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46 Gripping True Crime Books from the Last 54 Years

The truth is more terrifying than fiction.

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.

Buy In Cold Blood at Amazon

In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote

1965

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.

Related: 10 Books Like In Cold Blood 

In Cold Blood

By Truman Capote

Buy Helter Skelter at Amazon

Helter Skelter

By Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry

1974

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.

Helter Skelter

By Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry

Buy Blood and Money at Amazon

Blood and Money

By Thomas Thompson

1976

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.

Blood and Money

By Thomas Thompson

Buy The Michigan Murders at Amazon

The Michigan Murders

By Edward Keyes

1976

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 Michigan Murders

By Edward Keyes

Buy Closing Time at Amazon

Closing Time

By Lacey Fosburgh

1977

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.

Closing Time

By Lacey Fosburgh

Buy A Death in Canaan at Amazon

A Death in Canaan

By Joan Barthel

1978

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.

Related: 12 True Crime Authors Who Will Hook You on the Genre 

A Death in Canaan

By Joan Barthel

Buy The Executioner’s Song at Amazon

The Executioner’s Song

By Norman Mailer

1979

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 Executioner’s Song

By Norman Mailer

Buy Serpentine at Amazon

Serpentine

By Thomas Thompson

1979

In this New York Times bestseller, true crime master Thomas Thompson tracks the nightmare odyssey of Charles Sobhraj, a charismatic serial killer whose crimes stretched halfway across the world. 

Serpentine

By Thomas Thompson

Buy The Stranger Beside Me at Amazon

The Stranger Beside Me

By Ann Rule

1980

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 Stranger Beside Me

By Ann Rule

Buy Fatal Vision at Amazon

Fatal Vision

By Joe McGinniss

1983

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.

Fatal Vision

By Joe McGinniss

Buy Evidence of Love at Amazon

Evidence of Love

By John Bloom and Jim Atkinson

1984

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.

Evidence of Love

By John Bloom and Jim Atkinson

Buy The Hillside Stranglers at Amazon

The Hillside Stranglers

By Darcy O'Brien

1985

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.

Related: 33 Books About the World’s Most Famous Serial Killers 

The Hillside Stranglers

By Darcy O'Brien

Buy Zodiac at Amazon

Zodiac

By Robert Graysmith

1986

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.

Zodiac

By Robert Graysmith

Buy Buried Dreams at Amazon

Buried Dreams

By Tim Cahill

1986

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.

Buried Dreams

By Tim Cahill

Buy Brady and Hindley at Amazon

Brady and Hindley

By Fred Harrison

1986

In this thoroughly researched true crime read, Fred Harrison delivers the definitive account of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley—Great Britain’s most horrific and hated serial killers. 

Brady and Hindley

By Fred Harrison

Buy Bitter Blood at Amazon

Bitter Blood

By Jerry Bledsoe

1988

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.

Bitter Blood

By Jerry Bledsoe

Buy A Death in White Bear Lake at Amazon

A Death in White Bear Lake

By Barry Siegel

1990

In this chilling true crime account of death in small-town Minnesota, Barry Siegel recounts one mother’s heartbreaking search for the truth in the suspicious demise of her long-lost son.

A Death in White Bear Lake

By Barry Siegel

Buy Butcher, Baker at Amazon

Butcher, Baker

By Walter Gilmour and Leland E. Hale

1991

Originally published in 1991 and freshly updated, Butcher, Baker examines the crimes of serial kidnapper, rapist, and killer Robert Hansen—a twisted Alaskan murderer who liked to hunt his victims like animals. 

Related: 6 True Crime Books About Lesser-Known, Suspected Serial Killers 

Butcher, Baker

By Walter Gilmour and Leland E. Hale

Buy Beyond Obsession at Amazon

Beyond Obsession

By Richard Hammer

1992

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.

Beyond Obsession

By Richard Hammer

Buy Blood Echoes at Amazon

Blood Echoes

By Thomas H. Cook

1992

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.

Blood Echoes

By Thomas H. Cook

Buy A Thirst for Blood at Amazon

A Thirst for Blood

By Lt. Ray Biondi and Walt Hecox

1992

Originally released as The Dracula Killer and republished in 2017 under a new title, A Thirst for Blood delivers an unflinching look at the grisly crimes of Richard Chase—a California serial killer also known as “the Vampire of Sacramento.” 

A Thirst for Blood

By Lt. Ray Biondi and Walt Hecox

Buy Innocent Victims at Amazon

Innocent Victims

By Scott Whisnant

1993

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.

Innocent Victims

By Scott Whisnant

Buy A Dark and Bloody Ground at Amazon

A Dark and Bloody Ground

By Darcy O'Brien

1993

Edgar Award-winning author Darcy O’Brien tracks the grisly string of Kentucky slayings committed by a gang of killers—and the spectacle of greed that consumed them. 

