If you are a lover of crime fiction, then you’ve probably read a police procedural novel or two as they are such a huge part of this genre. They are a subgenre of crime fiction that focuses on the investigation process of the police.

Some of the earliest police procedural novels date back to the 1800s. The first detective novel is often hailed as The Moonstone (1868) by Dicken’s friend Wilkie Collins. However, The Notting Hill Mystery, which was published under a pseudonym and real author never identified, beats it by five years. Others mention Dickens’ Bleak House (1853) since it features Inspector Bucket, the policeman who must solve the murder of the lawyer, Tulkinghorn. But were these early examples, really centred around the police force?

Many popular police procedural novels came out during the 1940s and 50s. Some have credited the success of this genre during this time to the rise of documentaries and films based on real crimes. As people became more interested in the workings of real crime investigations, readers wanted those realities reflected in their mystery novels. Some of the authentic investigation techniques that police procedurals often include are forensics, autopsies, gathering evidence, obtaining warrants, and interrogating suspects.

In police procedurals, the investigation is always grounded in a realistic portrayal of police work. A PI isn’t needed, an amateur sleuth either as the police have it covered; police procedurals, are led by at least one detective, or a team who will crack the case through their hard work, skill and determination.

Here are some of our absolute faves of this subgenre. They have it all.

Whether it's Rankin's superb Rebus now on his 23rd adventure, Billingham's irascible DI Tom Thorne, the cantakerous and complex Inspector Morse by Colin Dexter or the legend that is Paterson's Alex Cross, there's plenty to choose from.

Let's not forget Peter James' down-to-earth Roy Grace, the sparky DI Marnie Rome by Sarah Hilary , the gutsy Sam Shephard by Vanda Simon or the downtrodden DI Helen Grace of MJ Arlidge. We recently met Detective Jack Warr in Pure Evil the latest in the Lynda La Plante series, and he's now a firm favourite too. A lone wolf, one hell of a detective, with impressive intuition and a great nose for investigation. He's a bit of a loose cannon but you can't help but love him for it and his dogged persistence certainly pays off.

We love Matt Johnson's ex-SAS, turned Met Police Officer Robert Findlay or David Mark's troubled DS McAvoy. or William Shaw's punchy DS Alexandra Cupidi who just can't leave it alone. 

There's some cracking double acts with Daniel Coles' Fawkes & Baxter in the Ragdoll series and Poe and Bradshaw in M.W. Craven's Washington Poe series, the latest of which The Botanist was awarded a LoveReading Star Book.

There's also plenty of brilliant procedurals brought to use thanks to terrific translators: Lars Kepler's Joona Linna, the most recent of which is the tangled web that is delivered in the ninth instalment The Spider. And we'd be remiss not to mention writing duo Enger and Horst's Blix & Ramm.

From the eccentrics, to the renegades, to the rule-makers, there's something for everyone.

And don't forget that once you find a protagonist you love, many of these are part of huge series to keep you fully sated! Where the books are part of a series, we have highlighted the first book and list the others in the series for your pleasure.

What are your must-reads…what should we add to this list?

Strap yourself in, you've got one helluva ride coming..