Police Procedurals Summary

Early History of Police Procedurals

(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Anthony Boucher, an author, critic, and reviewer of mystery novels for The New York Times, is generally credited with having first used the term police procedural. The term describes a subgenre of detective fiction whose plots are designed to describe accurately and realistically police solutions of crimes. Typically, police are represented by a number of officers working as a team. In most stories, however, attention is focused only one or two members of the team, usually including the commander of the unit.

Contrary to the form of classic detective stories, police procedurals describe the investigations of multiple, simultaneous crimes, several of which usually are revealed as having previously unknown connections. Contrary to the 100-percent solution rate of classic detective novels, one or more of the investigated crimes—mainly minor ones—in a typical police procedural may remain unsolved. Police procedurals also differ from stories in the other forms in abandoning surprise solutions and hidden identities of criminals. They instead concentrate on the means and methods used to find and convict the perpetrators, and, to varying degrees, on the lives of individual members of the police teams.

It should be emphasized that the mere presence of police officials as investigators of crimes does not define a detective story as a police procedural. Much of the time, police detectives such as the much maligned Inspector Lestrade of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories or Sergeant Cuff of Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (1868) are not themselves the main instruments of detection. The famous police inspectors and superintendents of the Golden Age and later—such as Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Roderick Alleyn, Michael Innes’s Inspector John Appleby, and Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse—do not function primarily as members of police teams....

(The entire section is 773 words.)