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33 True Crime Books About the World’s Most Notorious Serial Killers

From the never-caught Zodiac Killer to charming-but-deadly Ted Bundy, there’s always more to the story.

world's most famous serial killers
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  • Photo Credit: Murderpedia

There’s just something about serial killers that people find fascinating—present company included. Whether the draw lies in their psychotic tendencies or their motives for murder, we’re always itching to know more. And what better way to curb your curiosity about these killers and their crimes than by diving into their life stories? These 33 in-depth books detail the crimes of some of the world’s most famous serial killers. 

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By S. R. Schwalb, Gustavo Sánchez Romero

  •  Killers: Unknown 
  • Span of Killings: 1764-1767 
  • Victims: 100+

A mysterious force terrified the French province of Gévaudan from 1764 to 1767. During those three years, over 100 Gévaudan citizens were murdered, leaving the community devastated and paranoid. The attacks were so bad, that the people began to believe that a supernatural beast was the cause of this scourge. This fascinating book from Gustavo Sánchez Romero and S.R. Schwalb examines all of the evidence from these killings, bringing into question whether or not a monster–or an elusive serial killer–could be responsible. 

Related: 22 Most Horrifying Serial Killer Books 

The Truth about Belle Gunness

The Truth about Belle Gunness

By Lillian de la Torre

  •  Killers: Belle Gunness 
  • Span of Killings: 1884-1908 
  • Victims: 25-40

An intense fire destroyed Belle Gunness’s farm in La Porte, Indiana on April 27, 1908. When authorities found the bodies of a beheaded woman and three children in the aftermath, they assumed Belle and her family died during the blaze. But as they continued to search the property for clues, they discovered the remains of dozens of men and children buried beneath the farm’s hog pen. Had Gunness really deceived her entire community, and was the body in the fire even hers? This Edgar Award-winning true crime work tackles all these questions and more with accounts of Gunness’s crimes. 

serial killer books

The Devil in the White City

By Erik Larson

  •  Killer: Herman Webster Mudgett (Dr. H.H. Holmes)  
  • Span of killings: 1888 (suspected)-1894 
  • Victims: 9 (confirmed), 27 (confessed), 200 (suspected)

During the 1983 World’s Fair in Chicago, Holmes murdered many people inside his hotel, including his employees (whom he made take out life insurance policies with himself as the beneficiary), his mistresses, and other hotel guests. Erik Larson’s vivid book tells Holmes’s story as it intertwines with Daniel H. Burnham’s—the architect behind the 1892 World’s Fair.

The Unspeakable Crimes of Dr. Petiot

The Unspeakable Crimes of Dr. Petiot

By Thomas Maeder

  •  Killer: Dr. Marcel Petiot 
  • Span of killings: 1942-1944; Additional killings possibly in 1926 
  • Victims: 26 (confirmed), 63 (suspected)

Though beloved by his patients, Dr. Petiot murdered people after promising to help them seek refuge from Nazi-occupied France during World War II. The doctor said he only killed criminals, but the evidence tells a different story. The true crime account goes through the investigation as the “good doctor’s” tale began to unravel.

Related: The Unspeakable Crimes of Dr. Petiot 

John Christie of Rillington Place

John Christie of Rillington Place

By Jonathan Oates

  •  Killers: John Christie 
  • Span of Killings: 1943-1953 
  • Victims: 8+

After discovering several bodies at his fIat at 10 Rillington Place in London, John Christie became a national spectacle in Britain. Before Christie was convicted, another man named Timothy Evans was falsely accused of Christie’s crimes and paid for it with his life. In this gripping biography of one the Britain’s most notorious killers, Jonathan Oates spends a majority of the story focusing on Christie’s rough upbringing, in addition to a chilling overview of his murders.

serial killer books


By Harold Schechter

  •  Killer: Ed Gein 
  • Span of killings: 1954; 1957 
  • Victims: 2 (confirmed)

Known as the inspiration for Psycho, Ed Gein was a murderer and body snatcher. While Gein claimed two lives, thus falling short of the standard, three-victim definition of a serial killer, his creepy crimes earn him a spot on this list. In addition to killing two women, Gein exhumed dead bodies from a nearby cemetery and fashioned ghoulish mementoes out of the remains. He even sewed together a woman suit so he could ‘crawl into her skin.’ Deviant is the definitive account of “the original Psycho.”

