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Not Your Average True Crime Books

The best true crime books you haven’t read—yet.

Not Your Average True Crime books
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  • Photo Credit: The Serial Killer Whisperer by Pete Earley

If you’re anything like me then you’re constantly googling things like: true crime books, best true crime books, new true crime books, books about cults, best workout clothes, true crime books I’ve never heard of, books about drug cartels and so on and so forth. Google searches aside, I have a hard time finding true crime books that I’ve never heard of. The lists that contain the BEST TRUE CRIME BOOKS tend to always have the same heavy hitters (which is fine, they’re there for a reason because they are GOOD) but sometimes we crave something fresh. 

Well, I’m here at your service! Without further ado, here are 9 of the best true crime books you haven’t read… yet!

Related: 14 True Crime Books That Focus on the Victims and Amplify the Voices of Survivors

Kilo by Toby Muse

Kilo

By Toby Muse

Kilo is probably the best nonfiction book I read last year and I NEVER see it mentioned anywhere. I think I discovered it when I was googling drug cartels. Toby Muse has been reporting about Colombian drug cartels for over 15 years! First-hand accounts of what actually goes on in the deadliest cocaine cartels, Muse takes us on a wild ride throughout Colombia. I was literally clutching my pearls, I cannot believe the danger he puts himself in.

ann rule books

The I-5 Killer

By Ann Rule

Ann Rule is a truly iconic true crime writer and we all know her best for The Stranger Beside Me or Small Sacrifices BUT she has a ton of other hidden gems. For example, The I-5 Killer: a truly disturbing account of the crimes of Randall Woodfield, a psychopath who terrorized the entire west coast throughout 1980 and 1981.

Dancing with the Octopus

Dancing with the Octopus

By Debora Harding

If you’ve never tried reading a true crime/memoir mashup, I highly recommend it. I read quite a few in this style in 2021 and it’s a new favorite (sub?) genre. Harding is 14 when she is kidnapped at knifepoint not far from her school. Dancing with the Octopus is not only about a crime—but the aftermath and how long-lasting trauma affects a person throughout their life. It also explores the relationship Harding has with her mother and the abuse/dysfunction that goes on in her daily life. 

Related: 10 Unsettling True Crime Book Excerpts to Read Right Now

Into the Forest and All the Way Through by Cynthia Pelayo

Into the Forest and All the Way Through

By Cina Pelayo

Pelayo weaves true crime and poetry into a powerful and haunting must-read collection. The passion drips off the pages. By the end, you will be crying and trying to solve a crime.

The Serial Killer Whisperer by Pete Earley

The Serial Killer Whisperer

By Pete Earley

The Serial Killer Whisperer was recommended by a member of my true crime book club a couple years ago and we finally read it as a group last November. How had I never heard of this book before? It’s disturbing AF! After 15-year-old Tony Ciaglia suffers a traumatic brain injury he begins corresponding with serial killers in prisons throughout the USA. In this book, you will read actual letters from these prisoners and it’s an upsetting look into the minds of psychopaths. Deeply unsettling.

best true crime books of 2020 the devil's harvest

The Devil's Harvest: A Ruthless Killer, a Terrorized Community, and the Search for Justice in California's Central Valley

By Jessica Garrison

I don’t know if you could tell but I’m extremely interested in learning about drug cartels, so when I read the synopsis for this book, I had to grab it. The Devil’s Harvest takes us into the life of Jose Martinez—a drug cartel hit man who killed countless people over the span of 30 years. Not only is this an interesting story but it also touches on the failing criminal justice system and how immigrant communities are often overlooked as a result.

Slonim Woods 9

Slonim Woods 9

By Daniel Barban Levin

You’ve heard of NXIVM, People’s Temple, Children of God and The Family, but did you know there are many cults out there that aren’t necessarily on such a large scale but are equally as devastating? If you don’t believe me, Slonim Woods 9 will convince you. Daniel Barban Levin tells his shocking story about being sucked into a modern-day cult.

Related: Watch Your Back: 7 Unnerving Podcasts About Cults

Victim F

Victim F

By Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn with Nicole Weisensee Egan

If you enjoy reading books that enrage you and make you want to throw the book across the room, this is for you. Denise Huskins and her husband Aaron Quinn were awoken in the middle of the night, bound and drugged—and then Denise was kidnapped and held for a ransom. Described as a real life “Gone Girl”, you will go through a variety of emotions throughout this book. Outrage, despair—and finally a little hopeful. I can’t imagine the frustration and distrust this couple experienced with victim blaming, seemingly incompetent law enforcement, and the brutal and violent offenders they dealt with.

Related: 9 True Crime Books Better Than Gone Girl

Couple Found Slain

Couple Found Slain

By Mikita Brottman

Couple Found Slain isn’t your typical true crime book in the fact that is deals less with the crime and more with what happens after a crime takes place. It’s also a glimpse into how mental health is handled in the criminal justice system and provides a harrowing look into maximum security forensic psych wards. The people in these hospitals are often seemingly forgotten.