi,

Book cover of Blue on Blue: An Insider's Story of Good Cops Catching Bad Cops

Why this book?

Police departments are comprised of, and are considered, the largest gangs in the country. They have developed a culture all its own. Within that culture are good cops and bad cops. I have personally encountered both while an FBI Agent and working cases of joint jurisdiction. Corruption within certain departments was so great during my tenure with the Bureau that we were ordered not to share information. That is why the author’s position as head of NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau for nearly two decades is incredible. It is a position where its chief is the most disliked cop in the entire department. Blue on Blue goes deep into the world of cops. Its content has provided a major portion of my Criminal Justice syllabus and teachings on “Leading Police Resilience.”


The Lake House

By Kate Morton,

Book cover of The Lake House

Why this book?

The abandoned Lake House is at the heart of this wonderful family saga that slips in time between the catastrophic events of the Midsummer’s Eve celebrations in June 1933 and the present. The story is centred around Eleanor Edevane and her husband, still shell-shocked after the Great War; their daughter Alice, a budding author, who is secretly in love with the gardener, Ben; and Alice’s two sisters. Each of them has a guilty secret; each feels responsible for the disappearance and probable death of baby Theo. Meanwhile, in the present, disgraced police officer, Sadie Sparrow, seeks to redeem herself by solving this cold case of the missing child.    

Through old letters and diaries, reminiscences and confidences, and with the help of her grandfather and the ageing Alice, Sadie finally discovers the truth of what really happened on that night so long ago.


Envious Casca

By Georgette Heyer,

Book cover of Envious Casca

Why this book?

I first fell in love with Georgette Heyer's books when I found her rightly famous Regency novels, but I don’t think her mysteries get enough acclaim. They have the same elements that make the Regencies so fun: great characters, pitch-perfect settings, and in the case of the mysteries, a fun puzzle to explore. 

Envious Casca is a locked room mystery with an ingenious ending and a touch of romance that doesn’t make you blush. It also has Inspector Hemingway, who appears in some of her other mysteries. It is always fun to follow him as he untangles the murder. This book has gone from comfort read to comfort listen of the audiobook version. So. Much. Fun.