Book ‘Em: 8 of the Best Procedural Series To Add To Your TBR

Liberty Hardy

Senior Contributing Editor

Liberty Hardy is an unrepentant velocireader, writer, bitey mad lady, and tattoo canvas. Turn-ons include books, books and books. Her favorite exclamation is “Holy cats!” Liberty reads more than should be legal, sleeps very little, frequently writes on her belly with Sharpie markers, and when she dies, she’s leaving her body to library science. Until then, she lives with her three cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon, in Maine. She is also right behind you. Just kidding! She’s too busy reading. Twitter: @MissLiberty

Shattered by James Patterson

Nothing could tear Detective Michael Bennett away from his new bride—except the murder of his best friend. NYPD master homicide investigator Michael Bennett and FBI abduction specialist Emily Parker have a history. When she fails to show at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC, Bennett ventures outside his jurisdiction. The investigation he undertakes is the most brilliant detective work of his career…and the most intensely personal. A portrait begins to emerge of a woman as adept at keeping secrets as forging powerful connections. A woman whose enemies had the means and the motives to silence her —and her protectors.

When you think of characters in famous novels who investigate crimes, who do you think of first? Detectives, right? Surely characters such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot popped into your mind right away. Would you be surprised to know that the first novel that is considered a police procedural, in which the police solve a crime, was published almost a century after the first detective story? It’s true! (It was V as in Victim by Lawrence Treat in 1945.) But despite having 100 years of catching up to do, procedural novels are one of the most popular genres today. Just ask Michael Connolly and John Sandford. Which is why we have this list of eight of the best procedural series to add to your TBR to help you choose what to read!

From Ireland to Ghana to Japan to the United States, this list combines Book Riot favorites, famous novels, and new series to get you started. The characters in these books are brilliant and determined, as well as flawed and troubled. Listed here is the first in each series, alphabetically by title. Each includes a description of the plot of the first book. These should be read in order for continuity’s sake — but no one says you have absolutely have to. Follow along as these officers take on the most thrilling and dangerous cases of their careers! So buckle in and hold on!

cover of Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke; image of a large white star over a wet highway road under a blue sky

Bluebird, Bluebird (A Highway 59 Novel Book 1) by Attica Locke

Darren Mathews is a Black Texas Ranger in a bit of hot water with his boss. To redeem himself, he takes an assignment in the teeny town of Lark, where the murders of a Black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman have brought the simmering racial tensions of the town to a boil. But can he solve the crimes before the town explodes? (Be sure to also check out Locke’s Jay Porter series!)

cover of The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino; image of a woman standing in front of a pier before a large body of water

The Devotion of Suspect X: A Detective Galileo Novel by Keigo Higashino, Alexander O. Smith (Translator)

Consulting police detective Kusanagi is called to the scene when a body is found. He’s sure he knows who is responsible, and is even acquainted with one of the suspects. But proving their guilt is going to be another matter entirely. Luckily it’s one challenge Kusanagi is certainly happy to take on. (Be sure to also check out Higashino’s Kyoichiro Kaga series!)

Cover of The Vanishing Season; image of a woman disappearing into the fog

The Vanishing Season (Ellery Hathaway Book 1) by Joanna Schaffhausen

Ellery Hathaway was lucky to have survived an encounter with a serial killer. Now a police officer living under a different name in a small town, no one knows about her past. But then the bodies start turning up, and all clues point to Ellery. It seems someone has learned her secret after all…but will she survive this time around? (Be sure to also check out Schaffhausen’s new Detective Annalisa Vega series!)

cover of In the Woods by Tana French; image of bare tree branches against a white background

In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, Book 1) by Tana French

It seems impossible, but this series started 15 years ago! And it has been compelling from the get-go! Rob Ryan, the victim of a frightening unsolved case as a child, is now a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad. When he and his partner, Cassie Maddox, get called to the scene of a child’s murder, it brings the past rushing back to him. But are the cases related? (This is also a great Starz series!)

The Jigsaw Man cover image

The Jigsaw Man (An Inspector Anjelica Henley Thriller Book 1) by Nadine Matheson

Inspector Anjelica Henley has only just returned to active duty with the Serious Crimes Unit when a body is found chopped up in the river. Did I say a body? I meant two bodies. And the crime has the signature of a famous serial killer Henley put away. So is it a copycat? Whichever it is, they’re singling out Henley, who is trying to keep her home life from falling apart as she follows her instincts to catch a killer. (The second book, The Binding Room, was just released!)

cover of Slow Horses by Mick Herron; photo of a bus driving down an empty city street in shades of green and yellow

Slow Horses (Slough House #1) by Mick Herron

This series is fun because it’s about a group of disgraced MI5 spies who are just shy of being terminated. Instead, they are assigned to Slough House, and overseen by a curmudgeonly, unhygienic boss to whittle away their days doing desk work. That is, until a college student is kidnapped by a hate group, and the Slow Horses suddenly find themselves with the information needed to rescue him. But will they mess it up just like everything else? (The new Apple+ adaptation of this is excellent!)

cover of Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel; photo of white flowers in a vase sitting on a table in front of a window

Still Life: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny

Monsieur L’Inspecteur Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec is a by-the-book detective. But while this series is often listed under cosy mysteries, they are actually clever detective stories with vicious crimes that will thrill and chill you. The first book in the series has the Inspector looking into what is believed to be a hunting accident. But a little digging uncovers a town with dark secrets and deadly intent. (The 18th book in this series will be out in November!)

cover of Wife of the Gods (Darko Dawson #1) by Kwei Quartey; text over tribal cloth design

Wife of the Gods (Darko Dawson #1) by Kwei Quartey

No one is happy about Detective Inspector Darko Dawson’s new assignment in a small town. Not his family, who he has to leave behind in Ghana’s capital. Not the local police, who resent an outsider working on their case. And certainly not Dawson himself, who feels he is being stonewalled at every turn. Can he solve the murder of a young music student before the town’s dark secrets pull him into the darkness? (Be sure to check out Quartey’s Emma Djan series!)

For more fun with series, check out The Best Series for Adults in Every Genre, and for more mysteries, sign up for our mystery newsletter Unusual Suspects and our mystery podcast Read or Dead!