A Dark and Bloody Ground

By Darcy O'Brien

Buy The Crime of the Century at Amazon

The Crime of the Century

By Dennis L. Breo and William J. Martin

1993

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.

Related: 7 True Crime Books About Victims Who Escaped Their Captors 

The Crime of the Century

By Dennis L. Breo and William J. Martin

Buy Above Suspicion at Amazon

Above Suspicion

By Joe Sharkey

1994

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.

Above Suspicion

By Joe Sharkey

Buy Killing Season at Amazon

Killing Season

By Carlton Smith

1994

New York Times bestselling journalist Carlton Smith dives into the unsolved murders committed by the New Bedford Highway Killer, one of New England’s most notorious serial killer cases. 

Killing Season

By Carlton Smith

Buy Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil at Amazon

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

By John Berendt

1994

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.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

By John Berendt

Buy Fred & Rose at Amazon

Fred & Rose

By Howard Sounes

1995

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.

Fred & Rose

By Howard Sounes

Buy Mother's Day at Amazon

Mother's Day

By Dennis McDougal

1995

McDougal recounts the story of mother Theresa Knorr, who tortured and killed her own daughters in Northern California with the help of her sons.

Related: 8 True Crime Books About Terrifying Mothers 

Mother's Day

By Dennis McDougal

Buy The Night Stalker at Amazon

The Night Stalker

By Philip Carlo

1996

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 Night Stalker

By Philip Carlo

Buy Die for Me at Amazon

Die for Me

By Don Lasseter

2000

Don Lasseter recounts the brutal crimes and shocking trial of California torture murderers Charles Ng and Leonard Lake, two serial killers who claimed at least 11 victims. 

Die for Me

By Don Lasseter

Buy The Wrong Man at Amazon

The Wrong Man

By James Neff

2001

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 Wrong Man

By James Neff

Buy The Devil in the White City at Amazon

The Devil in the White City

By Erik Larson

2003

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.

The Devil in the White City

By Erik Larson

Buy Under the Banner of Heaven at Amazon

Under the Banner of Heaven

By Jon Krakauer

2003

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.

Under the Banner of Heaven

By Jon Krakauer

Buy The Monster of Florence at Amazon

The Monster of Florence

By Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

2006

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.

Related: The Best True Crime Books You’ve Ever Read 

The Monster of Florence

By Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

Buy For the Thrill of It at Amazon

For the Thrill of It

By Simon Baatz

2008

Baatz writes about the 1924 Chicago murder of a child by two wealthy college students. Their motive? Merely for the thrill of it.

For the Thrill of It

By Simon Baatz

Buy The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher at Amazon

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

By Kate Summerscale

2008

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.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

By Kate Summerscale

Buy Columbine at Amazon

Columbine

By Dave Cullen

2009

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.

Columbine

By Dave Cullen

Buy People Who Eat Darkness at Amazon

People Who Eat Darkness

By Richard Lloyd Parry

2010

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.”

People Who Eat Darkness

By Richard Lloyd Parry

Buy Dear Dawn at Amazon

Dear Dawn

By Aileen Wuornos

2012

First published in 2012, this true crime read assembles and condenses Aileen Wuornos’ correspondences prior to her execution, producing a fragmented autobiography of the convicted serial killer. 

Dear Dawn

By Aileen Wuornos

Buy Lost Girls at Amazon

Lost Girls

By Robert Kolker

2013

Investigative reporter Kolker details the search for a Long Island serial killer, a still-at-large killer who began targeting escorts in 2010.

Related: 10 Serial Killers Who Were Never Caught 

Lost Girls

By Robert Kolker

Buy The Good Nurse at Amazon

The Good Nurse

By Charles Graeber

2013

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.

The Good Nurse

By Charles Graeber

Buy John Christie of Rillington Place at Amazon

John Christie of Rillington Place

By Jonathan Oates

2013

Bestselling author Jonathan Oates examines the chilling case of John Christie, one of England’s most notorious serial killers. 

John Christie of Rillington Place

By Jonathan Oates

Buy Mystery on the Isles of Shoals at Amazon

Mystery on the Isles of Shoals

By J. Dennis Robinson

2014

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?

Mystery on the Isles of Shoals

By J. Dennis Robinson

Buy Getting Life at Amazon

Getting Life

By Michael Morton

2014

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.

Related: Secrets and Lies: 7 True Crime Books About Cases with Shocking Twists 

Getting Life

By Michael Morton

Buy I'll Be Gone in the Dark at Amazon

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

By Michelle McNamara

2018

Michelle McNamara’s riveting New York Times bestseller was a true crime sensation in 2018. It chronicles her determined search for the truth in what was then the unsolved Golden State Killer case. Sadly, McNamara passed away before the book's publication. Two months after the its release, however, California authorities announced the arrest of 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo. Based on DNA evidence, it's strongly believed that he is the Golden State Killer.  

I'll Be Gone in the Dark

By Michelle McNamara

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Published on 21 Nov 2017

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