18 Creepily Fascinating True Crime Books You Really Need To Read
The only thing more captivating than crime fiction is crime non-fiction.
WARNING: Many of these books contain themes of a violent and disturbing nature.
1. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
Ted Bundy is one of the world's most infamous serial killers. Before his execution by electric chair in 1989, he confessed to murdering 30 people during the 1970s. The Stranger Beside Me is considered one of the definitive works of true crime nonfiction, made even more creepy because the author knew Bundy personally.
"Ann Rule knew Ted Bundy as they both volunteered together. She was also a journalist and her recounting of what happened and her relationship with Ted Bundy during this time is fascinating. Very well written."
Submitted by christieo4c474f839.
2. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
In 1959, author Truman Capote and his friend Harper Lee (yep, ~that~ Harper Lee) travelled to Kansas to investigate the quadruple murder of a family. The book is written in a novelistic style, but it's made even more affecting because you know it's real. Many critics consider In Cold Blood to be the first "nonfiction novel".
"It's the most interesting true crime book I’ve ever read. The way he builds the story to its crescendo and packs in the information about every person involved is incomparable. I’ve read it at least 15 times."
Submitted by carlar4f1239377.
3. Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi
Helter Skelter is the best-selling true crime book of all time. Written by Vincent Bugliosi, who served as prosecutor in the 1970 trial of Charles Manson, the book includes firsthand accounts of the cases themselves, as well as the investigation into the murders and eventual arrest of Charles Manson and his "family".
"The start of the book is incredibly hard to read. Totally chilling reconstruction of the murders themselves. It's no less shocking when it moves on to the case against the family being pieced together and new evidence and witnesses emerge. Absolutely fascinating."
Submitted by Robin Harrison, Facebook.
4. The Innocent Man by John Grisham
Written by well-known fiction author John Grisham, The Innocent Man tells the story of Ron Williamson, who in 1988 was wrongly convicted for the rape and murder of a woman. Williamson was released from incarceration on death row in 1999, after new DNA evidence proved his innocence.
"Grisham is such a great writer and tells the story of an innocent man convicted of rape and murder sentenced to death very well. I read it many years ago but it is still one of the books I remember very well because of how good it is."
Submitted by Meredith Cook, Facebook.
5. If I Did It by O.J. Simpson and Pablo Fenjves
Most people are familiar with the extremely well-publicised trial of O.J. Simpson, who was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife Nicole and another man, Ronald Goldman, in 1994. If I Did It, written after Simpson was found not guilty, includes apparently hypothetical descriptions of how O.J. would have performed the murders if he had been guilty. The book's original publication in 2006 was cancelled due to public criticism, but the family of Ronald Goldman were awarded the rights to the book in 2007 and published it with a new title: If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.
"Utterly utterly terrifying and compelling."
Submitted by vikm.
6. Happy Like Murderers by Gordon Burn
In the two decades between 1967 and 1987, Fred West and his wife, Rosemary, tortured, raped, and murdered numerous women and girls, including members of their own family. They were caught and arrested after their daughter told her school friends about the abuse she suffered at home.
"It goes into lots of depth about something I remember being all over the news. It's really interesting to read the deep background of the case."
Submitted by carag4af5f6b50.
7. Through the Window by Diane Fanning
Tommy Lynn Sells, otherwise known as "The Cross-Country Killer", is believed to have murdered at least 22 people. He confessed willingly to his crimes, telling the police that he had committed his first murder at age 16, and describing his killings in detail. Sells was eventually caught after one of his victims survived and described him to the police. He was executed in April 2014.
"It's about serial killer Tommy Lynn Sells who was executed a couple of years ago ... I remember having to put the book down after one specific chapter as I was SO shocked. Seriously, it’s a must!! Not for the faint-hearted though."
Submitted by zeenan.
8. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
John Berendt's first book depicts the town of Savannah, Georgia, during the 1980s and begins with the murder of a young man by his employer, Jim Williams. The book follows Williams' trial and, despite being written in the style of fiction, is widely considered to fall under the genre of true crime. It was also a finalist for the 1995 Pulitzer Prize.
"The book reads like fine fiction and I’ll be damned if you don’t want to have Lady Chablis be your new drag queen best friend by the end."
Submitted by codys13.