Related: 11 Movies Inspired by Ed Gein’s Hideous Crimes

serial killer books


By Robert Graysmith

  •  Killer: Unknown 
  • Span of killings: 1960s-1970s 
  • Victims: 5 (confirmed), 37 (claimed)

Author Robert Graysmith was on staff at the San Francisco Chronicle when the first Zodiac murders took place, and he’s been obsessed ever since. The serial murderer terrorized northern California, sending notes to local papers about the killings where he or she left a trademark, cross-circle symbol. The book contains unreleased facts and the complete letters from the killer.

Related: 10 Serial Killers Who Were Never Caught

The Boston Strangler

The Boston Strangler

By Gerold Frank

  •  Killer: Albert DeSalvo 
  • Span of killings: 1962-1964 
  • Victims: About 13 (figure is disputed)

Winner of the Edgar Award, Gerold Frank provides a gripping account of a man that terrorized a city. While it’s still disputed whether or not DeSalvo is the Boston Strangler, he was convicted of killing women in the Boston area in the 1960s. Ranging from teens to elderly women, most of his victims were strangled with nylon stockings.

Related: Terrifyingly Real: 8 Award-Winning True Crime Books 



By Thomas Thompson

Charles Sobhraj was one of the most elusive killers in recent history. Killing across three continents, authorities had no idea that the multiple victims scattered across the so-called Hippie Trail all led back to the same killer. Nicknamed “The Serpent” because of his exceptional evasion and deception skills, Sobhraj liked to tempt his victims into a life of crime, and quickly dispose of them if they threatened to to turn him in. Coming from Edgar Award-winning author Thomas Thompson, Serpentine is sure to baffle readers as  Thompson explores Sobhraj’s twisted mind. 

Brady and Hindley

Brady and Hindley

By Fred Harrison

The deadly duo carried out the Moors murders, which took place in Greater Manchester, England. At least four of the five victims were sexually assaulted, and some were buried in graves on Saddleworth Moor—which is from where the killings got their name. Fred Harrison’s true crime book is partly based on in-person interviews with the killers and dives into their deeply personal histories.

serial killer books

Edmund Kemper: The True Story of The Co-ed Killer

By Jack Rosewood

  •  Killer: Edmund Kemper 
  • Span of killings: 1964-1973 
  • Victims: 10

Known as the Co-ed Butcher, Rosewood not only killed young college students, but also murdered his paternal grandparents and his mother. Kemper targeted female students who were hitchhiking, and would take them to isolated places to kill them. His detailed biography exposes his troubled childhood, necrophilia, and cannibalism.

Related: You Can Now Listen to Real-Life Serial Killer Ed Kemper Read from Flowers in the Attic

The Michigan Murders

The Michigan Murders

By Edward Keyes

  •  Killer: John Norman Collins 
  • Span of killings: 1967-1969 
  • Victims: 1 (convicted), 7 (suspected)

The Ypsilanti Ripper is another murderer who targeted co-eds. Collins tracked women at colleges in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area and would abduct, rape, and murder them. While he was only convicted of the final murder, investigators believe he was responsible for a serial killing rampage of seven murders in total. The Edgar Award Finalist tells the true story of a man who, on the surface, was an all-American boy, but in reality—a deeply troubled killer.

Related: The Brutal Murder Spree of John Norman Collins

Fred & Rose

Fred & Rose

  •  Killers: Fred and Rose West 
  • Span of killings: 1967-1987 (Fred); 1971-1987 (Rose) 
  • Victims: 12-13+ (Fred – suspected, but committed suicide before trial); 10 (Rose)

Fred West and his second wife Rose were English serial killers who targeted young females. Fred began his killings before marrying Rose, who also killed her 8-year-old stepdaughter. The frightening pair sexually assaulted and killed the young girls before burying them in their home—the address is still referred to as the House of Horrors. Author Howard Sounes broke the original story as a journalist and covered the trial of Rosemary West.

