The true crime genre has seen a surge in popularity these past couple of years—and we aren’t complaining. Suddenly, our interest in the gruesome and the macabre isn’t immediately met with a gimlet eye.
For the most devoted fans of the genre, one of the best resources for information are true crime books. Sure, we can give you the most fascinating scoop on Gacy and Dahmer—but sometimes you're just itching to know even more. And that’s what true crime books have to offer: authors with years of research, eyewitness testimonies, and by-the-minute accounts—all packaged in a narrative straight out of a Stephen King novel.
If you don’t know where to start, the books below represent the best of true crime. From the classic that started it all—Truman Capote's In Cold Blood—to the Manson murders classic and Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City, each one provides an in-depth account of a case that will never stop haunting you.
In Cold Blood
The true crime book that started it all tells the terrifying story of the 1959 murders of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas. Capote’s masterpiece is also known as the first non-fiction novel.
The prosecuting attorney in Charles Manson’s murder case recounts the summer of 1969 and examines the power and influence Manson had over his followers.
Blood and Money
The Edgar Award-winning book tells the story of Joan Robinson Hill, the beautiful socialite who mysteriously fell ill and died, and how her death was really a murder.
The Michigan Murders
John Norman Collins, an all-American fraternity boy at Eastern Michigan University, terrorized the college town of Ypsilanti in 1967—slaying young women. Edward Keyes recounts the tale of the serial killer next door.
The true story of the “Goodbar” murder, which inspired the novel and 1977 movie Looking for Mr. Goodbar, examines the death of Roseann Quinn—the Catholic schoolteacher who was killed in her Manhattan apartment after picking up a stranger at her neighborhood bar.
A Death in Canaan
This book takes readers back to the trial of Peter Reilly, the 18-year-old accused of killing his mother Barbara Gibbons in 1973, and the community of Canaan, Connecticut that defended him.
The Executioner’s Song
Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book follows the life of Gary Gilmore, who robbed and killed two men in 1976. After he was convicted of the murders and sentenced to execution, he demanded an immediate death by firing squad in a system that is slow to carry out execution sentences—a “fight for death” that made him famous.
The Stranger Beside Me
True crime author Ann Rule writes about her friendship with infamous serial killer Ted Bundy, before and after his arrest, in her first book.
The 1983 bestselling true crime book about Jeffrey McDonald, who was convicted of killing his wife and children in 1970, evoked controversy after the book supported McDonald’s conviction. McDonald had hired McGinniss prior to the criminal trial.
Evidence of Love
Evidence of Love tells the story of Candy Montgomery and Betty Gore—two desperate housewives in northern Dallas—and how their secrets and jealousies led to cold-blooded murder.
The Hillside Stranglers
Darcy O’Brien explores the relationship between the Hillside Stranglers, cousins Angelo Buono and Kenny Bianchi, who terrorized Los Angeles with a killing spree in the 1970s.
A first-hand account of the Zodiac killer’s 11-month reign of terror in San Francisco, by a 1969 reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle who was obsessed with bringing the killer to justice.
With the help of exclusive interviews, Cahill details the crimes of John Wayne Gacy—the “Killer Clown” who murdered 33 young men in suburban Chicago.
Bledsoe’s true crime book recounts the events that ensued between 1984-85 in rural North Carolina, when nine people connected by love and jealousy ended up dead.
These teenagers took their unquestionable love for one another to a new level when Karin Aparo convinced her boyfriend Dennis to kill her mother, Joyce.
Cook’s chilling book details the tragic murders of Jerry Alday and his family, who in 1973 were killed by three escaped convicts and the brother of one of the convicts.
Innocent Victims tells the story of how solider Tim Braggs was tried three times and finally convicted of the murders of a mother and two of her daughters on Mother’s Day 1985.
The Crime of the Century
One of the most horrific crimes of the century occurred in 1966 when Richard Speck murdered eight young nurses in a Chicago townhouse, only leaving one nurse alive. Breo recounts the crimes and trial of Speck, during which the surviving nurse confronted the killer.
When rookie FBI agent Mark Putnam got involved with his informant, he never thought it would end in murder. Soon to be a movie, Joe Sharkey details this tragic crime.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Berendt’s non-fiction novel, which is based on real-life events that occurred in the 1980s, follows the murder of Danny Hansford and the eccentric people found in the town of Savannah, Georgia.
Fred & Rose
This chilling tale centers on one of Britain’s most notorious killer couples, Fred and Rose West, who tortured and killed people in their boarding house—including their own children.
McDougal recounts the story of mother Theresa Knorr, who tortured and killed her own daughters in Northern California with the help of her sons.
The Night Stalker
Richard Ramirez was a Satanist who terrorized California in the mid-1980s, killing 13 people and evading police for over a year before finally being brought to justice. Philip Carlo uses exclusive interviews with Ramirez to write a detailed account of his horrifying crimes.
The Wrong Man
Neff’s book follows the case of Dr. Sam Sheppard—the man who was accused of killing his wife in their home in 1954—and the conviction that put him in prison for nearly ten years before a second trial ended in an acquittal.
The Devil in the White City
Erik Larson’s incredibly popular non-fiction novel follows the true story of serial killer H.H. Holmes who killed people in his “murder house” during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.
Under the Banner of Heaven
Krakauer takes readers into the isolated Mormon Fundamentalist communities where brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty insisted they were called on by God to kill a woman and her baby girl.
The Monster of Florence
After moving to Italy, Preston teamed up with investigative journalist Spezi to find the serial killer who was never caught: The Monster of Florence. But as their investigation progressed, and they found the man they thought was responsible, they became targets of a police investigation themselves.
For the Thrill of It
Baatz writes about the 1924 Chicago murder of a child by two wealthy college students. Their motive? Merely for the thrill of it.
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher
Summerscale’s book follows the 1860 murder of three-year-old Saville Kent and the investigator called in to crack the case—who believed a family member was responsible.
One of the first reporters on the scene after the tragic events of Colmbine took place in 1999, Cullen investigates what really happened that day and how it’s become an unfortunate template for two decades of school shooters.
People Who Eat Darkness
Award-winning foreign correspondent Richard Lloyd Parry covered the disappearance of Lucie Blackman in Tokyo in 2000. The mysterious case led to the capture of the man accused, whom a judge described as “extremely evil.”
Investigative reporter Kolker details the search for a Long Island serial killer, a still-at-large killer who began targeting escorts in 2010.
The Good Nurse
Graeber’s book details the man dubbed “The Angel of Death”—Charlie Cullen, the killer nurse who was connected to the deaths of 300 of his patients.
Mystery on the Isles of Shoals
In 1873, Louis Wagner was tried and convicted of the murders of two women on the isolated island of Smuttynose. But was he really responsible for their deaths?
Michael Morton recounts his own time in prison—when he was put away for the murder of his wife in 1986. Morton triumphantly proved his own innocence while inside prison, battling to become a free man again.
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