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25 True Crime Books That Scared People But Also Fascinated Them

Get answers to the who, what, when, where, and why of the most infamous crimes.

Recently we asked BuzzFeed Book Club members to share their favorite true crime books in honor of our March selection, The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg. Here's what they said:

1. I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara


"The writing is phenomenal and really pulls you back in time as the crimes are happening. It really makes your heart go out to the victims and families."

—Ashley McGinnis, BuzzFeed Book Club

2. American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan


"It's a story about how a meticulous serial killer, Israel Keyes — notorious for killing and covering up his tracks — was finally caught by the FBI. It was a fascinating read."

—Kavisha Shroff, BuzzFeed Book Club

3. BMF: The Rise and Fall of Big Meech and the Black Mafia Family by Mara Shalhoup

St. Martin's Griffin

"It’s not a super-gruesome story about murder or serial killers, but an engrossing story of the Flenory brothers and how they built a cocaine empire that spanned Detroit and Atlanta in the '90s and early 2000s. They ran in entertainment circles, mingled with rap stars, and created a record label as a front for the drug operation."

—Ashley McBride, BuzzFeed Book Club

4. Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy

Spiegel & Grau

"Having grown up in Los Angeles, I found that reading this book helped me understand my city so much better. It helped me take a critical look at assumptions I held about things like race relations, the LAPD, and urban violent crime. I don’t actually quite know how I came across the book in the first place, but I’m thankful I did. 10/10 recommend!"

—Briggitte Suastegui, BuzzFeed Book Club

5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote


"This book blew me away! I loved the intertwining narratives of the victims, murderers, and the townsfolk. Capote’s descriptions of the murders were grisly and a little hard to stomach, but true to the reality of the murders."

—Emily Jones, BuzzFeed Book Club

6. Small Sacrifices by Ann Rule


"I loved this one. Throughout reading it, I couldn't believe that this all really happened."

—Perla Arellano, BuzzFeed Book Club

7. The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson

Graywolf Press

"The poet sits through the long trial of the man who murdered the aunt she never knew, an event that profoundly changed her family."

—Margaret Ricketts, BuzzFeed Book Club

8. Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders by Vincent Bugliosi

W.W. Norton & Co.

"I was super obsessed with the Manson Family in high school for some reason, and this book is super well done."

—Madison Hewett, BuzzFeed Book Club

9. Devil in the White City by Erik Larson


"It’s a telling of the true story of the serial killer H.H. Holmes during the Chicago World Fair, but Erik Larson writes it like a novel instead of just a reporting. His writing style is so entertaining and immersive."

—Olivia Valcante, BuzzFeed Book Club

10. Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Little, Brown and Co.

"The lengths he had to go to report the Harvey Weinstein story, and the danger he himself was in, were fascinating!"

—Megan Mansfield, BuzzFeed Book Club

11. Always in Our Hearts by Doug Most


"It’s about a girl who kills her baby the moment she gives birth. The story is so sad, and it really stayed with me for a long time."

—Lisa Dugan, BuzzFeed Book Club

12. Columbine by Dave Cullen


"This book provides such an amazingly powerful, detailed account of the events leading up to Columbine. I’m a pre-K teacher, so this book served as an intensely emotional experience for me and I definitely recommend it."

—Briana Boccard, BuzzFeed Book Club

13. Lost Girls by Robert Kolker

Harper Perennial

"It's an interesting juxtaposition of the world's oldest profession and the relatively recent internet age. The stories are heartbreaking, and the mystery kept me reading until the early morning. It's definitely an eye-opener for people who may be naive about how we use the internet."

—Jennifer Dickson, BuzzFeed Book Club

14. The Man From the Train by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James


"Applying sabermetrics to solve a century-old series of ax murders? Yes, please."

—Katie Winters, BuzzFeed Book Club

15. The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo

St. Martin's Press

"A crime TV show called Investigative Reports did a documentary on Richard 'Ice Man' Kuklinski, and some of the things described in the book (like a tic he had) were actually caught numerous times in the documentary. It gave me the chills. I have yet to read anything that comes close to this one!! BEST BOOK EVER!"