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serial killer books

Colombian Killers: The True Stories of the Three Most Prolific Serial Killers on Earth

By Ryan Green

  •  Killers: Luis Garavito, Pedro Alonso López, and Daniel Camargo Barbosa 
  • Span of killings:
    • Luis Garavito: Unknown 
    • Pedro Alonso López: 1969-1980; 2002-Present 
    • Daniel Camargo Barbosa: 1974-1986   
  • Victims:
    • Luis Garavito: 138 (confirmed), 300+ (suspected) 
    • Pedro Alonso López: 120-300+ 
    • Daniel Camargo Barbosa: 72-150  

Like many places, Colombia has its fair share of crime. But what it also has is three of the worst serial killers on the planet. This true crime account introduces readers to these three monsters and details the many horrific crimes they committed for years.

Related: 10 Most Depraved Serial Killers of All Time Ranked by Their Number of Victims 

Buried Dreams

Buried Dreams

John Wayne Gacy, also known as the “Killer Clown,” was a businessman in suburban Chicago who led a second, sinister life. While he often dressed up as “Pogo the Clown” to entertain children at charitable events, at the same time he was targeting young boys and teens—killing them and burying their bodies in the crevasses of his home. Cahill’s book contains exclusive interviews and takes readers through the disturbing life of Gacy.

Related: 12 Killers From Death Row and Their Eloquent Last Words

serial killer books

The Misbegotten Son: A Serial Killer and His Victims

By Jack Olsen

Known as the Genesee River Killer, Arthur Shawcross killed most of his victims after serving time for killing two children. Though prison psychiatrists all agreed that Shawcross was a schizoid psychopath, he was released in 1987 after serving only 12 years. During his killing spree, he primarily murdered prostitutes in upstate New York. Olsen’s true crime book examines Shawcross’s deeply troubled childhood and how his M.O. changed so drastically from children to women.

Related: A Killer Revealed: Inside the Twisted Mind of Arthur Shawcross 

serial killer books

The Casanova Killer: The Life of Serial Killer Paul John Knowles

By Jack Smith

  •  Killer: Paul John Knowles 
  • Span of killings: 1974 
  • Victims: 18 (suspected), 35 (claimed)

Jack Smith’s account of the incredibly disturbing “Casanova Killer” will leave you wondering: “Why did he do it?” Knowles started off committing petty crime, which escalated to murder once he was rejected by his fiancée. He began a cross-country murder spree in 1974, starting in Jacksonville, Florida, with no motive, preference for victims, or killing method consistent. After being apprehended, Knowles was killed during an attempt to take a gun from an officer—thus, he was never tried nor convicted.

serial killer books

The Stranger Beside Me

By Ann Rule

  •  Killer: Ted Bundy 
  • Span of killings: 1974-1978; 1961 (disputed) 
  • Victims: 30+

In 1971, Ann Rule met Ted Bundy while volunteering at a suicide crisis hotline in Seattle. For years, she sat beside him, thinking he was a pleasant and kind person. But Bundy had a secret—he was a serial killer who used his charm and good looks to win the trust of women who he then killed. Rule uses her correspondence with Bundy up until his death to reveal the true picture of a man she thought she knew.