9. The Minds of Billy Milligan by Daniel Keyes
Billy Milligan committed several felonies during the 1970s and was eventually arrested for the rapes of three girls on the Ohio State University campus. He was the first person to be acquitted of his crimes due to a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder and spent a decade in mental hospitals rather than being sent to prison.
"It's an unbelievable book that'll stay with you for ages."
Submitted by Kay Dekker, Facebook.
10. Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Schactman
Written by FBI profiler Robert Ressler (so listen up, Criminal Minds fans), Whoever Fights Monsters recounts his work with the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, tracking serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Bundy. Ressler is widely considered to have coined the term "serial killer", and he was an adviser to Thomas Harris, author of The Silence of the Lambs.
"Fascinating and also pretty disturbing in parts."
Submitted by russellm41ebeda9c.
11. Cries Unheard by Gitta Sereny
In 1968, the then 11-year-old Mary Bell was convicted of the murder of two boys aged 3 and 4. She spent 12 years in prison, was released in 1980, and has lived under several pseudonyms since – but in 1998, she collaborated with Gitta Sereny to produce Cries Unheard, a book that investigates the potential reasons behind Bell's crimes.
"It’s harrowing to say the least."
Submitted by hazelw41be739bb.
12. Sudden Terror by Larry Crompton
The Original Night Stalker operated in California from 1976 to 1986 and is considered to have murdered 10 people and sexually assaulted at least 50 women. A letter was sent to a local newspaper and police officers and past victims received phone calls from a person claiming to be the attacker. Sudden Terror is written by one of the police officers involved in the case.
"This book follows Lt. Crompton and the investigation into the Original Night Stalker. While the book reads like a police report, it's still extremely chilling. I had many sleepless nights while reading this book."
Submitted by jmc289.
13. The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo
Richard Kuklinski was a hitman hired by the "Five Families" of the American Mafia until his incarceration in the mid-’80s. He was nicknamed the Iceman because he froze the bodies of his victims in order to mask the time of their death.
"Just unbelievable aspects of crime and murder on a grand scale."
Submitted by michaelb4eb0f920e.
14. Columbine by Dave Cullen
Most people know the story of the Columbine High School massacre, the school shooting perpetrated by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in 1999. The book, published 10 years after the fact, focuses both on the evolution of the killers and the effect of the attack on both the survivors and the families of the victims.
"It's both brutal and heartbreaking in turns."
Submitted by l4e7067202.
15. Until the Twelfth of Never by Bella Stumbo
In 1991, Betty Broderick was convicted of the 1989 murders of her ex-husband and his second wife. During her trial, Broderick claimed that she was driven to murder by her ex-husband, who continually abused her both physically and psychologically during their marriage. The prosecution argued that she had narcissistic personality disorder.
"At over 600 pages long, it goes where no other true crime book I have ever read goes. You will feel like Betty is someone you could know and actually be friends with. She is a hateful murderer but I had sympathy for her. ... I will never forget that book."
Submitted by colleenf46105237e.
16. Somebody's Husband, Somebody's Son by Gordon Burn
In 1981, Peter Sutcliffe – named the "Yorkshire Ripper" by the media – was convicted of the murder of 13 women and the attempted murder of seven others. The murders were carried out over the course of five years, but he was finally caught when he was arrested for driving with false number plates. The police subsequently questioned him about the killings, and he confessed. At his trial, he pleaded not guilty on the basis that he had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but the jury rejected his plea.
"Incredibly detailed look at the life and crimes of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. It's horrible, but never glorifies his crimes."
Submitted by camillavaleriew.
17. The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi
The Monster of Florence chronicles the story of 16 murders that took place in Italy between 1968 and 1985. The victims were mostly couples. Though four different men have been arrested for and convicted of the crimes at different times, critics believe that the real killer has never been caught.
"It chronicles decades-long serial murders in parts of Tuscany, Italy, and was so engrossing I couldn't put it down."
Submitted by Nikki Lynn, Facebook.
18. As If by Blake Morrison
Most Brits are familiar with the story of Jamie Bulger, the 2-year-old boy who was murdered by two 10-year-old boys after they abducted him from a shopping centre in Merseyside. As If follows the trial of the two boys, and investigates in detail the possible reasons behind their crime.
"Not only is it beautifully written and delicately handled, it raises thought-provoking questions about the issue of childhood and innocence."
Submitted by samanthamontague.