Hi everyone! Welcome back to my book-loving blog. I’m starting a series called “What To Read If” that will cover a variety of interests so that people who love a certain topic or genre can find books that they will love.
I’ve loved true crime for as long as I can remember (I think I started Googling serial killers and mysterious disappearances when I was WAY too young to be doing so), and I’ve decided to kick off the series by writing about it. So, without further ado, here is what to read if you love true crime.
When talking about true crime, most people gravitate towards the biggest, most well-known stories – the major serial killers or well-known disappearances, the hostage-takings and terror plots. What I’ve found is that lesser-known stories can draw you in just as much as the famous ones.
Obviously there are a few classics I have to mention, especially for any readers who are new to true crime:
1. The Stranger Beside Me by the absolute QUEEN of true crime, Ann Rule. Rule was friends with Ted Bundy before anyone knew what a monster he was, and she wrote a non-fiction book about his crimes and her experience coming to terms with the fact that she was friends with someone who did such horrible things. It’s a horrifying, shocking, upsetting book, but Rule does a brilliant job of remembering the victims and exploring how police reacted to the killings and what could possibly cause someone to do what Bundy did. Scare rating: 9/10.
2. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. Again, this is a total classic. It’s the OG true crime story. It’s the story of a family in Holcomb, Kansas who were murdered in 1959. Capote details the timeline leading up to the crime, and what happened to the killers in the aftermath. Stylistically, it’s a very unique book, and if you haven’t read any of Capote’s other work it may be a little hard to follow at first, but stick it out because this book is amazing. Scare rating: 5/10.
3. Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil by John Berendt. If you know me well, you know that this is one of my absolute favourite books. Set in picturesque, mysterious Savannah, Georgia, Midnight tells the true story of one of the longest criminal trials in American history. With a few key embellishment from Berendt, this book may be about a crime, but it’s also about a beautiful city in the American South and the peculiar people who live there. Scare rating: 1/10.
Now to move on from the classics and dive into the popular…
I'll Be Gone In The Dark
by Michelle McNamara
1. I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara. I think everyone has heard of this book by now. McNamara, who tragically passed away before finishing the book, dedicated years of her life to tracking down the Golden State Killer – a serial killer who terrorized the state of California for years without being caught. After her death, her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, and her team finished the book and published it. Fair warning, this book is not for the faint of heart. The GSK’s crimes are terrifying and will keep you up at night. You can read my full review HERE. Keep in mind that only weeks after the book was published the elusive killer was found and is now in jail. Scare rating: 9/10.
2. Devil In The White City by Erik Larson. In my opinion, Erik Larson can do no wrong. He is a brilliant storyteller, a dedicated historian, and a master of foreshadowing. Devil in the White City tells two stories simultaneously, using one to contextualize the other and vice versa. The first story is about the build-up to the 1893 World Fair held in Chicago, and the second is the story of one of America’s first serial killers, H.H. Holmes, and the literal murder castle he built to hide his crimes. If that description doesn’t convince you to pick up a copy, maybe the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio is going to star in the film adaption will. Scare rating: 7/10.
Killers of the Flower Moon
By David Grann
3. Killers Of The Flower Moon by David Grann. You can find my full review of this book HERE. It’s the true story of a series of murders in an Indigenous community in Osage County, Oklahoma, and how the following investigation led the creation of the modern FBI. Journalist David Grann tells a compelling true crime story, but also explores the horrifying ordeals Indigenous peoples endured in the United States. Also, apparently Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are adapting if for film. Scare rating: 5/10.
And now for a few personal recommendations:
1. Columbine by Dave Cullen. This book is a tough read. It’s devastating and long and at some points truly painful to read. But it’s also a hard, tough look at a problem plaguing America: school shootings. Cullen tells the true story of one of the most horrifically famous mass shootings in American history and explores why it happened and how it can be avoided in the future. This book isn’t for the faint of heart, but it does present important information and under-reported facts about guns and mass shootings. Scare rating: 6/10.
2. Under The Banner Of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. It’s no secret that I’m a mega-fan of Jon Krakauer, the brilliant writer behind Everest disaster story Into Thin Air and the tragedy of Patrick Tillman in Where Men Win Glory. Under The Banner Of Heaven is a true crime story about a double-murder committed by members of the Mormon Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Krakauer explores the roots of Mormonism – an enthralling history that explains some of the groups’ negatively-viewed practices – and investigates the book’s central murder. It’s a perfect combination for history lovers and true crime lovers. Scare rating: 6/10.
Death in the Air
Kate Winkler Dawson
3. Death In The Air by Kate Winkler Dawson. You can read my full review of this book HERE. Following in the vein of Devil In The White City, Death In The Air is about an event that changed London and a serial killer who was operating while it happened. Dawson beautifully and mournfully explores the tragedy of the 1952 London Fog and tries to explain why it went so underreported compared to the crimes of serial killer John Reginald Christie. Scare rating: 7/10.
4. True Crime Addict by James Renner. I wasn’t sure about putting this one on the list, but at the last minute I decided to go for it. Renner is a self-proclaimed expert on the disappearance of Maura Murray – a young, athletic woman who went missing after inexplicably telling her university professors she had to leave campus to deal with a family emergency when no such emergency had taken place. In True Crime Addict Renner, who has appeared on podcasts and written articles about the case, describes how he became interested in true crime and Maura’s case, and searches for clues about her disappearance. I didn’t love this book, but it was a pretty interesting read, and it was quite insightful to see how someone can take their interest in true crime and turn it into a career. Scare rating: 6/10.
I hope this helps all you true crime lovers out there find something to enjoy! Happy reading!