Related: A Chilling Look at Ted Bundy and the World’s Most Savage Killers 

serial killer books

Bind, Torture, Kill: The Inside Story of BTK, the Serial Killer Next Door

By Roy Wenzi, Tim Potter, Hurst Laviana, and L. Kelly

  •  Killer: Dennis Rader 
  • Span of killings: 1974-1991 
  • Victims: 10

The BTK Killer (“Bind, Torture, Kill”) sent letters containing the details of his killings to local news outlets and the police during the time they took place. He took a hiatus from both killing and sending the letters in 1991, but then he resumed sending letters in 2004, leading to his 2005 arrest. Four award-winning crime reporters who helped Wichita police capture Rader collaborated on this true crime account.

serial killer books

Harold Shipman: The True Story of Britain’s Most Notorious Serial Killer

By Ryan Green

  •  Killer: Harold Shipman 
  • Span of killings: 1975-1998 
  • Victims: 250+

You may not be familiar with Dr. Harold Shipman, but he’s one of Britain’s more prolific serial killers. The doctor murdered his patients—as many 250 of them. The case was so large that investigators compiled The Shipman Inquiry that took into account witness statements and evidence. Ryan Green’s book examines the case and looks at Shipman’s motives for murdering the elderly.

Related: 6 Twisted British Serial Killers 

A Thirst for Blood

A Thirst for Blood

By Lt. Ray Biondi, Walt Hecox

  •  Killer: Richard Chase 
  • Span of Killings: 1977-1978 
  • Victims: 6

Richard Chase’s brutality will forever remain one of the most disturbing things the California police has ever seen. The infamous killer became known as the “Vampire of Sacramento” since many of his victims were missing a disturbingly large amount of blood–which authorities later found out he consumed. Written by Lieutenant Biondi, an investigator during Chase’s crime spree, A Thirst for Blood is a recollection of eyewitness testimonies and crime scene descriptions that will leave readers haunted.

The Hillside Stranglers

The Hillside Stranglers

By Darcy O'Brien

Cousins Kenny Bianchi and Angelo Buono terrorized Los Angeles in the 1970s—killing young women, many of them prostitutes, and discarding their bodies in the L.A. hills. O’Brien hones in on their relationship, in which Buono was clearly the mastermind behind the crime spree that ended with one of the longest trials in American history, spanning two full years.

Related: 9 Books About California Murders 

The Shadow of Death

The Shadow of Death

By Philip E. Ginsburg

  •  Killers: Unknown 
  • Span of Killings: 1978-1987  
  • Victims: 7+

This unknown serial killer terrorized the Connecticut River Valley during the 80s. Mainly targeting women, the killer shook the community as authorities attempted to apprehend the murderer. However, the killer’s streak would abruptly come to an end after a pregnant woman survived a violent attack from the assailant. After the attempt, the killings stopped, but the killer was never identified or captured. In this book by New York Times-bestselling author Philip E. Ginsburg, the writer provides deep insight into the methods that authorities used to try and catch the killer, in addition to emotional portrayals of his victims.

Related: 11 Cold Case Books That Will Chill You to the Bone 

The Red Ripper

The Red Ripper

By Peter Conradi

  •  Killer: Andrei Chikatilo 
  • Span of killings: 1978-1990 
  • Victims: 52 (convicted), 56+ (claimed)

Also known as The Butcher of Rostov, Andrei Chikatilo is the worst serial killer in Russian history. In an interesting twist, Chikatilo belongs to a rare group of men whose blood type differs from their semen and saliva type. Due to this confusion, the Red Ripper was originally released from custody in 1984 and went on to kill 20 more people before being finally apprehended in 1990.

serial killer books

My Friend Dahmer

By Derf Backderf

  •  Killer: Jeffrey Dahmer 
  • Span of killings: 1978-1991 
  • Victims: 17

The chilling story of Jeffrey Dahmer is told by his high school friend. The original graphic novel chronicles a deeply disturbed young man who was (seemingly) just trying to fit in. Dahmer is now known for killing men and boys and frequently engaging in necrophilia and cannibalism along the way.

Related: 10 Little-Known Facts About Jeffrey Dahmer 

serial killer books

Through the Window: The Terrifying Story of the Cross-Country Killer Tommy Lynn Sells

By Diane Fanning

  •  Killer: Tommy Lynn Sells 
  • Span of killings: 1980-1999 
  • Victims: 1 (convicted), 22+ (suspected)

Sells had no apparent motive nor established pattern when it came to killing. He was a drifter who committed many crimes along the way. While he was convicted of one murder—that of 13-year-old Kaylene ‘Katy’ Harris—authorities believe Sells committed at least another 21. Fanning’s books gets into Sells’s mind and examines the witness that finally brought him to justice.

