I’m a journalist who writes horror and crime fiction, so absolutely everything about true crime narratives appeals to me. Between the creepy factor, the lessons they usually pack, and the outstanding amount of research behind every well-constructed true crime book, there is a lot to like about these books—which often present readers with extremely unlikeable people and situations. In any case, if you love true crime as much as I do, rejoice because 2022 will be a fantastic year for it. Here are some of the books I’m most looking forward to.
Lost in the Valley of Death: A Story of Obsession and Danger in the Himalayas
(January 11, Knopf) This is a story of looking for yourself…and things not going your way. Justin Alexander Shetler quit his job at a tech startup and traveled the world. He ended up living and meditating in a cave in the Indian Himalayas with an Indian holy man. After setting out on a trip to a holy lake, he was never seen again. Rustad tries to get to the bottom of Shetler’s disappearance, and in doing so explores the ways in which we all look for ourselves, sometimes with bad consequences.
A Taste for Poison
(Feb 1, St. Martin’s Press) So this one has a relatively simple premise, but it’s a really cool one. Bradbury, who is a Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, takes a look at eleven murders in which poison was used and takes us all the way down to the cellular level to explain the science behind the crimes and poisons used.
Scoundrel: How a Convicted Murderer Persuaded the Women Who Loved Him, the Conservative Establishment, and the Courts to Set Him Free
(Feb 22, Ecco) I reviewed Weinman's Unspeakable Acts, an anthology of true crime pieces, for NPR last year and absolutely loved it. This one sounds as twisted and engaging as any of the stories in that wonderful anthology. A killer that went on to be freed, famous, and land book deals...all because he conned everyone around him, including Willian F. Buckley. Sign me up.
ShadowMan: An Elusive Psycho Killer and the Birth of FBI
(March 1, Berkley) Much of the current obsession with true crime starts with the birth of profiling. This book follows a killer, the largest manhunt in the history of Montana, and how it all lead to the birth of profiling, which we now take for granted. Give the success of FBI/profiling shows in the recent past, I have no doubt this one will get a ton of buzz, and I’m here for it.
Riding with Evil: Taking Down the Notorious Pagan Motorcycle Gang
(March 15, William Morrow) Croke was an ATF agent who became the first federal agent in history to go undercover and successfully infiltrate the Pagan Motorcycle Club. The thing about this one is that the Pagans were extremely violent and white supremacists, so I’m thinking it will be a tense read but also one with a satisfying ending because screw white supremacists.
Hell's Half-Acre: The Untold Story of the Benders, a Serial Killer Family on the American Frontier
(March 1, Viking) Check this out: “In 1873 the people of Labette County, Kansas made a grisly discovery. Buried by a trailside cabin beneath an orchard of young apple trees were the remains of countless bodies. Below the cabin itself was a cellar stained with blood. The Benders, the family of four who once resided on the property were nowhere to be found. The discovery sent the local community and national newspapers into a frenzy that continued for decades, sparking an epic manhunt for the Benders.” I need this one now.
The Man Who Invented Motion Pictures: A True Tale of Obsession, Murder, and Movies
(April 9, Simon & Schuster) Before Edison made it public, Louis le Prince invented movies, got patents for it in a few countries, and then vanished and was never seen again. This sounds like a perfect mix of history and true crime. There is something about stories of people who vanished without a trace never to be seen again that sends our imaginations flying (or at least that’s what happens to me), and when you throw in the historical elements here, this is bound to be great.
Trailed: One Woman's Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders
(May 3, Algonquin Books) Miles is a very talented writer, and in this book she tries to get to the bottom of something that, to this day, remains unsolved: the murder of several women by a serial killer. While there are similar books, the personal angle is what put this one on my radar and what pushed me to request a galley as soon as I read about it.