—Karen Sisson, BuzzFeed Book Club

16. If I Am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus

Simon & Schuster

"It was unusual in the way that this was not your typical missing family member's plea for justice, but more about how Amy, the sister, came to be in her situation, and how the circumstance of her disappearance helped Janine overcome some of her own setbacks. I enjoyed Janine's journey almost as much as I did learning how the events surrounding Amy unfolded. It wasn't what I was expecting, but it was a pleasant surprise."

—Brianna Gonzales, BuzzFeed Book Club

17. The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber

Atlantic Books

"This is one of the most chilling serial killer crime stories ever told. Charles Cullen was a nurse for 16 years at 10 different hospitals. During that time, it was proved that he killed up to 40 patients by injecting IV bags with drugs that would kill them with overdoses. I highly recommend this book. The way the story was told was spine-tingling, and to its credit, this is one of the best edited books about crime I’ve come across."

Jeff, Goodreads Review

18. Hell's Princess by Harold Schechter

Little A

Hell’s Princess is a perfect choice for all fans of true crime. It tells a story of the infamous Belle Gunness, a Norwegian immigrant who turned her remote farm into a graveyard by tricking the men out of their money and killing them in a brutal way. The story was meticulously researched and presented in a way that didn’t feel dry or boring. If you like well-written and thoroughly researched investigative prose, this one is definitely for you."

Ellie Midwood, Goodreads Review

19. Pretty Little Killers: The Truth Behind the Savage Murder of Skylar Neese by Daleen Berry and Geoffrey C. Fuller

BenBella Books

"It's a recent and quite disturbing story in which a teenage girl was stabbed to death by her supposed best friends over an apparent lesbian relationship. The Savage Murder of Skylar Neese tells a story everybody needs to read."

Rebecca McNutt, Goodreads Review

20. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule


"Ann Rule had signed a contract to write a book on a series of brutal and heinous murders of beautiful young women, not knowing she was going to be writing about the man she had worked alongside at a suicide hotline. A man she had found to be kind and understanding, someone she had began to see as a friend. The Stranger Beside Me is a biographical and autobiographical crime book offering insight into one of America’s most prolific serial killers, Ted Bundy."

Johann, Goodreads Review

21. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann


"Killers of the Flower Moon tells a story I hadn't heard before: The 'Reign of Terror' in the 1920s, when white folk were murdering dozens of Osage Indians in a despicable attempt to steal their money and rights to Oklahoma oil reserves. Grann has an engaging writing style, and this is such an engrossing read that I raced through it in two days. I would highly recommend Killers of the Flower Moon to anyone who likes true crime stories or books about history."

Diane, Goodreads Review

22. The Yoga Store Murder: The Shocking True Account of the Lululemon Athletica Killing by Dan Morse


"Wow! A true shocking murder exposed in this amazing, easy-to-read, and suspenseful book. I like the sensitive way that the author reveals true facts about this horrific crime. The book gives us details of what evidence the investigators found in the Lululemon Athletica yoga store and what happened days after Jayna Murray was found with more than 300 wounds on her body. There is also information about the second person found alive in the store, the interviews that took place, and what happened at the courtroom trials."

Florry, Goodreads Review

23. The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

"This book is not about Jack the Ripper; it is about his five victims. Written to remember five women who are usually just names in hundreds of books about the infamous serial killer, this book is an attempt to tell their stories and to remind us that they were once babies, daughters, mothers, or lovers, who lived lives full of hardship and misfortunes. The amount of research done by the author is imposing, and she managed to re-create the lives of women who lived modest and ordinary lives in the Victorian times."

Beata, Goodreads Review

24. The Innocent Man by John Grisham


"This is a story of small-town justice going way south. They used the 'system' for over two decades to accomplish what a mob and noose once accomplished overnight. The evil that even prosperous, educated people can do to one another is astonishing in this detailed, chilling account of a man whose constitutional rights are run roughshod over en route to a death penalty conviction for a murder he did not commit and for which no real evidence existed. This is an informative, exciting, fast-paced, real-life chiller that everyone should read to understand how something unbelievable can and apparently does happen to 'anyone.'"

Daniel Perlman, Goodreads Review

25. Cellar of Horror by Ken Englade

St. Martin's Paperbacks

"This is a very good but gruesome tale of Gary Heidnik, a notorious serial killer. This book is more well written than most true crime I have read, and it actually got me rooting for the defense lawyer. I never feel that way! Get this book!"

Steven Shroyer, Goodreads Review

Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.