Related: The Chilling, Unsolved Dardeen Family Murders

The Search for the Green River Killer

The Search for the Green River Killer

By Carlton Smith, Tomas Guillen

  •  Killers: Gary Ridgway 
  • Span of Killings: 1982-1998 (possibly until 2001, but disputed) 
  • Victims: 49 (convicted), 71 (confessed), 91+ (suspected)

This disturbing account from the journalists who covered Gary Ridgway’s crimes will captivate readers. During his crime spree in the 80s and 90s, Ridgway killed some 49 women and dumped their bodies in the Green River and Pacific High South areas of Washington. Dubbed the "Green River Killer" by the media, Ridgway’s crimes left a scar in Washington State history that will never fade. In this extensive profile of the killer, Carlton Smith and Tomas Guillen dive into the Green River Killer investigation.

serial killer books

Die for Me

By Don Lasseter

Leonard Lake’s shoplifting arrest led police to discover a grisly scene at his home, which contained evidence of orgy sex crimes and murder. Charles Ng, with the help of Lake, kept people in their dungeon before sexually assaulting and killing them. While Lake swallowed cyanide pills upon being discovered, Ng stood trial for 12 murders. Author Don Lasseter recounts the longest criminal prosecution in California.

serial killer books

The Night Stalker: The Life and Crimes of Richard Ramirez

By Philip Carlo

Richard Ramirez terrorized the entire state of California in the 1980s—breaking into unsuspecting victims’ homes in the middle of the night, robbing and killing them. A Satan-worshipper, Ramirez is truly one of the most frightening serial killers ever. Although he was meticulous about completely erasing himself from crime scenes, he was finally apprehended due to a single missed fingerprint.

Related: The One, Tiny Mistake That Finally Took Down The Night Stalker

Dead Ends

Dead Ends

By Joseph Michael Reynolds

Aileen Wuornos, the inspiration for the Academy Award-winning film Monster, targeted men on highways in Florida—posing as a hitchhiker and then killing them. She claimed that all her crimes were committed self-defense. Wuornos was one of the first women recognized as a modern serial killer, and the author of Dead Ends is the Reuters reporter who initially broke the story.

Related: 11 Chilling True Crime Books About Female Killers 

The Bayou Strangler

The Bayou Strangler

By Fred Rosen

Ronald Dominique was responsible for the murders of over 20 young African American men in the Bayou Blue area of Houma, Louisiana. During his spree, Dominique would got to gay bars to target men who were willing to have sex with him for money, lure them away, and then proceed to rape and murder them. In this riveting profile of the killer, Fred Rosen dives into the mind of a madman, and provides a chilling account of the killer's twisted thought process and desires.

Related: Uncovering the Truth Behind One of the Bayou Strangler’s Victims

Love Me to Death

Love Me to Death

By Steve Jackson

  •  Killers: William Lee Neal 
  • Span of Killings: June-July 1998 
  • Victims: 3

William Lee Neal was Colorado’s infamous axe-wielding murderer who went on a killing spree during the summer of 1998. Neal would lure, kidnap, torture, and rape his victims before brutally bludgeoning them to death. New York Times-bestselling author Steve Jackson examines Neal’s horrific crimes and chronicles the dramatic efforts to bring the culprit to justice.

serial killer books

Nobody's Women: The Crimes and Victims of Anthony Sowell, the Cleveland Serial Killer

By Steve Miller

  •  Killer: Anthony Sowell 
  • Span of killings: 2007-2009 
  • Victims: 11

In October 2009, police discovered the corpses of 11 women in Anthony Sowell’s home. Sowell targeted women on the fringes of society, those who he didn’t think would be missed if they disappeared. The cold-blooded murderer’s story is chronicled by Steve Miller and includes Sowell’s Jekyll and Hyde-like personality that caused women to trust him before he murdered them.

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Featured photo of Richard Ramirez: Murderpedia